Friday, April 08, 2016

Non-atheist

Our campus newspaper, now fully digital, has just published an interesting series of articles called "10,000 Little Pieces: A Portrait of Diversity at The New School." They start it with a sort of self-study, which includes this interesting artifact of religious identity. I'm going to bring this to my "Lived Religion" class to see what sense they make of it.
One thing is clear: these are self-ascriptions. Otherwise they wouldn't be quite so incoherent! But another interesting thing emerges, too. To the extent the Free Press students (the 2/3 available for polling) are representative of Lang students, we're not as aggressively anti-religious a place as we think we are. No self-described atheists! (We'd also want a lot more information about just what is being reported here - practice, family heritage, belief? how much and how measured?) But still, Lang is by all accounts an environment in which religion is difficult to discuss, and in which ignorant atheist platitudes often hold sway. The Free
 
Press series includes a plaint by an "openly Christian" student driven to find comfort in Saint Paul's experiences of persecution. A similar alarm was raised by a religious studies major four years ago in a brilliant opinion piece called "The New School for Religious Suppression." I can even remember, a few year before that, when some student imagined forming a club called Out Christians at New School, abbreviated OUCH. I'm not sure our experiences here are so very different from many liberal arts colleges, nor that it's an environment which pushes people away from religion. I posted the recent piece on the religious studies alum FaceBook page, and a major from a few years back commented:

If it's any consolation to the writer, I came into Lang as an agnostic and I truly believe that studying under adversarial conditions forced me to acknowledge my own Christianity more so, I think, than if I was studying religion in a more Christian-friendly environment. It was frustrating, sure. However, there's immense value in being forced to articulate what you value about your beliefs and what perspectives others may be missing by being so dismissive. And then there's always the comfort of the other RelStuds and amazing professors to getcha through it. To which another (a minor) added: 100% this. 

I just wonder why so few of our students, whether "non-religious" or "openly Christian," avail themselves of the Religious Studies curriculum!
smile emoticon

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