During at least one point in nearly half of all American’s lives, they leave their childhood religion for a new religion or leave religious groups altogether, according to a religious survey released Monday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
The survey, which asked 35,000 Americans about their religion, also showed that 25 percent of adults age 18 to 29 have no affiliation with a particular religion.
College students are at the age where they start questioning their religious beliefs, said Paul Lehmberg, NMU English professor and Zen Buddhist priest.
“College students are not quite full adults,” said Lehmberg who heads a small Zen temple in Marquette. “For the first time, they’re leaving on their own, and it’s natural and healthy that they should examine and question the beliefs with which they’ve been raised. Many students will abandon the religion of their parents, but-especially when they have children-some of these same people will re-examine their beliefs and return to the churches in which they were raised. This is all natural, and, for some, inevitable.”
One option for students with questions about the Bible or religion in general is the Lutheran Student Movement’s Web site, tiredofthiscrap.com.
The forum is a free-thought site that encourages visitors from any religion to post rants or questions of any kind, said junior accounting major Andrew Foster, the coordinator and co-founder of the site.
When compared to some other religious groups on NMU’s campus, members of the Lutheran Student Movement considers their thoughts on religion to be liberal, Foster said.
“There’s the religious life, which basically believes that abortion is bad, gays are going to hell and there’s black and white ways to view things,” Foster said. “There’s no gray. There’s God’s way and there’s the devil’s way.”
Foster said that his organization fails to fit into this mold.
“Our movement can see the gray and embrace the gray, as opposed to black and white,” he added.
Another group, Campus Crusade for Christ, considers itself interdenominational-Christian. Instead of opening the Bible up for interpretation, the group views the Bible as literally as possible, said Neil Glatt, senior marketing and Spanish major, and member of Campus Crusades for Christ.
“If you are familiar with the Bible, there are specific points that outline that the Bible is completely infallible the way that it is written,” Glatt said. “If it is not accepted in whole, then it is not accepted period; this is written in the Bible.”
However, all members of Campus Crusades for Christ don’t believe everything that Tired of this Crap is criticizing, said Dave Michels, adviser to Campus Crusade for Christ.
“They are alluding to the fact that I believe things that are wrong,” Michels said. “They are saying it in a way on their Web site that really isn’t what I would call Christian. They are pointing a finger saying, ‘You say this .’ but that’s not really what I say.”
An important concept for students that are questioning their faith, or are interested in a new faith, is that they shouldn’t think that they only get one chance to change their minds , Lehmberg said.
“It takes courage, I think, to question honestly, but your spiritual life will ultimately be the stronger for it,” he said. “And whatever you decide now, these are not decisions that are made for all time, though they may seem so now. Your ideas will evolve, if only because different things are important to us at different points in our lives.”