Via P.Z., I came across this article, from the Colorado Springs Gazette, about Christian teenagers abdoning their faith upon reaching college:
The trend is known as the “Great Evacuation,” and the statistics are startling to youth ministers.
Studies have shown at least 50 percent — and possibly as much as 85 percent — of kids involved in church groups will abandon their faith during their first year in college.
In an attempt to reverse those numbers, Focus on the Family on Saturday hosted “The Big Dig,” a conference aimed at teens and youth leaders. The goal was not just to celebrate participants’ Christian faith but also to give them the tools to defend their beliefs against questions they will face.
I’m sure the statistics are basically accurate. A college education is a strong innoculation against finding Christianity appealing, especially the sort of fundamentalist Christianity promoted by Focus on the Family.
But this is not because professors indoctrinate students with atheist propaganda. It is because for most teenagers college is the first time they get a real taste of what is really out there. Just browsing through the typical college course catalog reveals fields of study you never knew existed when you were in high school. Add to that the diversity of backgrounds and religious views found on most college campuses, and it becomes increasingly hard to believe that the Biblical writers had everything figured out a few thousand years ago.
Of course, Focus on the Family uses language in weird ways. When they talk about “the tools to defend their beliefs” they mean “talking points that can be whipped out in conversation to shut up your interlocutor.” These are not reflective people. These are not folks who waste even one solitary second trying to understand the views of those who do not agree with their beliefs. Learning biology is not part of the program when it comes to arguing against evolution, for example. Memorizing talking points about gaps in the fossil record or the gobsmacking complexity of biochemical systems, all while learning how to dismiss your intellectual betters with a contemptuous shake of the head is the preferred approach.
The FotF types have a different explanation for the problem of the youth leaving the faith:
Reasons are multiple for the religious falloff by freshmen, said Bob Waliszewski, Focus’ interim youth outreach director. Some leave churches because they find their beliefs incompatible with moral failings they have, while others have no answers for professors who question their faith.
Find their beliefs incompatible with moral failings they have? I’m not sure what that means. I thought the whole point of Christianity was acknowledging your wretched and sinful state and your consequent need of a savior. We’ve already discussed the second point. It doesn’t seem to occur to Mr. Waliszewski that the extraordinary fact claims of Christianity become harder to believe once you have learned a bit about skepticism and critical thinking, and that college tends to make students stronger in both of those areas.
Reading fundamentalist apologetics can be an excruciating experience for anyone who actually knows a little science and history. This is why the FotF people are so keen on indoctirnating people when they are young. Your typical college graduate is savvy enough to know malarkey when he sees it, making them harder to bring in to the fold.