By: Tom Cicero
There was a man once who some say existed, and some say didn’t. He is the topic of much debate and is the symbol for an often-argued subject. Some talk to him daily, while others have never made contact.
The very topic he embodies has been at the center of fights between friends, as well as wars between countries. It has been used for tremendous good and unfathomable bad.
The person? Jesus Christ. The subject? Religion.
Religion is one of the most argued topics. Since the very dawn of civilization, people have been contemplating religion and the afterlife.
Flash forward a seemingly infinite number of years to 2013, and religion still plays a very large role in society and in people’s lives, though it appears to be less pronounced.
Does religion still have the same impact that it did? Also, how does religion affect other parts of people’s lives?
Does religion affect, say, education?
Tylar Nichols, a music performance major at Roosevelt University and an atheist, answered that question head on.
“Being a music student can be very stressful,” Nichols said. “When religious people are stressed, they can pray for it to get better. For me, instead of praying for something to get better, I just shut up and make it better. I get to work. I feel like prayer is a form of procrastination.”
Mary Kate Manning, an integrated marketing communication major and a Christian, had a different view on the subject.
“My beliefs don’t affect my education,” Manning said. “They should, but they don’t. However, I’d say I definitely take my values and put them into action. Whether it’s through positivity or kindness or patience, if someone’s really pissing me off, I think, ‘God wants me to be patient with this person.’”
Delving further into the subject of education and religion, Nichols brought up the argument about creationism and evolution being taught side by side.
“Creationism has no place in the classroom,” Nichols said. “Evolution has facts, evidence behind it. Creationism does not.”
Manning was leaning towards the other side of the argument, however.
“I believe that creationism should be taught in the classroom,” she said. “I think creation is something to be talked about.”
So, for some, it seems beliefs can affect their educations, but how does that carry over to their daily lives?
“It affects my daily life in that I’m not bogged down with having to worry about praying or sinning,” Nichols said. “I just live my life in what I feel is the best way. I don’t live in fear of going to hell or the hope of going to heaven.”
Manning felt differently about the subject.
“I look around, and I don’t understand how people couldn’t believe in a creator,” she said. “Like, if you see something freaking awesome like a sunrise, or a sunset or just people, how can you not believe that someone up there made it? I see God every day when I wake up in the morning and when I go to bed at night. It’s about having faith.”
When asked if they ever considered the other side of the spectrum, if they ever had different beliefs than what they currently believe, the students shared similar thoughts.
“I’ve thought a lot about religion,” Nichols said. “Then, I think about the hundreds, if not thousands of religions. Which one do I believe in?”
Manning added, “The other side makes sense. There are some things in religion that I don’t agree with, too. When I’m going through a really hard time, I’ll always think, ‘If there’s a God, why would he do this?’ But I’ve never fully stopped believing in God.”
Although Nichols and Manning had different views, they both seemed open to discussing them.
“I am happy to discuss religion and let loose,” Nichols said. “If someone says something contradictory to what I understand about the world, I will tell them off. But I don’t try pushing my beliefs on others. I have a great deal of interest in learning about religion as a cultural phenomenon.”
Manning added that she is not judgemental about others’ beliefs.
“I definitely would be friends with people who don’t believe in God,” she said. “It’s their belief in the end. If an atheist were to push their beliefs on me, it would hurt my feelings, so I would never do that to someone. I have a lot of atheist friends.”
But Nichols is not without his own beliefs, or Manning without her fears.
“Do I believe in angels or spirits or an afterlife?” Nichols asked. “I do think about that. It’s natural for every human to want there to be something beyond this.”
Manning said, “My fear of not going to heaven has definitely been a motivator towards my believing in God. I’ve always liked the quote by Albert Camus: ‘I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn’t to find out there is.’”
So where do these arguments leave us? Will we always be divided by our race, gender or religion? Some would say yes, some would say no. If the answer is no, how is it that we can bridge the gap between someone who is an avid believer of God, and someone who does not believe?
The key lies in understanding. The key is not to cause division.
Sure, we may not all believe in the same things, and we may not agree on this or that, but in the end, we are all human. It is our job as fellow humans to help each other. Every human has felt pain and suffering, just as every human has felt happiness. This is what bonds us as humans. Whether or not you believe in a god, we all come from the same place, and that alone can be the bridge to a more succinct society.
It’s not about sin. it’s not about right or wrong, it’s not about heaven or hell or dogma. It’s about your life before death and making it matter.