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Conflicting or Compatible: Beliefs About Religion and Science Among Emerging Adults in the United States

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Abstract

A wide-held assumption is that increased religiousness is associated with stronger perceptions of a conflict between religion and science. This article examines this assumption using four distinct questions asked on the third wave of the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR). Results indicate a variety of viewpoints for constructing the relationship between science and religion, rather than a simple conflict-compatibility continuum. Further, findings suggest that increased religiousness among emerging adults is associated with a stronger agreement in science and religion’s compatibility, rather than conflict. Incorporating New Age or non-Western spiritual tradition and a strict adherence to fundamentalist Christian doctrine are associated with complex configurations of beliefs on the relationship between religion and science. Collectively, the findings among emerging adults contradict traditional assumptions about how religious experiences influence beliefs, suggesting that such social factors may influence beliefs and attitudes uniquely at different points in the lifecourse or across generations. More broadly, the findings speak to the ongoing debate about the extent to which differing social experiences may produce consistent or discordant sets of beliefs and values, and in turn how particular configurations may impact strategies of action across a range of life domains.

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