Several times I read or heard about the claim that there is a discrimination against theists in academia by atheists. For example the german newspaper ZEIT Campus ONLINE cites an anthropologist Robert J. Priest:

Für Akademiker ist es ganz einfach, sich zu diskreditieren. Sie müssen nur sagen, dass sie religiös sind

For academics it's easy to discredit oneself. You just have to say you are religious.

(Source; translation by myself, I could not find the original citation)

I searched for surveys about that claim but could not find much, except creationists arguing against evolution theory.

So my question:

Are there surveys about discrimination of theist people by atheists in academia?


I deletet the follow-up question "Is there discrimination against theists by atheists in academia?" because it is too opinion based and is probably answered within the survey(s) I am searching for.

  • 4
    Please at least specify a country/region Apr 18, 2019 at 16:46
  • 4
    Certainly there is discrimination by some (x) against some (y). But I don't think it is widespread, nor is it determinative. But some would interpret complaints about misrepresentations of scientific knowledge as discrimination. Climate-change denial comes to mind.
    – Buffy
    Apr 18, 2019 at 17:01
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    Country/region does seem like a good qualifier for this, as @AzorAhai suggested. The issue's that this is likely very different for parts of academia in highly religious areas, e.g. Iran, vs. highly secular areas, e.g. China.
    – Nat
    Apr 18, 2019 at 17:16
  • 3
    Question (a) is certainly on-topic and not opinion-based, and I believe (b) could be addressed in an objective fashion as well. I have voted to reopen. Apr 19, 2019 at 0:20
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    I do think a lot of this is anecdotal, but that doesn't mean it isn't "a thing". Certainly I know of many religious folk who would downplay this vital aspect of their lives in interviews/conversation with colleagues more than should strictly be necessary for a given job title in academia - especially until they have tenure. Whether one could come up with data is another thing.
    – kcrisman
    Apr 19, 2019 at 1:16

2 Answers 2


Addressing the question in the context of the Unites States, it appears that it's questionable that any discrimination, and that if there is any such discrimination, it is a) not particularly strong, and b) highly entangled with other factors, such as conservative religious social and cultural activism.

It is an undisputed fact that in the United States there is a higher percentage of non-believers in academia than in society at large. The key and unresolved question is whether this is a result of self-selection (e.g., non-belief being correlated with interest in scholarly investigation as a career and belief being correlated with disinterest) or whether there is also some component of discrimination. One can find serious and respectable scholarly work both arguing that there is significant bias and that there is no significant bias.

Even articles strongly advocating that bias exists, however, find that if any such exists it is not particularly strong (else it would not be so equivocal to study) and that it appears to be measurable only with respect to religious people who are a) strongly culturally conservative, and b) activists with respect to politically polarizing positions (e.g., opposition abortion, gay marriage), and also c) at very particular stages of career (entry to graduate school, possibly at tenure promotion).

In short: even amongst those studying and debating the question, it appears that even if any systematic bias exists in US academia, the vast majority of theists are not significantly affected.


Religion is a deeply personal topic that should be left out of scientific debate. If religion were to come up as a citation or reference in a scientific paper I doubt that it would be published. However I have never heard of someone being discriminated against academically solely due to their personal beliefs provided it doesn't taint the objectivity of their work. It would be unethical to discriminate against someone due to their theistic beliefs alone.

I have witnessed light hearted chiding directed at people who are open about their religious affiliations but their work and research were still highly respected in their fields.


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