Commentary / Discussion / Response

Did College Help You Lose Your Faith?

A recent Huffington Post article, “Religion in College: How Has Your Faith Changed?“, asks:

How does a college education effect one’s religious beliefs? Given that college is a period of intellectual engagement and exploration, many scholars have believed that a college education weakens one’s religious beliefs.

The faith-eroding effect of higher education is not only often triumphed by atheists (for obvious reasons), but is also commonly bull-horned by evangelicals who are leery of secular education institutions and claim that they indoctrinate godlessness.

However, the article’s aim is to repudiate these claims.  The writer cites a study published in 2007 by the Social Science Research Council and mentions two points in particular:

  • While 64 percent of those currently enrolled in a traditional four-year institution reported a decline in religious service attendance, 76 percent of those who never enrolled in college reported a decline.
  • Twenty percent of those who did not attend college renounced all religious affiliation, whereas only 13 percent of four-year college students did the same.

It’s a bit dishonest in my opinion though. These statistics are about religious affiliation and service attendance, neither of which has anything to do with belief. But the point of this commentary isn’t to refute or question the legitimacy of the mentioned study. It (or at least the data they quote) is simply a non-sequitur. It should also be noted that rejection of religious faith is more closely linked with knowledge itself than the institutes. One must also consider the college being attended and the particular courses being taken by any given individual. There of course is a cultural aspect to college enrollment, including exposure to diversity. However, that alone couldn’t account for the majority of lost religiosity. I feel it’s safe to say that not all who attend college receive a higher education.

In any case, Huffington Post is seeking your stories. And it seems to me that they are trying to use them to support the notion that college education not only has little affect on faith, but in many cases enhances it.

If you are a college student or a recent graduate we want to hear from you. Tell us how your religious and spiritual outlook has changed in college. Did you increase in your understanding of your own religious practice? Did you lose your faith? Did you convert to another religion? Submit a 100-word response to along with your headshot and the name of your school, and we might feature your response on our website. We will accept your submissions until the Sept. 12, 2012.

The slideshow has around 30 entries currently featured. Most lean toward the article’s premise and speak of solidified or new-found faith. There are a couple from those who have become more opened-minded and have more liberal beliefs, but there is not a single one from someone who lost their faith or religious beliefs completely.

Are the publishing these testimonials with a bias? I’m not sure. But I suspect they might be.

If you became an atheist during your college years, please submit your story to Huffington Post Religion. If they don’t publish your stories we can call them out on their dishonesty. If they do, then this is a good opportunity for a little extra visibility.

2 thoughts on “Did College Help You Lose Your Faith?

  1. I did lose my faith during my college years, but they are looking for recent graduates, and I don’t even come close to falling under that category. It was more than 25 years ago now, so I doubt they’d publish mine. (And the only headshot I’d be willing to give them is my avatar, which I don’t think is what they have in mind.)

    It was not so much that what the college was specifically teaching that led me to deconvert. It was more the sudden exposure to all varieties of religious fanatics on campus, each totally convinced that the nonsense they were spouting was correct, combined with the rigorous analytical thinking needed for all the math and science classes I was taking. Apply the same analysis to religion, and poof, there goes faith!

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