Students becoming less religious, more passive
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 01:09
Since senior Ranieri Yllanes started attending college, she said that her schedule has not allowed her to continue to follow her childhood religious routines.
“I used to go to Catholic school from kindergarten through twelfth [grade] and my family and I attended church every Sunday,” she said. “Now, I just don’t have time.”
A recent WIN-Gallup International poll reported that 60 percent of Americans classified themselves as “religious” in 2011, a 13 percent decrease from 2005. The poll showed that atheism is on the rise, with atheists now accounting for five percent of the U.S. population.
Jay Halio, interim director of the Jewish Studies Program, said most students, unless they have a very strong religious background, are neutral and rather passive in regard to religion. He said students more often affiliate themselves as being nonreligious rather than atheist.
“I think we live in a secular age,” Halio said. “While in some parts of the country religion is very strong, I think if atheism is on the rise then so are other religions.”
He said when many students come to college they start questioning their religious beliefs, but the questioning sometimes leads to a deeper faith.
Halio said people may say they are atheist, but they may not realize what atheism entails. He said atheism is more than simply not believing in God or not observing religious holidays. He said a practicing atheist is something entirely different.
Atheists would protest if a religious symbol was displayed on campus, Halio said. He said that atheists would protest the Christmas tree that is placed in front of the Hugh M. Morris Library during the holiday season. To his knowledge, students have not protested the tree before.
Director of Baptist Student Ministry Blake Hardcastle said formal atheism has three main components, known as “problems.” He said the first problem is evil which questions God’s authority. He said for atheists, as long as evil exists in the world, then God must not.
He said the second problem is knowledge. Atheists believe if a God exists without public knowledge of him, then he cannot exist. His existence is based upon the people’s belief.
Hardcastle said the third problem is the incoherence of God which deals with internal contradictions and divine attributes.
“I don’t think there are a lot of students who want to think through a formal classic atheism,” Hardcastle said. “I think there are a lot of people who have a God of convenience where ultimately they want to be king of their life so if a god or a goddess is going to get in the way of that then they get rid of it.”
Hardcastle said he thinks that college does not cause changes in religious routine purposefully but rather makes it inevitable. He said college, like many transitional periods in life, tends to amplify a person’s identity.
“Some people might have had an outward exterior onto religiousness in high school or middle school, but then when they come to college they discard that,” he said.“I think it was always going to get discarded.”
The university has several religious groups on campus for students who chose to continue to practice their faith such as the Muslim Student Association, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and the Kristol Center for Jewish Life. Currently, the university does not have a student organization exclusively for atheists.