A closer look: Study: Religion wanes in college
April 6, 2004 9:00 pm
Ask a UCLA student to think back to a time when he or she had a
religious revelation. Many students won’t be able to do
A UCLA survey of college freshmen nationwide, conducted in 2003,
found 75 percent of participating students said religious or
spiritual beliefs play an important part in helping to form their
But it also reported the number of students who marked
“none” as their religious preference had increased to a
record high of 17.6 percent.
Overall, the survey found the level of student participation in
traditional religious activities appeared to be decreasing.
It was determined that 80.4 percent of freshmen reported
attending religious services frequently or occasionally in their
last years of high school, but only 29 percent continued to attend
through their junior year of college. Both numbers show a decrease
when compared to years past.
Though many students decrease their attendance at religious
services after attending college, students said they have found
their personal religious convictions to be strengthened by the new
experiences college life offers.
“College is a true, real testing point for your faith
because there are no parents to obey,” said Jonathan Szeto, a
member of UCLA’s Christian group, Grace on Campus. Szeto said
he, like most GOC members, feels that his spiritual growth has been
heightened since entering college.
Besides the lack of parental guidance, the decreased number of
service attendees might also be caused by the time constraints
college students face.
Dominique Bell, a second-year psychology student, said the time
she spends at her local Baptist church in Inglewood has decreased
since coming to college.
“I can’t go as much as I’d like to and want
to, but my faith in God has gotten stronger because I’m older
and have had new experiences,” she said.
Bell noted that while she still attends church every Sunday, she
is unable to participate in many of the weekly activities.
In addition to the decreased number of service attendees, the
number of students who said their parents do not have a religious
preference has increased to record levels of 13.9 percent of
fathers and 9.1 percent of mothers.
Tim Smith, a second-year mathematics/economics student, said his
parents do not identify with a religious group.
He personally considers himself to be a spiritual atheist.
“I think you can have a meaningful philosophy of life
without religion. I meditate, but it’s more to get in touch
with myself than with anyone else,” he said.
Smith attributed his lack of traditional religion to his life
experiences at home and in the classroom, neither of which he said
have emphasized traditional religion.
But Szeto said he thinks it will always be difficult for people
to accept traditional religion no matter their personal
“In general, man is not that interested in religion
because it lends (to) accountability. If you believe there’s
a God … that’s going to affect how you live. A lot of
people don’t like that,” he said.
The survey also found that only 55 percent of students felt
their campus had adequate religious resources available.
At UCLA, there are over 50 registered student groups concerning
religion. The vast majority of the groups are Christian, but there
are groups for many religions including Buddhism, Judaism and
There are also churches and other places of worship within
walking distance of campus, and the Center for the Study of
Religion offers numerous workshops for students.
Szeto said he thinks there are adequate religious resources
available for motivated UCLA students.
“If you really want to strengthen your faith, you’ve
got to be the one to take the initiative,” he said.