Before my Great Aunt Esther died, she lived in downtown
Minneapolis in poverty. Oddly, this is not embarrassing to my proper,
upper-middle-class, Christian family. Esther simply continued to live as she
had when her husband, my grandmother's brother Ludwig, was alive.
“What do I have to believe to be a Christian?” If you have been part of a church for any amount of time or spent even a few minutes surfing Christian blogs or church websites, this is a question you will encounter ad nauseam. The question itself is loaded, since it assumes one has to believe something.
Walk along with Century contributor Sarah Hinlicky Wilson and her husband Andrew
Lars Wilson as they retrace the journey Martin Luther made from Erfut, Germany,
to Rome in 1510—500 years ago this year.
The conventional wisdom has been that going to college leads people away from organized religion, and that was true for those born in the first part of the 20th century. But it’s not true for recent generations, says sociologist Philip Schwadel at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. In fact, it’s the least-educated members of Generation X—people born roughly between 1965 and 1980—who are most likely to leave religion. “Americans born in the late 1920s and ’30s who graduated from college were twice as likely to drop out of religion than people who didn’t graduate from college,” said Schwadel. However, for the generation born in the 1960s, there’s no difference between those who did and those who did not go to college in their likelihood of religious affiliation. Among those born in the 1970s, “those without a college education are the most likely to drop out.” Schwadel did not include millennials—Americans roughly between the ages 18 and 30—in the study because, he said, it’s too soon to tell if they will settle on a religious identity (RNS).