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February 22, 2024

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Religious groups flourish on campus

In Monday’s USA Today, an editorial by Tom Krattenmaker addressed a long-held stereotype about college campuses. Krattenmaker discussed the idea that students yield an endless supply of religious apathy and that young adults lose any god-fearing bones they have in their bodies the second they arrive for freshman orientation.

The campuses are, as Krattenmaker says, “viewed by many as bastions of liberal secularism, the places where religious faith goes to die.” Krattenmaker asks, “Is God silenced on college campuses?” Or is the conversation simply changing?”

When I arrived on campus last fall, I certainly assumed that the former question would be the truth. I spent my elementary and most of my high school years enrolled in Catholic schools, and, strange as this may seem, many of my classmates were rather apathetic and turned off by the idea of practicing religion and openly talking about their faith.

I was one of the few people I knew who went to church on a weekly basis, and this number dwindled when I attended a public high school. As a result, I naturally assumed that I would once again be in the minority when I came to the University.

I believed the stereotypes Krattenmaker describes, and the “conventional wisdom [that] … from the Ivy Leagues to the brainiac liberal arts colleges to the major public universities, God has been silenced.”

Very quickly, I was proven incorrect. I was astounded at the amount of religious groups on campus and how many of the people I met were involved in these groups, or, like myself, attended some sort of religious service at home. I was somewhat baffled.

You’re telling me that college students don’t have to abandon any religious or spiritual beliefs and begin denouncing a higher power or become interested in “trendy Eastern or New Age religions” in order to achieve higher education? Krattenmaker quotes former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, who said that “for years, our colleges and universities have shown themselves to be hostile to the rights and dignities of religious students.”

While I didn’t expect the open hostility Meese spoke of when I arrived on campus, I certainly did not expect so many of the people I would come in contact with to be religious either. Sophomore Ryan Sparks, who is a member of CRU, told me that he too held the same misconceptions about college and religious involvement.

“I thought I’d have to find an off-campus church, but I ended up finding out about CRU, and then I joined a Life Group,” a smaller offshoot of CRU for Bible discussion and group activities, Sparks said.

So, it appears that maybe the idea that college students immediately lose touch with their religion, or never find religion in the first place, may indeed be false. In fact, there may be more opportunities to connect or reconnect with a new spiritual group or religious affiliation.

Krattenmaker cites research from the University of Texas in his piece, which suggests that “[college] students are less likely to be secularized than others ages 18 to 25. In other words, navigating the working world takes a larger toll ” than supposedly godless college campuses.” Maybe it’s not a requirement that all those who enter into college life abandon all religious beliefs.

In fact, maybe it’s the opposite: Such a strong presence of groups involving religious activities may help those students who are wavering in their faith and wish to get back to their roots gain support on campus, rather than face the real world alone. If you feel there is such a strong religious presence on campus is a positive or negative aspect of the University (or any colleges in general), that is your prerogative. I’m not attempting to prove or disprove the merits of such groups. I simply find it interesting, that as a lowly freshman still learning the ropes about college, I had such a strong misconception about religious activities on campus.

As long as a group that deals with religious beliefs doesn’t have an affinity for Nerf guns, it seems as if there is a place for them on a college campus. “God isn’t gone,” Krattenmaker says, “but the music is changing. You might be surprised who’s listening.”

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