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Lit of the Day: What College Did to My Religion

on December 18, 2011

by Philip E. Wentworth

To say that college does something to the average student’s religion is to state a truth which will be conceded by anyone who has given the matter a moment’s thought. Nine young men and women out of ten who will receive their degrees this June would probably admit, if they were called to testify, that education has acted as a poison to their faith. In many instances the virus generated by the reasoning processes induces only mild distemper of skepticism, but in others it works like an acid, eating its way into the bump of credulity until in the end this estimable organ is completely corroded. Devout parents and clergymen have frequently observed this phenomenon and deplored it. When they discuss it, however, as they often do, they betray a common failure to understand the intellectual chemistry which has produced this wholesale apostasy of the younger generation.



In these pages I propose to show how higher education reacts upon faith by describing my own religious crisis just as it occurred while I was in college. At the time, I had good reason to sift my doubts with unusual care. When I entered Harvard in the fall of 1924, I was not only a Christian, I was also an avowed candidate for the ministry. Then for four years I underwent a process of mental readjustment which shook my little world to its foundations. Through it all only one thing was clear to me: if I could reconcile religion with intelligence, I knew that I could go on into my chosen career fortified by the experience; if I could not, every consideration of honor would compel me to make other plans. In the end I gave up the ministry.

Read On



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