"Words without poetry lack passion; words without passion lack persuasion; words without persuasion lack power."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Behind my red reporter glasses: personal thoughts on student atheism

I recently wrote another Student belief story for the newspaper on the topic of atheism. I really, really enjoyed writing the article and I feel honored the individuals were so honest and transparent with me about their beliefs.

Many of us may be familiar with atheism, but I came to learn that the actual definition, as it plays out in people's lives, is open to interpretation. The official definition according to the American Atheist organization is as follows:
Atheism is the lack of belief in a deity, which implies that nothing exists but natural phenomena. There are no forces, phenomena or entities, which exist or transcend outside physical nature, nor can there be.
The most surprising information I found in my research is that atheists are the least accepted social group in the United States, even compared to homosexuals, immigrants, Jews and Muslims.  Many people I shared that data with were not surprised, but I truly was shocked by it. It's intriguing to identify the different levels of what "is acceptable" and the morals of the general public, and then also to find the speculation or claim of the absence of deity to be more severe than the harsh stances many hold to the above mentioned social groups. One student I interviewed said “some people basically equate us to Satanists."
Perhaps this needs to be re-evaluated, withheld and or redistributed. I am in no way validating any belief or stance, but instead hoping to provoke thought. Atheists are people with souls just like anyone else. On the same token, may each one of us strive to be people who are respected in the way we conduct ourselves.

In correlation with the student age, the current generation is said to be the least religiously affiliated in comparison to others with 29% absent from claiming religious affiliation. This number does not cross indicate that they are all atheist, but as Jesse Galef from the Secular Student Alliance said, atheism among students is growing. The number of affiliates with SSA has more than doubled in the last 3 years. There is a lurking question behind this data..why? What is the reason behind the movement?
Many could assert the reasons of knowledge, enlightenment, secularization, lack of morals etc. While credit may be owed to the some of the above speculations, may I also present the idea that many have been hurt by our American church in in some way. So many people I know have been burned by the words and actions of those involved with religion, and I feel this is a major detour-ant to faith. I am aware this borderlines oversimplification, and I do not intend to generalize a complex subject.

During my research I interviewed many people who profess atheism and found some unique perspectives. One individual shared that although he identifies with atheism, he feels religion has had an incredible impact on society, and finds it's roll in history to be essential. Another man I spoke with had been a part of the christian religion for 40 years, and spent 20 of those on a christian commune. The atheist community seems to be very diverse in spiritual backgrounds and walks of life.  

The last subject I found to be interesting was morality. A central concept through each one of my conversations concerning atheism is the idea that humanity has an innate sense of moral built within us, which is independent of any belief system.
Check out my story on atheism located on the right of this blog under "silly little reporter girl."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

To be a part of something larger than me.

     I was sitting in church a few weeks ago, and for a moment I withdrew from my literal surroundings just long enough to realize one specific element- the overwhelming feeling of connection within the concept of gathering together for a central reason.

  • Being together "as one" to acquire wisdom, offer praise and to perhaps evoke change.  
           I Work for my school newspaper. We work together to bring light on important issues, tell incredible stories of otherwise unknown people, and maybe even make certain "wrongs" right.

      • The purpose of our work, whether we realize it or not, is much bigger than ourselves. 
             There's this beautiful thing called Young Life. Through Young Life, I get this incredible opportunity to befriend some beautiful high school girls and to walk through life with them. 

        • The purpose of Young Life is much larger than me. The organization impacts the lives of others.
               There is just something so unexplainable and beneficial about associating with something larger than your life. The impact on my character is irreplaceable, and the sensation is unique to most everything else.
               I believe experiences like these will impact people if the motive behind the action is truly to help, or love other people; if your motive is truly absent of selfish gain.

               So, whether you serve at a soup kitchen, or adopt, or volunteer at a food bank, or work with mentally challenged individuals, or travel overseas, or medical missions, or sing at a retirement home- the action is larger than you. 
               If you are not already, may I encourage you to be a part of something larger than you. Make time for it in your life, because I might just argue that it IS life at it's origin. I feel most alive in the midst of selfless activity. I believe every single person should take part in this in some way. Even if you're not a "people person," there's a way to benefit the world around you. 
               Check out some amazing stories related to this topic like the For the Silent story or the SKAD story located to under "silly little reporter girl" in the right column of this blog.

          Tuesday, March 15, 2011

          Natural disaster is close to my heart.

