Why do so many religious students lose faith in college? Not because they are getting smarter. In the first place, our schools are not doing very well at making them smarter. In the second place, the phenomenon of loss of faith is peculiar to our own universities. There is no evidence that it was widespread in, say, medieval universities, which were much more demanding intellectually.
The prime reason it happens is that our intellectual culture is tacitly atheistic. Don’t imagine that students are presented with compelling arguments against faith in college. Frankly, most don’t encounter any serious arguments at all about the question of faith, either for or against – which is telling in itself. Nevertheless a certain attitude is strongly conveyed without words.
This attitude has two main elements. One is a widespread view that people who believe in God do so because of their upbringing, but that people who disbelieve in God do so because they have thought about the matter. The other is a settled feeling that it doesn’t make any difference whether or not one believes in God anyway. Students tend to live as though there were no God, and most people who live that way come to feel that even if there is one, He must be remote and uninvolved.
It’s true, of course, that those who are considered more intelligent are more likely to go to college, and that those who go to college really are less likely to take God seriously -- but not because they are more intelligent. Rather because that is the sort of attitude college subtly encourages them to take -- and because the young people most concerned about seeming intelligent are the quickest to conform.