By Victoria Lewis / Staff writer
Atheism and agnosticism, also known as people not affiliated with a religion, is on the rise all over the world, but in the United States in particular.
The United States has been experiencing an overall decline in the number of people following Christianity. Though 63% of Americans identify as Christian, the percentage of Americans who consider themselves atheist, agnostic of “nothing in particular” has risen from 16% in 2007 to a whopping 29% in 2020, with this number only continuing to rise, according to the Pew Research Center.
There is a difference between being atheist and agnostic, however, in that an atheist is defined as “a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods,” whereas someone who is agnostic is “a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God” (Oxford). Though these are the standard definitions, both groups often fall on a spectrum and have slightly varying views.
Taking a look at the Hutchinson Community College student body, amongst the religious presence on campus, there are some students who identify as atheist and agnostic. One such student who is atheist is freshman AJ Mustow is from Sydney, Australia – a comparatively less Christian country than the United States.
Mustow said he hasn’t experienced any judgment from his peers and teammates on the baseball team about his differing views.
“Being in a team with majority Christians has actually been interesting as I get to learn and try to understand their opinions on their religion, there’s no judgment either as everyone knows I’m atheist,” Mustow said. “I’ve found it quite fine being around a lot of Christians as they respect my beliefs and I respect theirs.
Mustow falls into the category of someone who doesn’t necessarily disbelieve in a god, but “who just don’t quite understand the whole Jesus and faith beliefs.
“I haven’t received any judgment at all for my personal beliefs and have had multiple conversations with Christians about religion without being judged.”
Another agnostic student at HutchCC is Leata Te Nana-Williams, who is from Auckland, New Zealand. New Zealand differs even further from the United States in terms of its religious breakdown, with more people adhering to no religion than those who practice Christianity.
She said that her experience at HutchCC has been judgment free when it comes to openly speaking about her beliefs to others.
“It just comes as it is, we have people from all around America and all around the world,” she said. She had noticed that “religion (is) like politics, racism, and sex (in that) are all seemingly taboo subjects that aren’t openly talked about in the United States – or at least there is certainly a heavier feeling in the air when talking about it in comparison to home.”
Defining her beliefs as more connected to “the spiritual element of the individual, whether we describe it as religion, as intuition or as faith,” Williams said that she thinks of spirituality “as an open framework of belief that believes in something that is culminated by the individual.
“We have some religious comments made here and there, but overall it’s done with the intention to encourage and spread love which is all we should be doing,” Williams said.
It seems that no matter what beliefs students hold, the HutchCC community welcomes a diversity in thinking and values, including whether or not someone adheres to a religion.