Atheist Academics Taking Their Children to Church, Study Shows

A percentage of atheist academics bring their children to Christian church gatherings, despite having no personal belief in religious tradition, a new study has revealed.

In the Rice University study, 17 percent of people who claimed to be atheists went to church more than once per year. Elaine Howard Ecklund, the Rice University sociologist who helped compile the study, explained that religion is an integral part of the American culture.

"Our research shows just how tightly linked religion and family are in U.S. society - so much so that even some of society's least religious people find religion to be important in their private lives," Ecklund said in a statement that was published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

In the study, various reasons for atheists attending church services were listed. Some of those reasons included observing church services because a spouse was religious and incorporating some practices to make sure that children of atheist parents have an opportunity to choose their own spiritual path.

Ecklund said she found the latter information most surprising.

"We thought that these individuals might be less inclined to introduce their children to religious traditions, but we found the exact opposite to be true," Ecklund said. "They want their children to have choices, and it is more consistent with their science identity to expose their children to all sources of knowledge."

One father that participated in the study described his reasoning for introducing his daughter to multiple religions, including Christianity, Islam and Buddhism.

"I don't indoctrinate her that she should believe in God," the father in the study said. "I don't indoctrinate her into not believing in God."

The study sampled 275 participants from a larger survey of 2,198 science faculty members at the top 21 U.S. research universities. The number of religious and non-religious members of the study was split in half.

An earlier study released in the same journal last June, stated that 20 percent of those who claimed they were atheists still claimed that they were “spiritual.” Meanwhile, a May 2011 Gallop Poll found that seven percent of Americans identified themselves as atheists, with no belief in God.