Harvard slipped a stunning statistic into the footnotes of its new curriculum proposal released this week: Ninety-four percent of incoming students report that they discuss religion "frequently" or "occasionally," and a whopping seventy-one percent say they attend religious services. Ninety-four percent!! The Me Generation has given way to the God Generation.
These stats were released, no doubt, to help calm the controversy over whether to follow an earlier proposal to require all students to take a course in "faith and reason." The proposal was dropped when some faculty members complained. To avoid being branded "Harvard Snubs God," the 34-page report strains to point out that although Harvard is a "secular institution," "religion is an important part of our students' lives."
I'll say. (The report doesn't say how many students discuss sex, but surely more than six percent of Harvard students are shy. I'd even venture that, in keeping with national averages that show sixty-two percent of 12th graders have had intercourse, fewer than seventy-one percent of incoming students at Harvard have had sex, which suggests that more students at Harvard make church, so to speak, than make love.)
The point of these statistics is not that Harvard students are sitting around talking about how many angels dance on the head of a pin, but that talking about religion no longer means merely talking about theology or "Does God exist?" Talking about Iraq is talking about religion. Talking about Iran is talking about religion. Talking about The DaVinci Code is talking about religion. Same with gay marriage, stem cells, Mel Gibson, Mitt Romney, the New Hampshire Primary, even what milk we drink. Forty years after TIME Magazine asked "Is God Dead?" religion has again become the dominant topic around the globe. And in a wired world where we all have to make up our own ideas about diet and exercise and politics and sex, each of us has to make up our theology. We each have to make our own faith. Religion may be the last major human endeavor that is creeping into the Web 2.0 world.