What College (and Seminary) Students Don’t Know About Religion

Students desks classA short while back, there was an interesting article at On Faith by Martyn Oliver (“10 Things Every College Student Needs to Know About Religion”), which connects with some themes I’ve discussed here on the blog, at The Huffington Post, and in my classroom. In fact, I felt like nodding to every point.

Things like this…

If you want to understand why people do and think as they do, you need to find a way to understand them from the inside. That does not mean not critically evaluating beliefs, or understanding them solely as functional, but there are rationales for much of what appears strange or different. They may not be your reasons for belief, but they are reasons nonetheless. You don’t get to dismiss them, especially if you have not examined them.

And this…

Also, we are entirely capable of believing contradictory things. For instance, one might be a professed Christian who worships her ancestors without feeling any sort of cognitive dissonance. People do what they do and believe what they believe not because there is incontrovertible, scientific evidence, but because association with a particular identity helps us understand who we are in the world.

And this…

A major in Religious Studies is not (necessarily) about either a vocational calling or rampant atheism. The endeavor to prove God’s existence, or to explain God’s nature, or even to argue for the erroneousness of one set of beliefs — these things are the province of theology. Religious Studies might study the theology of a tradition, but it doesn’t do theology. Theology is the realm of insiders talking to, with, or for other insiders. The academic study of religion has worked hard (though with admittedly imperfect results) to differentiate itself from the seminary.

The whole thing is worth your read. Find it over at On Faith….


In search of belief changing ideas