According to a new study, college students are split pretty evenly into three camps when it comes to matters of faith and God.
Researchers from Trinity College in Connecticut asked students all over the country a series of questions about their religious beliefs, as well as their political and moral values. The survey included questions on the topics of belief in God, worship, climate change and same-sex marriage, to give you an idea of how broad the study was.
The study’s results overall: A third, 32 percent, are what researchers would consider “true believers” who practice some sort of religion devoutly. Another 32 percent consider themselves “spiritual,” but do not necessarily observe formal religion. Lastly, 28 percent consider themselves “secular.”
Among the secular students, most were dubbed “nones,” that is, they have no religious identity whatsoever. About a third of the “spiritual” students were the same way.
This seems to corroborate recent polling from the Pew Research Center. The fast rise of irreligious persons is sometimes mistakenly dubbed a rise in atheism, but that’s not necessarily the case. According to Pew, the growing number actually fall into the “none” category, which is separate from atheists and agnostics. “Nones” were about 15 percent in 2007 and rose to just under 20 percent in 2012.
The Trinity survey was performed, in part, to better understand this “none” group. Members of this demographic are marked by a “remarkable degree of indifference to religion.”
According to the researchers, the findings represent a “challenge to the notion that the ‘nones’ are just ‘religiously unaffiliated’ or religious searchers who have not yet found a religious home.”
Ron Lindsay, the president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, said that the survey actually shows that “nones” will actually become community leaders and cement the demographic’s place in society.
“Clearly, secular Americans are a constituency on the ascent, one that both political and cultural establishments can no longer afford to ignore,” he said.