Religion & Beliefs

80% of College Kids Believe in God?

I just read this story at the New York Times, about the growing popularity of faith and spirituality on campus… and while that there may be a religion trend right now, and while I'm all for faith and spirituality…  when … Read More

By / May 3, 2007

I just read this story at the New York Times, about the growing popularity of faith and spirituality on campus… and while that there may be a religion trend right now, and while I'm all for faith and spirituality… 

when I read this bit:

A survey on the spiritual lives of college students, the first of its kind, showed in 2004 that more than two-thirds of 112,000 freshmen surveyed said they prayed, and that almost 80 percent believed in God. Nearly half of the freshmen said they were seeking opportunities to grow spiritually, according to the survey by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.

I couldn't help thinking, "Whoa!  I think that's a load of crap…"   

I don't mean that kids don't believe in God, I just do NOT believe that 80% of college kids believe in God.  Not really.   Though maybe they think it's kind of neat to be thinking about God, or thinking they might someday want to pray to God.

Think about this… if 80% believe in God, and only 66% pray, why don't the other 14% pray?  Do they HATE God, or do they all belong to some religion I've never heard of where God doesn't want you to pray?

 My gut tells me they answer "yes" to the question because they aren't atheists.  Because they God is a neat idea.  Because they wernt to Sunday School when they were 5.  And because, as we all know, there's a trned… and kids are trendy.  Of course, my reaction is not academic… or based in ANYTHING, really. It's just my reaction, but I'm not sure I'm wrong. 

See, the story goes on to explore the "WHY?" of such numbers.  It mentions a rise in religious studies enrollment, a rise in evangelical attendance at secular schools, and a rise in Christian student groups on campus.   

And that's all true.  But are these very differen types of numbers actually realted to one another directly?  There's more beneath the surface, and what I really want to know is what we're pointing to when we acknowledge this trend.  What are we saying?  It seems pretty general to look at all of this as, "Campus is just more religious."

For instance… What do we think is the nature of claiming an evangelical  religious belief system… or an academic religious interest?  I'm not sure these two things  are related.

In the world today, surrounded by religious evangelical extremism and violence related to that kind of faith, it makes complete sense that secular-ish students are trying to understand religion.  But I don't see what those "religious studies" numbers necessarily have to do with the simultaneous rise in the number of kids attending Campus Crusade for Christ meetings. Faith is a trend right now.  But the kids studying faith in the world, and the kids devoting themselves to worship… do they have to be the same kids?  Do we have to merge these populations in the study of faith?  Do they describe one trend, or several different reactions to a set of events?

I'm not sure I'm making myself clear, and I'm not sure I can divorce my strong reaction from my own personal experiences as a college kid.  But somewhere in my gut, I have to say I think 80% seems awfully high.

Depending on how we're defining "God" of course.  And "pray".  And "believe". 

Do you "believe" in God?  Do you pray? 

I don't, not really, though I'm reaching toward such things. 

But I don't think, as someone "interested in faith and prayer", that  I would answer a survey in the affirmative if I were asked such questions…

Though I'm not 18 and living in a climate, a trend, a "rising tide" of faith.