Are Young People Losing Their Religion?

College of Arts and Humanities

Ours is certainly not the first period that has asked if young people are losing their religion. Nor is it likely to be the last. But recent findings from the Pew Research Center could lend some support to those persuaded that the loss of religion marks the lives of many of our university students: of those surveyed under the age of 25 in the United States, the respondents who claimed no religious affiliation (the “nones”) comprise the second largest group, at 36%, behind only that of Christianity, at 56%.

But how we understand these figures depends on how we understand “religion.” In our Introduction to Religious Studies classes at Georgia Southern, we find that how someone thinks about religion depends on a host of cultural, social and historical factors – and that the question “what is religion?” proves more complicated, and more fascinating, the more you probe it. If we were to return to those figures above and the under-25 contingent who claimed no religious affiliation, by way of an example, 8 out of 10 express a belief in God, a full 50% with “absolute certainty.” What religion means will depend, then, on how you define it. And to define it well will necessitate the close study of culture, society, history, language, literature and politics, to name only some of the subjects that questions of religion touch on. But what this also indicates is that the study of religion introduces you to a vibrant collection of other areas of study, those rich humanistic disciplines committed to learning more about what it means to be us.

If the question of whether young people are losing their religion proves difficult to answer, one thing is more certain: the study of religion at Georgia Southern is thriving. Our classes are filled with bright, curious students who are passionate about learning more about religion in all of its diverse expressions and complexities. This interest has led to a new department at Georgia Southern University (Philosophy and Religious Studies) and a new major (B.A. in Philosophy with a Concentration in Religious Studies). So come support us. Sponsor scholarships, travel and talks for our students. Come take classes with us. How we think about religion matters.

— Daniel Pioske, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies