According to a new study by researchers at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., 32 percent of college students consider themselves to be religious, another 32 percent believe they are spiritual but not religious, and 28 percent of students who could care less about religion.
For the study, the researchers asked students nationwide a series of questions about their spiritual, political and moral values, ranging from belief in God and worship attendance to climate change and same-sex marriage. The researchers found that religious students are more likely to attend church frequently, believe in creationism or intelligent design, and to oppose assisted suicide, adoptions by same-sex couples and gun control. Secular students, however, do not believe in God, believe euthanasia is moral, and think that gay couples should be allowed to adopt.
The one area the three groups had in common was global warming, with 96 percent of secular students and 80 percent of religious students worried about climate change.
The study also found that 70 percent of religious students considered themselves to be Christian, while most of the secular students didn’t have any religious identity. In addition, a majority of the secular students – as well as about a third of the spiritual students, consider themselves to be “nones,” i.e. having no religious identity.
“This finding is a challenge to the notion that the nones are just ‘religiously unaffiliated’ or religious searchers who have not yet found a religious home,” Trinity College researchers Barry Kosmin and Ariela Keysar wrote about the study, according to USA TODAY. ”This survey clearly revealed that today’s students with a secular worldview, who are mainly nones, are not traditional theists.”
The study was also conducted on behalf of the Center for Inquiry, a secular non-profit organization whose goal is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry and humanist values. Ron Lindsay, the Center’s president and CEO, believes that the Trinity College study proves that non-religious Americans aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“Clearly, secular Americans are a constituency on the ascent, one that both political and cultural establishments can no longer afford to ignore,” he said in a statement, adding that many secular college students will eventually become community leaders.
According to USA TODAY, polling conducted by the Pew Research Center found that the number of “nones” among Americans in general has grown from about 15 percent in 2007 to just under 20 percent in 2012. In addition, nearly one in three Americans under the age of 30 consider themselves not to have a religion.
Trinity College conducted an online survey of 1,800 students in April and May 2013. The researchers contacted the participating students using email address directories from 38 colleges and universities nationwide.