Remember when parents were afraid to send their children off to college for fear they would question their religious beliefs? Today it seems the opposite is true. A recent survey of the Gallup organization suggests that American college campuses are becoming havens for religious renewal.

The survey, in which 507 full-time students from 96 campuses nationwide were interviewed, was published in Newsweek on Campus, a publication for college students produced by the staff of Newsweek. Thirty-five percent of respondents said their religious commitment had become stronger since going to college; only 16 percent said it was weaker. More than 80 percent said their religious beliefs were important to them; only about 15 percent said they were not.

An article accompanying the survey cites growth in campus fellowship groups like Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, Campus Crusade for Christ, and Maranatha Campus Ministries. Also there is a renewed academic interest in religion. For the first time, Stanford University is limiting enrollment in its religion classes because of crowding, and enrollment in religion classes at Michigan State University has increased 60 percent in the last year. University of Texas professor Howard Miller, who specializes in American religious history, believes “we’re sitting right in the middle of an evangelical campus revolution.”

The results of the Gallup survey suggest a decline in the influence of naturalism, long considered the dominant philosophy of college educators. But greater interest in spiritual matters does not necessarily mean greater interest in Christianity. More than 90 percent of those surveyed said they believed “in God or a universal spirit.” And less than 40 percent said they attend religious services at least once a week.

The survey results are consistent with a broader Gallup survey conducted earlier this year, which indicated that there is renewed interest in religion in society (CT, Feb. 4, p. 48). But interest in spiritual matters is not limited to Christianity. The Gallup survey of society at large indicated a lack of knowledge of the Ten Commandments and a growing belief in astrology. Still another Gallup poll revealed an interest among teens in reincarnation.

In the college student survey, virtually all respondents said there was no chance they would be taken in by a cult. (The only definition of a cult proffered by the survey was a citing of Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church as an example.) The article suggested that extremist cult groups, like the Moonies and Hare Krishnas, are gradually disappearing from college campuses.

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