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Religious upsurge brings culture clash to college campuses

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Fewer - just 55 percent - said they were satisfied with how their college experience provided "opportunities for religious/spiritual development," and 62 percent say their professors never encourage discussions of spiritual issues.

The survey is more a snapshot than a measure of change, but those on campuses say the trend is noticeable. "The pendulum continues to swing up," says the Rev. Alison Boden at the University of Chicago. "It was a very different scene in 1991."

Part of the interest may be simple curiosity, particularly among students who weren't raised with a lot of religion. "They start experimenting with everything from hair, to what they're going to major in, to not wanting to be a CPA like Dad," explains Ms. Boden. Other students, she says, crave religion's structure and guidance - a desire that often leads them to more conservative practices. Those who grew up as Reform Jews, for instance, might try Orthodox Judaism.

And then there are the Christian evangelical groups, like Campus Crusade and InterVarsity, which emphasize conservative Christian values and a personal relationship with God and Jesus - and which seem to be flourishing just about everywhere.

"God taught me more this quarter than I learned in any of my other classes," enthuses one young woman in a typical testimony at Northwestern.

"I was really encouraged to see there were so many believers," says Lauren Parnell, a cheerful freshman in a denim jacket and multicolored scarf, afterwards. "It wasn't what I was expecting."

That fundamentalist groups are thriving at schools known for intellectual vigor may be surprising, but the appeal goes beyond the tenets themselves: part of the draw, students say, is fellowship, opportunities to volunteer, even the lack of denominational ties or hierarchical structures.

"People are eager to look at the Bible and study it, and aren't offended that you're inviting them" to meetings, says Terry Erickson, InterVarsity's director of evangelism. "If you invite them to church, it's a different story."

Cameron Anderson, the group's director of graduate and faculty ministries, agrees: "Spirituality is in and religion is out."

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