Santorum says that 62 percent of people who go to college lose their “faith commitment” there. (Odd, isn’t it, how even people who believe in the old values have to flop back on social-science talk—“faith commitment” for plain religion?) Some have questioned those statistics, which come from a 2007 report that found even greater decline among those who don’t attend college. I do not know how one measures such things, but I think it inevitable that questioning of childhood beliefs should take place at various stages of adolescence. This does not happen in junior year or senior year on campus. It is part of a long process called growing up. At some point, late or early, children disengage themselves from the stories crafted for them. Their loss of belief in the tooth fairy is only slightly behind their loss of teeth. There is a slow motion race to disappear between Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. The Stork undergoes, for some, a lengthier demise—and “the birds and the bees” do not long outlast it. Others, I hope, soon disabuse themselves of belief in their parents’ infallibility. Certain religious myths are discarded without necessarily losing faith. That I do not believe in Noah’s Ark does not mean that I must stop believing in God—though certain home schooling parents force that connection on their kids.
more from Garry Wills at the NYRB here.