Study Finds Arts Majors More Committed to Religion

( [email protected] ) Jun 17, 2004 05:35 PM EDT

According to a national survey conducting 3,680 college students by University of California Los Angeles’ (UCLA) Higher Education Research students majoring in fine arts found to be more committed to religion and spiritual lives.

The survey showed that 62 percent of fine arts majors have a “high” level of spiritual commitment whereas only 43 percent of biology majors and 37 percent of sociology majors said they are deeply committed to religious life.

Alexander Astin, co-director of the UCLA study, said "religious commitment" was defined by several criteria: how important students said spirituality was in their lives; how involved they were in some sort of religious practice; how much spiritual distress they experience; and to what extent they were on a spiritual quest.

Astin added that he was surprised by the high number of fine arts (43 percent) who are engaged in a spiritual quest, compared to 23 percent of computer science majors and 19 percent of physical science majors. In terms of spiritual distress, more than 25 percent of art majors said they express such distress, compared to 15 percent of business majors and 10 percent of computer majors.

Astin referred to the major characteristic of an artist as what leads him or her to keep in close contact with spirituality.

"I think that's the nature of a good artist, someone who's aware of what's going on in their consciousness and is open to exploring these more ephemeral ... aspects of their life,” he said, ”You're much less likely to find that in the computer science or some other science field.”

"I think we are more open to exploring our spirituality in our work," said Lilia LaGesse, 21, a senior art theory and practice major at Northwestern University, who describes herself as a Christian and a practicing Episcopalian. "I know people who are more 'religious' than me and go to church regularly, but I feel there's almost a closemindedness, or it's more dogmatic."

Shruti Ganguly, 21, an art and communications major also admitted that she is spiritual and is fascinated by religion. Ganguly said she tries to explore religion in her artwork:

"In my art, a lot of it has to do with self exploration. There's some questioning and a lot of it has to do with, like, a spiritual quest kind of thing because I feel like I am trying to find something but I don't know what it is yet," she said.

However not everyone thinks the same. One student, who was raised Roman Catholic but claims herself to be “not religious,” thinks the opposite that more non-art majors practice religion.

Jessica Fong, a 21-year-old art and psychology major said she thinks art students are actually less religious than students in other departments.

"I know more engineering majors that are practicing Christians. They're devout every Sunday or whatever their day of service is," Fong said. "It's not that we're more spiritual. It's just that we have to deal with those things in the work we create."