by Sarah Turner —
For many Virginia Tech students, college is a time to expand horizons, explore beliefs and engage in a higher level of education.
Because of this, researchers, such as James Hunter, have long argued that this period weakens religious beliefs and secularizes students.
However, according to USA Today, American college students are actually roughly equally divided on their opinions regarding religion and spirituality. Thirty-two percent of college students consider themselves religious, another 32 percent consider themselves spiritual, and 28 percent of students define themselves as secular.
With 25 member organizations making up the Virginia Tech Interfaith Council and over 70 student organizations founded on religious principles, Virginia Tech offers a faith-based community for believers of nearly every denomination, and non-believers as well.
“Tech has really strong religious communities,” Rebecca Robertson, a senior public relations major, said.
Robertson, who serves as a Eucharistic Minister and a Bible study leader for Newman Community, a Catholic organization at Tech, believes that membership in a faith-based organization creates an unparalleled sense of community for college students.
Although the majority of religious groups at Virginia Tech are founded on the principles of Christianity, various other religions, including Islam, Judaism and Buddhism, are also represented.
“There’s a religious group for really any kind of person on campus,” Caroline Gilliam, a junior public relations major, said.
Tech even offers a community for the roughly one-quarter of students who indicated their religious preference as “none.”
According to their website, Freethinkers at Virginia Tech is a secular student organization “comprised of individuals interested in promoting and applying free thought.” Members of this group identify as rationalists, skeptics, deists, agnostics, atheists, and humanists.
While Virginia Tech students’ motivations for belonging (or not belonging) to a faith-based community differ, the common element across all organizations appears to be “Hokie Respect” for the plethora of diverse opinions and mindsets represented on Tech’s campus.