Principal investigator Elaine Howard Ecklund of Rice University and colleagues at the University at Buffalo found 17 percent of atheists with children said they attended a religious service more than once in the past year.
In addition, some atheist scientists want their children to know about different religions so their children can make informed decisions about their own religious preferences.
"Our research shows just how tightly linked religion and family are in U.S. society -- so much so that even some of society's least religious people find religion to be important in their private lives," Ecklund said in a statement.
Data was collected via interviews with a scientifically selected sample of 275 participants pulled from a survey of 2,198 tenured and tenure-track faculty in the natural and social sciences at 21 elite U.S. research universities. About half of the original survey population expressed some form of religious identity, the other half did not.
"We thought that these individuals might be less inclined to introduce their children to religious traditions, but we found the exact opposite to be true," Ecklund said.
"They want their children to have choices, and it is more consistent with their science identity to expose their children to all sources of knowledge."