It’s not a scientific survey by any means, but Harvard’s newspaper, The Crimson, asked incoming freshman to fill out a survey in order to assess various demographic trends. More than 70% of students responded. The section about religious beliefs, in particular, is unbelievable:
The percentage of atheists/Agnostics (35.6%) is almost identical to that of Protestants/Catholics (37%). If you included “Other” in our category, as many surveys often do, it’d be even higher.
I’m not claiming that’s representative of anything beyond just Harvard — which isn’t exactly a run-of-the-mill school — but I wonder how many other colleges are seeing similar trends.
When we say that about a third of young Americans are non-religious, that percentage includes people who are “spiritual but not religious” and people who believe in God but hate religious labels. If we could isolate just the students who are explicitly non-religious, I suspect that number would be much smaller but still on the rise with every passing year.
I wish other schools would collect that information to the best of their abilities and release the data. I’m sure it would be fascinating, even if it’s not a perfect sample.
Incidentally, The Crimson ran a similar survey of last year’s graduating class and found that 38% of respondents were atheist/Agnostic. It’ll be interesting to see if this year’s freshman class becomes even less religious by the time they graduate.