Is there a belief in God and immortality among eminent psychology scholars?
MetadataShow full item record
In 1914, James Leuba surveyed the eminent psychologists of the United States with regard to their belief in God and immortality (Leuba, 1916). In 1933, he replicated the survey (Leuba, 1934). His results affirmed, he stated, "that, in general, the greater the ability of the psychologist as a psychologist [sic], the more difficult it become [sic] for him to believe in the continuation of individual life after bodily death" (1921a, p. 279). He concluded that eminent behavioral scientists were least likely of all scientists to believe, and that psychological learning made belief in an "interventionist God... almost impossible" (1934, p. 294). He further stated, "If knowledge is, as it seems, a cause of the decline of the traditional beliefs, that decline will presumably continue as long as the increase in knowledge" (1934, p. 300). In 1958, Mayer (1959) replicated Leuba's survey. The results of the initial survey and the two replications of the survey were consistent with Leuba's hypotheses. However, no one had replicated that survey of eminent psychology scholars in almost fifty years (from 1958-2006)--until now. The current study replicated Leuba's original survey, as well as collecting additional qualitative data via questionnaires and interviews. The response rate was over 61%. Not one of the respondents expressed a belief in immortality, and only one person expressed a belief in God--and then only with this caveat: "when desperate." As a matter of fact, of all the groups that have been surveyed using this questionnaire during the last 93 years, this is the first time that 0% of the respondents in a group expressed a belief in immortality. Only very few of the respondents indicated they engaged in activities that could be deemed in some way religious, spiritual, or contemplative. Suggested further research would question whether or not substantial nonverbal differences exist between religious people and scientists. Also, although psychology rests on the presumption that the individual human being exists, this study's respondents found defining the individual to be a complex or impossible task.