Younger Generation Shedding Religion

The headline from The Christian Post (here) reads “College Freshmen Abandon Religion at 'Skyrocketing' Rate.” The sky is falling!! The sky is falling!! The headline in their source, a Scientific American article by Allen Downey (here), says “College Freshmen Are Less Religious Than Ever.” Needless to say, the latter claim is more accurate.

 college freshmen nones

Since 1970, incoming college freshmen have been surveyed about their religious preferences. The Christian Post, with its usual disdain for facts, presented neither graph nor data. Their characterization of growth as “skyrocketing” is alarmist, though it is accelerating at present.

The data is for “nones” – students with no religious preference. In 2015 the survey began to break out “nones” into agnostics, atheists, and “believing nones.” Skeptics – atheists and agnostics - account for less than half the group: “In 2016, the breakdown of students with no religious affiliation is 8.5 percent Agnostic, 6.4 percent Atheist, and 16 percent None, with all three categories up slightly since 2015.”

The original Scientific American article noted that most of the growth of “nones” came from Catholics. The Christian Post, whose readers are evangelical Protestants, merely said “both Catholic and Protestant denominations experienced drops.” They wanted to magnify the perceived threat.

Downey also analyzed data from young men and women who didn’t attend college. They showed the same trend toward abandoning religion, though they were about 5 points more likely to remain religious. That is, the trend away from religion is consistent among the younger generation. They are also less racist, more tolerant of gays and lesbians, and less likely to be politically conservative. The cultural-political pendulum seems to be swinging away from the Reagan era back toward the Kennedy era, which was not only more fun, but better economically as well. While people usually complain about the younger generation, I’m looking forward to it.

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