          Thinking of, and praying for Japan. 
           In the midst of busy American life, disasters taking place in Japan are resonating in my thoughts.
          I traveled to Sri Lanka in 2005 to do tsunami relief in the tiny village of Kosgoda. 
          Recently I have felt as if I am revisiting Sri Lanka and all the emotions that accompanied the journey.
          Here is a look into my memory:
           Over 1,200 people were killed on this train during the Tsunami. It now stands as a memorial for the lives lost.

           This house was destroyed by the wave, as well as the people in it. Sadly, this house was one of the least destroyed that I saw. Months after the Tsunami, the rubble was still knee deep.
           Pastor Isaac. Truly one of the most beautiful souls I have ever met.
           Some of the girls on my trip after a day of work. We are wearing skirts we bought locally.
           The breathtaking Sri Lanka sunset.
          Sri Lanka: I am thinking of you. I have not forgotten your brokenness. 
          Japan: Praying for you. Look to Him who stands outside of time. May he bring peace that surpasses all understanding.
          Friends please take time to think about the world around us. While we continue on with buying our Starbucks, being concerned with gaining five pounds, and sports scores..thousands have lost all rights to humanity. So let us simply recognize that this place, this world, is much larger than us. If we do, beautiful characteristics manifest in our person. Selfish desires of any kind, personal suffering and loss become minimized through the lenses of world magnification.

          Wednesday, March 9, 2011

          Behind my red reporter glasses: personal thoughts on Muslim belief

          Currently, I am writing a series for my student newspaper entitled Student belief. In each article I explore and present a certain type of religion/belief, as well as illustrate the spiritual journey of a particular student who holds the given belief.

          The religion I most recently wrote on is Muslim belief. I thought I would share the main elements of Islamic belief, since prior to my research I really had a non-existent grasp on the essence of the belief.

          ISLAM is derived from the Arabic root "SALEMA": peace, purity, submission and obedience according to Jannah.org, a web source for Islamic belief information. 
          The religion has two halves. the first half had five main components which are essential to being a part of Islam. The components include: belief in one God "Allah." Belief in the angels. Belief in the prophets such as Noah, Moses, Abraham, Jesus, and the prophet for Islam, Muhammad being the last. Belief in the holy books: The Quran, Bible and Torah. The last element is belief in The Day Of Judgment.
          The second half of the religion, from my perspective, is the application side of Islamic belief. people who practice the Muslim faith must pray five times a day, and are required to abstain from all substance use and premarital sexual relations. They must not curse, and are urged to be extremely moral with clothing.

          I found the moral side of the religion very intriguing in context of the college years.The years following high school are often deemed with the period of time where people "find themselves," or explore spiritually, and I find it incredible that many people in the Muslim religion continue to withhold from straying from the faith, or joining in on culture's version of the college years.
          Here is an article that presents another point of view on Muslim college years:http://www.jannah.org/articles/dating.html.

          When I spoke with an Islamic student, I asked her if it was hard to keep the moral code, and if she has ever questioned her faith. She told me that some of the moral standards  are hard to maintain when an individual is saturated in mainstream university culture, but she overall has not had trouble with it. She was quick to say that she has never doubted her faith and believes very strongly in it, despite the fact that she is occasionally publicly chastised with comments like being called a terrorist.

          The strength of her faith, and the other people I interviewed, honestly stopped me in my tracks. It's so unique to meet people who are so rooted in what they believe. I am not claiming that all of the reasons why their faith is strong to be pure, but I can say that it was different and striking to hear the confidence in their voices.

          While I do not profess Islamic belief to be my religion, and am in fact rooted firmly in truth I have found, it was amazing to research and learn about the religion.
          I encourage everyone to learn about different belief systems and new concepts.
          Even if you do not agree with other concepts and belief systems, it will strengthen what you believe to challenge your beliefs with difference and opposition. I do not mean challenge as a form of rebellion, but to find truth. However, if you do challenge what you know I believe it is important to have a good grasp on what you have found to be truth, so you do not lose all sense of self in the midst of different philosophies and beliefs.  

          Additionally to perhaps strengthening your current belief, speaking with people about there beliefs can help you "meet them where they are." Whether you agree with them are not is not the purpose, but instead, to love them well.
          we don't have to be tolerant, but open-minded to the point of genuine care for souls. 
          They are people.
          So, then, we must love.

          Check out my article on Student Belief: Muslim college students article under the  'Silly little reporter girl' section in the right column.

          Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...