Atheism on the Rise This Year at Harvard

By John Phelan (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By John Phelan (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
More Harvard freshman are proclaiming they are atheist or agnostic than in years past.

The new class of 2019 at Harvard has begun and according to a recent survey conducted by The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper; there are more atheists in this class than Catholics and Protestants. This seems surprising yet not shocking because of the trend that has been observed in the country for quite a while. The millennials in the country are moving toward a path of being not being affiliated to any faith instead of having many religious affiliations.

Harvard 2019 Religion Breakdown

According to the study, 21 percent of the students said that they are agnostic, 17 percent identified as atheists, and 17 percent of the freshmen identified as either Catholic or Protestant. There was a gap of 4 percent between the two groups with agnostics and atheists forming 38 percent of the 2019 student population and Catholics and Protestants forming 34 percent of the 2019 class. Ten percent of the class identified as Jews, 3 percent Hindus, 3 percent Muslims, and 0.4 percent Mormon. The remaining 12 percent reported their religion as “other.”

21 percent of Harvard freshman said that they are agnostic.[/tweetthis]

The students at Harvard vs. U.S. millennials in general

Though the pattern seen in the recent studies does shed some light on the fact that more and more millennials are heading toward a path of atheism, the rate at which this phenomenon is occurring is slightly different when the entire American population is brought under study. In the U.S., currently 52 percent of millennials identify as Protestants or Catholics, compared to the 34.1 percent of Harvard’s 2019 class; and 13 percent of the American millennials identify as atheists as against the 38 percent of the current class of Harvard freshman.

It is not just this year that the Crimson poll showed such results. Comparing the results from the 2017 class one can see the sharp fall in the number of students who identified as Catholics or Protestants in the past. The class of 2017 saw 42.4 percent Protestants and Catholics, class of 2018 reported a lower figure of 37 percent and finally for the 2019 class the number has touched 34 percent, which is a huge leap of 8 percent in a matter of two years.

The Harvard Crimson results are based on an email survey that Harvard sends out every year to incoming students. This year 1,184 students sent in their completed application, which comprises more than 70 percent of the class of 2019.


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