October 6, 2023 at 4:00:00 PM
Max Friedman '25
In the classroom and around campus, religion is often addressed in a condescending, disdainful manner. On one hand, Mercersburg does a phenomenal job of providing religious students with the resources required to practice in their faith traditions, and the school goes out of its way to ensure that students can attend services for major holidays, adhere to religious diets, and be openly religious in the community. If a student desires to worship off campus, they can request and receive transportation provided by the school, or they can have special religious dinners prepared for them by the dining hall. In larger community-wide religious events, like Ramadan, the school goes out of its way to facilitate the needs of each individual independent of their practices.
However, in the academic setting, religious students often feel patronized when their religions are brought up in class or by peers. In the school’s secular, left-leaning environment, religion is often viewed and treated as a historical artifact, rather than an actual vibrant presence on campus.
From my experience, I’ve seen religion cast as repressive, malignant, and freedom-denying, while on most occasions, it isn’t. In history classes, students are taught origins of religions that often directly contradict sacred scriptures, and rarely are theological origins presented alongside these secular beliefs.
While my intention is not to say that we should be hosting Bible or Torah study, it is known that much of Enlightenment philosophy and many of the governmental and political systems of our day were influenced by religions. From my experience in MAPS, where philosophy is discussed and dissected, religion has often been considered as a sort of antichrist to the progressive stance taken on the readings.
All around campus, we inadvertently ignore the upsides and benefits that religion has brought to society, and we instead define religion solely by its most extreme parts. Students of all religions are subject to uncomfortable situations where peers ridicule their religious beliefs, be it directly, through jokes or through subtle but hurtful comments by both teachers and students about how dated and useless religion may be. If the opposite occurred, where a religious student criticized a secular student for their beliefs, it would be considered bullying.
We have a stigma against religion as a school, and religious students are subject to a social double standard, almost as if their beliefs are viewed as being baseless and unjustified, somehow making them less important. Religion is a personal part of an individual’s identity. We shouldn’t stigmatize religious practice, but rather accept it on campus like we accept race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality.