Programmers and Religion

It is any surprise that a profession that demands intense logical analysis would find a very large number of people rejecting a very illogical proposition. According to an self-report, non-random survey, the highest religious affiliation with almost every programming language is... Atheist! Knowing as much as I do about survey research, I can only take this finding with a grain of salt. There could have easily been vote early and often phenomena, or even the tell your friends but not your enemies phenomena that could have swayed the results. However, this survey does match some of my own observations in the geek world.

I know Rand said "there is no compromise between food and poison. Poison always wins." I can't remember if she said there is no compromise between the rational and irrational, but it certainly sounds like something she would say. So a profession that deals explicitly with identifying facts of reality and logical connections between these facts will likely attract individuals who question faith and reject irrationality on principle.


  1. 1. A distinction is important. Reason vs. religion is not the same as reason vs. mysticism. I know atheists who are mystics.

    Religion is a worldview which includes an epistemology of mysticism. Philosophy is a worldview which includes (often in name only) an epistemology of reason.

    The concept of mysticism subsumes a variety of forms: claims to instinct, intuition, revelation, "I just know," and "common sense" sometimes. (See Ayn Rand, "Faith and Force," Philosophy: Who Needs It, pp. 75-76 (hb) for the listed items except "common sense," which I have added based on my observation of the way in which some individuals use that phrase.)

    Some atheists are intutionists, for example. That does not make them pro-reason.

    2. Many people compartmentalize. A programmer may proceed rationally in his work--and be a mystic crystal-gazer in his off-time. I know. I have met such people.

  2. Burgess,
    I agree on both points. My goal with the post was merely to point out my lack of surprise with the results. I fully realize that many atheists are mystics. BUT, sometimes the relationship between a career demanding a highly rational perspective will 1) attract people that are rational in general and reject mysticism (including God) or 2) inspire rationality in their other world pursuits (and overcome their compartmentalization). The second is by far less likely, and probably more fantasy on my part.

    At any rate, I'm not implying a universal law or rule. Just my thoughts on why the results turned out the way they did.