The NONE generation: lack of faith on campuses
By: Francesca Gugino
Millennials, those born from 1983- 2000 according to U.S. PIRG, have the highest rate of non-affiliation with religion. This means that the millennial generation does not report to being part of any specific religious sect or denomination. According to the Pew Research Center 36% of Younger Millennials (those born in the 90s) have no religious affiliations and 17% reported that they definitely do not believe in God. Essentially, the sentiment that God doesn’t make sense and that religious affiliation is not important is increasing exponentially.
This non-affiliation and lack of faith has tripled on college campuses in the past 30 years, according to a study conducted by Scientific American. Students are increasingly identifying as “Other Christian” when asked about religious preferences. This pulls away from church organizations, especially Catholic and Protestant denominations such as Baptist and Methodist parishes. Attendance to religious ceremonies have also fallen from over 85% of attendance, frequent or occasional, in 1990 to currently less than 70%.
This has affected religious colleges and universities by forcing them to market to students who do not necessarily know their core message, because less and less undergraduate students are looking for religion and faith based education. In addition, many of these students were not raised in a faith-centered home or received public education, where God is scarcely spoken of; no matter what for of a “god” one believes in (monotheistic or polytheistic).
Beth McMurtie’s “Catholic Colleges Meet and Unchurched Generation” is one of the most recent and relevant articles to the change that may been seen at catholic universities and other religious institutions of higher education. McMurtie’s article hones in on the problems faced by Marquette University in Wisconsin. She explains that although the “Nones” do not affiliate with church or necessarily believe in God, they hold the same values and morals that religious denominations preach. In the article she states that universities and colleges must adapt “their religious mission to topics of broad interest, like developing a meaningful philosophy of life or pursuing social justice.” Marketing to a different generation of students is something that many religious institutions of higher education are struggling with.
However, the identity crisis that religious campuses, specifically Catholic and Christian universities, are having doesn’t end here. Another factor that plays into the change of dynamic is funding. According to Anne Hendershott, author of “Taking the Catholic Out of Catholic Universities, “Money continues to allow or, worse, motivate Catholic universities and colleges to shed the Catholic identity.” Catholic Universities specifically have moved away from teachings geared toward Philosophy, Theology and the Classics, and have shifted toward STEM and other ways to bring in revenue and aid, many relying on funding from donors and alumni. According to Hendershott, Catholic Universities are losing their identity in part by choice, as they do not affiliate with the Catholic Church when it seems to be convenient for them.
Currently, Catholic Colleges seem to be hindered by secularism that is becoming more and more present in society and in higher education. Hendershott states that: “Until Catholic leaders stand up against the secular trends on their own campuses, and strive again to be Cardinal Newman’s “light of the world,” many more Catholic universities will likely end the pretense of calling themselves Catholic.”