College Freshmen Are Losing Their Religion

Number of first-year college students who profess no faith has tripled in past 30 years.

May 26, 2017 1:18 pm

As part of a broader move away from organized religion among all Americans, a record number of first-year college students report belonging to no faith.

The Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP)‘s 2016 Freshman Survey found that the number of first-time college freshman who say they have no religion has tripled in the last 30 years. In 1986, 10 percent of college freshman said they had no religion. But by 2016, that number had jumped to 31 percent. Meanwhile, those students who do profess a faith are less likely to attend religious services. The study found the rate of churchgoing among freshmen dropped from 85 percent to 69 percent during the same period.

The 2016 survey included more than 137,000 college freshman at 184 schools throughout the country. Most interestingly, the number of students who say they are not religious is higher at universities than four-year colleges. Men are also more likely than women to claim they have no religious affiliation, are agnostic, or atheist, by almost 4 percent. In addition, people who identify as LGBT are also more likely to claim no religion.

“Many religions have negative attitudes toward homosexuality; apparently the feeling is mutual,” Allen Downey, a Professor of Computer Science at Olin College in Needham, Massachusetts, wrote in a recent report for Scientific American.

Religious college were not exempt from these findings either—17 percent of students at religious colleges marked “none” as their religion on the survey.




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