As the stigma of atheism has diminished, campus atheists and agnostics are coming out of the closet, fueling a sharp rise in the number of clubs like the 10-year-old group at Iowa State.
-- From "Atheist student groups flower on college campuses" by Eric Gorski, The Associated Press 11/22/09
Campus affiliates of the Secular Student Alliance, a sort of Godless Campus Crusade for Christ, have multiplied from 80 in 2007 to 100 in 2008 and 174 this fall, providing the atheist movement new training grounds for future leaders. In another sign of growing acceptance, at least three universities, including Harvard, now have humanist chaplains meeting the needs of the not-so-spiritual.
More than three-quarters of young adults taking part in the National Study of Youth and Religion profess a belief in God. But almost 7 percent fewer believe in God as young adults (ages 18 to 23) than did as teenagers, according to the study, which is tracking the same group of young people as they mature.
What young adults are less likely to believe in is religion. The number of those who describe themselves as "not religious" nearly doubled, to 27 percent, in young adulthood.
Growing hostility toward religion was found, too. About 1 in 10 young adults are "irreligious" - or actively against religion - after virtually none of them fit that description as teenagers.
At Iowa State, most of the club's roughly 30 members are "former" somethings, mostly Christians. Many stress that their lives are guided not by anti-religiousness, but belief in science, logic and reason.
When the ISU club began in 1999, it was mostly a discussion group. But it soon became clear that young people who leave organized religion miss something: a sense of community. So the group added movie and board-game nights and, more recently, twice-monthly Sunday brunches to the calendar.
Members also seek to engage their peers at Iowa State . . .
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