Students evaluate religious affiliation as the number of ‘nones’ increase

Shelby Pearce talks about the Mormon faith in which she was brought up in and how she doesn’t agree with many of their beliefs and views. Photo by Ashley Sanchez

Ashley Sanchez

Contributing Writer

Liam Carlson grew up scared he would go to hell.

Though his home was split between different religious followings, his mother made her Roman Catholic beliefs very clear, which intimidated him with “guilt and fear-driven religious practices.” Carlson’s father, who kept his beliefs quiet, was an agnostic deist who doubts the existence of a God outside the possibility of creationism.

Biblical stories such as Noah’s Ark and Daniel in the Lion’s Den were some of the first tales that made Carlson doubt religion.

“They say it’s true, but there is always this thing in the back of your mind that’s like ‘it doesn’t really make sense,’” Carlson said. “Not to me at least.”

A Pew Research Center study found a growing number of Americans consider themselves “nones” or religiously-unaffiliated. Most “nones” are young millennials who grew up in religious households but left religion behind upon entering adulthood.

Another Pew finding revealed that most “nones” left religion because they questioned religious teachings, they didn’t agree with the social positions of the church or they didn’t like religious organizations.

Shelby Pearce attended The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when she was young. As the granddaughter of the Grand Bishop, she was expected to follow the beliefs of the Mormon faith and become a homemaker.

“I had an issue following that whole housewife ideology,” Pearce said. “I had dreams, I had goals and I did not want to follow that same path.”

Pearce arrived to VCU ready to focus on her education and learn about other religions in hopes to expand her spirituality.

“Coming to VCU, you are exposed to a lot more diversity, a lot of more different beliefs, religion,” Pearce said. “You realize that, ‘oh, well maybe I’m not the only one that has potential truth in the whole religious story.’”

Though the number of “nones” are growing, the same research suggests that these younger millennials may turn to religion as they age, get married and have kids.

Samantha Quaye found religion while at VCU. Quaye’s family members were non-practicing Christians — they only attended church on the important holidays and Quaye found it boring and unrelatable. She recalled trying to read scripture when she was in high school and struggled to understand it. Quaye became frustrated with religion until her freshman year, when trying to juggle college, life and independence for the first time became too much.

“The only source or thing I was ever taught to turn to when something was going wrong was God,” Quaye said. “But I felt like I didn’t know what to do even if I would turn to him. So, I went to one Bible study, and it literally changed my whole life.”

When the Bible group she was in began promoting ideals she did not support, Quaye co-founded a campus Christian group, New Elevation Revelation and Application. She now invites others who feel lost and doubtful to join her as they walk through their religious journey. Quaye wants to see more young people in church that don’t think their involvement with religion ends when they make a mistake.

“If you’re not in a supportive group, then that can really push you further away because there’s things that people struggle with,” Quaye said.

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