Memo to FFRF: I Found a New Batch of Lawyers for You

I don’t know how this data was acquired other than saying it was a self-reported study, but since it got Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defense Fund all worked up, it must be worth talking about.

It turns out that, on the whole, atheists and agnostics make up the largest percentage of current Yale Law School students, narrowly edging out all the Christians (Thanks, 2Ls!):

Atheists and Agnostics make up 33.8% of YLS, while Christians make up 33.2%.

Anyone know if this breakdown is similar at other top law schools?

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

    How about the Butt Poll?  How often do Yale’s  Christians get their butt

    into a pew?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Some interesting details there. In the pie chart, Mormons have their own slice, rather than being lumped as “other Christians.” But in the table, they are counted as Christians. Of course, some Protestants do not consider either Mormons or Roman Catholics to be Christians.
     

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_E5IVDLJRGQTAVFK4KHLDKDH55Y Daniel

      Different denominations tend to argue that other denominations are not “really Christian” until it’s time to show how popular Christianity is in the world, at which point they will consider anyone who has ever been inside a Christian church to be Christian to pad their numbers.

      Just look at the difficulty some ex-Mormons and Catholics have had in getting off the official rosters of their churches. 

  • Vukota

    The amount of non-theists is probably even higher when you consider some of those who put down a religion identify with them culturally and not religiously (eg “cultural Jews”). Also, aren’t Unitarian Universalists non-theists?

    • Anonymous

      People who declare as UU may or may not be theists. It’s left entirely up to the individual, whose beliefs may range anywhere from atheism to polytheism. I understand that there can be rather a lot of variety even within a single UU church.

    • CC

      I’m a UU and an atheist!  I would guess that most of the other members in my congregation identify as atheist, agnostic or secular humanist.  Some others are Buddhists or adherents of earth-centered religion.  I’ve never met a UU who was theist in a traditional sense.

  • GregFromCos

    Aren’t the numbers of Atheists/Agnostics already significantly higher in the under 30 crowd than they were 20 years ago? Don’t underestimate the power of the post 9/11 world on young peoples lives. Having grown up in a world where the “Faith” of some crazy men have so adversely affected the United States can be a powerful force for change.

    According to Pew, 26% of Millenials are non-religious. http://pewforum.org/Age/Religion-Among-the-Millennials.aspx

  • GregFromCos

    Before you make a comment on that site: Know that they are moderating comments. So there is a chance, if they follow form of many conservative Christian sites that they will just think that any contradictory comments are Satan.

  • John Purcell

    I’ve always said that lawyers , being trained in the Socratic method, the use of logic and reason, and the necessity of evidence, are natural atheists.

  • Anonymous

    i don’t find this terribly surprising. faith isn’t really seen as ‘cool’ at most Ivy and elite grad schools. it’s not necessarily shunned, but few students at places like Yale are going to be bible thumpers, either. what interests me more is the fact that while Jews are ~2% of the population, they are vastly over represented in this school. i do not mean for this to be an anti-Semitic comment in any way, i just find it interesting. 

    • Anonymous

      If you look at the original article, there is a comparison to the standard Yale College. And the numbers are dramatically different. According to that, it’s only 3% atheists and agnostics there.

      Those numbers are based on self-identification at matriculation though, so it’s easily possible that people underwent some spiritual growth until gradation

  • Dfledermaus

    As members of an elite school, I doubt Yale law students are representitive of the religious preferences of all law students. And while this report is encouraging, the only statistic about lawyers that would really get me to stand up and cheer is one that indicated there was going to be far fewer of them. ;)

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

      Until you need one.

    • Erik

      Did a lawyer do something to you?

  • Anonymous

    I graduated from a top 15 law school in the early 1990s.  No one really talked about religion much, as I recall.  I haven’t looked at any studies on the subject, but I can say that in my almost 20 years of practicing law, many, maybe most, of the lawyers I have worked with are either atheists, agnostics, or simply non-religious.  That cuts across people who went to top law schools and average law schools.  It’s very difficult to work in a field where logical thinking and rational thought prevail, and still believe in religious nonsense.

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

      How about Dean Staver of Liberty U. Law School?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1019365643 John J. Ronald

    One of the more disturbing things about the GW Bush Administration Justice Department is how they went out of their way to recruit lawyers from religiously affiliated Law schools no matter how mediocre, eschewing trying to go after “the Best & the Brightest”.  Also, History loves irony, since of course Harvard was founded as a religious institution, and Yale was founded in reaction because Harvard was deemed “too liberal” theologically by some.

    I wish the breakdown of the current Supreme Court looked more like this survey :-/

  • Anonymous

    Well, this makes no sense. I thought that the very existence of law presupposes the existence of a lawgiver, namely, a god.

  • mkb

    At Harvard Law School in the late 1970s I remember a number of active Catholics and some devout Jews.  I was the only Protestant I knew who went to services on a somewhat irregular basis.  However, one of my, as far as I knew, non-churh-going Protestant friends is now a minister.  My guess is that we had many more apatheists that atheists.

  • nekochan

    Well of course lawyers are going to be predominately atheist, they’re all dirty stinkin’ liars! Duh… Even I knew that *eyeroll*

    I’m surprised no one else seemed to think of that possible interpretation. Don’t believe it myself for a second, but I’m used to being thought the worst of.

  • Mairianna

    You can bet that most of those “nondenominational christians” are really atheists or agnosticts who are afraid to say so! 

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Lucky for America, the Justice Department doesn’t higher from no hodytody law school like Yale, but prefers lawyers from Liberty U. 

  • Anonymous

    I can’t really speak to the demographics of my (Canadian) law school class, but those numbers don’t surprise me.

  • Archie

    I think the data is especially enlightening since it comes from a time in life before honest admissions of non-theist positions can cost them votes or clients.

  • CC

    Atheist lawyer here!  I recently graduated from a public law school in the South that ranks in the 30′s.  There was a Christian law school club and one student even went so far as to start a Bible study, but neither the club nor the study group seemed to have a large following.  But there wasn’t ANY club for non-theists.  In the deep south, it’s a big, big step to declare that there’s no God and I think there’s a perception that doing so can hurt your chances of future employment.  I had that feeling anyway.  Around here, lawyers proudly declare their church affiliations on their web sites.


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