Agnosticism and Atheism: A growing trend on college campuses

AgnosticismBy Jordan Puyear |

It’s a Sunday morning, and Flagler College freshman Rebecca Ward won’t be rushing to the 11 a.m. church service. Usually, Ward gets a second glance whenever she tells people her beliefs. She is proud to say that she is an atheist and gives reasoning behind it.

“Religion is just a way to explain what happens to us after we die and I believe nothing happens,” Ward said. “I believe there is no purpose for us being here. We live and then we die.”

Some people might turn their heads at the sound of this controversial topic. However, more and more college students are considering themselves agnostic or atheist.

Flagler College world religions Associate Professor James Rowell has noticed that there has been a significant difference in what beliefs college students associate with.

“There has been a decrease in the number of religion majors in the last year,” Rowell said. “I think everybody goes through that period where they are questioning the perspective they got. They are entering adulthood, independence and autonomy, thinking for yourself. It’s only natural that you question that.”

“Sixty-four percent of those currently enrolled in a traditional four-year institution have curbed their [church] attendance habits,” according to a 2007 study done by Social Science Research Council sociologists Mark D. Regnerus and Jeremy E. Uecker. According to their study, “about half of all American teenagers who disaffiliate from their religion do so for passive reasons; they simply lost interest, stopped going to church, or were altogether incapable of articulating a reason.”

Hunter Camp, not only a World Religions professor at Flagler College, but also associate pastor at the Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine, gave a variety of reasons to why there would be an increase in agnosticism or atheism, including home life and religious uncertainty.

“Social scientists and theologians suggest a variety of possibilities such as lack of religion in the family of origin, a decline in religious observance, media, heightened individualism, and the growing mistrust of religious establishments,” Camp said.

Freshman Ward agreed with Camp’s thought of how family affects which religion a person associates with.

“I do think that more college students are becoming atheist or agnostic due to the lack of influence of their parents,” Ward said. “When someone is raised in a religious environment that’s how they are and act around their parents but when these kids come to college, they have much more freedom to explore and find who they really are.”

Flagler College Freshman Carlton Clinkscales does not associate with any religion, but is agnostic. Similar to what Rowell said about independence in college playing a role on religion, Clinkscales explained that even though he was not raised agnostic, he did convert to agnosticism.

“I experienced some things that made me wonder if [God] really exists,” Clinkscales said. “I want to believe, but many signs point otherwise.”

In some cases, nothing influences a person’s religious beliefs. “I was never associated with any religion, ever,” Ward said.

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