How does a college education affect 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. In 1977 researchers David Caplowitz and Fred Sherrow wrote that college is "a breeding ground for apostasy." In 1983 sociologist James Hunter claimed that it was a "well-established fact" that education, even Christian education, "secularizes."
However, the secularizing effect of higher education has come into question in the past decade with new research suggesting that young adults who never enrolled in college are currently the least religious Americans.
In a study published in 2007 by the Social Science Research Council, sociologists Mark D. Regnerus and Jeremy E. Uecker reported on religious service attendance and religious dis-affiliation among young adults. According to their analysis of data collected by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health:
- 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.
But behind this hard data lie rich stories of religious and spiritual transformation in college. HuffPost Religion put out a call to our community to ask how their religious and spiritual outlook changed during their college years. Click through the slideshow below to see their responses.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
To learn more about the religious engagement of American undergraduates, visit this website.