College Freshmen Are Less Religious Than Ever

May 26, 2017

By Allen Downey

The number of college students with no religious affiliation has tripled in the last 30 years, from 10 percent in 1986 to 31 percent in 2016, according to data from the CIRP Freshman Survey. Over the same period, the number who attended religious services dropped from 85 percent to 69 percent. These trends provide a shapshot of the current generation of young adults; they also provide a preview of rapid secularization in the U.S. over the next 30 years.

Since 1966 the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) has surveyed incoming college students about their backgrounds, beliefs, and attitudes, including questions about their religious preference and attendance at religious services. In 2016, they surveyed more than 137,000 first-time students at 184 colleges and universities in the U.S.

Figure 1 shows how the number of students whose religious preference is “None” has changed over time. The retreat from religion starts around 1990 and accelerates, averaging almost 1 percentage point per year.

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6 comments on “College Freshmen Are Less Religious Than Ever

  • @OP – Figure 1 shows how the number of students whose religious preference is “None” has changed over time. The retreat from religion starts around 1990 and accelerates, averaging almost 1 percentage point per year.

    As rapid access to scientifically valid information, historical records, and rational thinking, becomes more readily available to those seeking education, Unevidenced “faith” based woo and mumbo jumbo, is progressively easier to debunk!



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  • Also, as the modern investigative tools of science, bring the understanding of the material world and biological systems into sharper focus, the handicap of using religious based gap fillers to cover ignorance, and mount a facade of false pseudo-knowledge, become increasing transparently and subject to critical scrutiny.

    Under objective scrutiny, the posture of “being in possession of god-endorsed wisdom”, becomes exposed as, “being in possession of god-delusion-endorsed nonsense”, copied from the ignorance of the distant past!



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  • I’ve often trotted out my ole standby… Wanna see the future? Look at today’s high schools. It is a great honor and it gives me great hope to be involved with today’s students and to witness their reality.

    Their reality is the antithesis of what the 24 hour news cycle spews out about the world.



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  • I think a substantial portion of the change may well be a result of the constant but gentle barrage of news articles about new fossils being found, and dated to several millions of years ago. Even the articles referencing the latest DNA news. All this has to encourage young people to question their beliefs – the accumulated weight of these HAS to have an effect – consider how many news articles are published with contrasting topics – “Noahs’ Ark remains may have been found” or “Grand Canyon water flow experiment proves flood origin” etc. The more real science appears in the news, the more chance todays’ web-enabled youth will see them.

    Ask a religious person to make a prediction about something that will be found, proving YEC, or to point to someone elses’ prediction that later proved accurate, based on their religious beliefs. You get no answers. Then point to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiktaalik. Predicted as to time and place, and found on Ellesmere Island. The true scientific method at work.



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