Naomi Schaefer Riley in the Wall Street Journal:
College professors have been complaining about their students since the beginning of time, and not without reason. But in the past several years more that a few professors—to judge by my conversations with a wide range of them—have noticed an occasional bright light shining out from the dull, party-going, anti-intellectual masses who stare back at them from class to class.
Young men and women from strong religious backgrounds, these professors say, often do better than their peers, if only because they are more engaged with liberal-arts subject matter and more inclined to study with diligence.
If you want to get a sense of why this might be so, look no further than “Souls in Transition,” by Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith. Examining the data from his vast longitudinal National Study of Youth and Religion, “Souls” uses statistics and face-to-face interviews to paint a picture—not necessarily a pretty one—of the moral and spiritual lives of 18- to 24-year-olds in America.
Religion, of course, does not make people smart—as Richard Dawkins and other atheists will tell you. But it does seem to save young adults from a vacuous and dispiriting moral relativism. The study’s interviews with nonreligious or semi-religious “emerging adults” tend to show vague powers of moral reasoning and a vague inarticulateness….