Sophie Cote, a math and economics major who hopes to be on Wall Street one day, and Charlotta Lebedenko, a chemistry and philosophy major on her way to medical school, sat together during their medieval theology class at Fordham University, a Jesuit university in New York.
Freshmen at the time, the two banded together to defend their non-religious perspectives.
“It became pretty clear that our views were very, very different from everyone else,” Lebedenko said. “People would be upset that Sophie and I would speak up in class against theologians such as Aquinas and Anselm and say, ‘We disagree with this and here’s why.’”
Now, as sophomores, the two are roommates and starting Fordham University’s first Secular Student Alliance chapter — one of 10 new chapters that have been started recently at religiously affiliated schools.
“I knew I was an atheist before (the class), but I was very non-committal about it,” Cote said. “That class kind of drove me to try to have to defend myself, finally, and come up with reasons why I thought what I did.”
Nearly four in 10 young adults ages 18 to 29 are religiously unaffiliated — or nones — and are four times more likely as young adults a generation ago to identify this way, according to a study by the Public Religion Research Institute. Among college students surveyed by Trinity College, 32% identified their worldview as religious; 32% as spiritual; and 28% as secular.