A survey was sent out to 1,000 scientists by a professor of psychology at Bryn Mawr in 1917, asking whether they believed in a personal god. Dividing them into those of “greater” and “lesser” eminence. (The division into “lesser” and “greater” scientists, or really any classification of people in general whether by occupation or other category, would surely not withstand peer-reviewed scrutiny today.)
About 45.5 to 50.1 percent of the “lesser” scientists declared belief in a personal god, while a notably lower 27.7 to 35.7 percent of the “greater” scientists did. When it came to a belief in personal immortality in the afterlife, 52.8 to 66.5 percent of the “lesser” scientists declared belief, compared to a quite lower 35.2 to 38.8 percent of the “greater” scientists.
Today, those numbers remain remarkably stable, if a bit down. A July 2006 survey from Pew Research Center found that 33 percent of scientists believe in God, although that’s far less than the 83 percent of the general U.S. population. Moreover, 41 percent of scientists actively didn’t believe in God, compared to just 4 percent of the U.S. population.
Secularization rates among the American public have ticked up in the past decade since that survey, but they still unquestionably represent a minority of the public at large.
Scientists’ Belief in a Personal God Probed: Interesting Results of a Study Made of Selected Groups
— Their Views on the Question of Personal Immortality Also Studied
From Sunday, January 14, 1917