Is religion making a rebound on college campuses?

Lauren Williams's picture
Friday, July 26, 2013

College students tend to pray for a lot of things: a passable grade on tomorrow's poli sci midterm, a game-winning touchdown against that dreaded conference rival, some edible food to stomach in the dining hall. Prayer books, however, are often seldom seen on campus.

The independence and autonomy of college life can bring the waning of religious affiliation. New social scenery and crammed daily routines leave many without any time or inclination for faith, while others use college to rebel against their religious upbringing. Data from the Social Science Research Council pinpoints 22 as the age of lowest average religion activity, and sociologists Mark D. Regnerus and Jeremy E. Uecker note that nearly 70% of those who attended church at least once a month in high school saw their attendance decline in subsequent years. Sixty-four percent of those currently enrolled in four-year institutions have curbed religious practice, they say.

"People who attend college leave home," adds Atlantic writer Conor Friedersdorf. "That is to say, they leave their church, the community incentives to attend it, and the watchful eye of parents who get angry or make them feel guilty when they don't go to services or stray in their faith."

It's a feasible concept. One of the most powerful aspects of organized religion is community, Friedersdorf says. When a fresh-faced freshman leaves his church, synagogue, or mosque and joins a dorm hall, a lecture, or a Greek organization, that desire for community is filled.

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