An Edict of Toleration

After hearing that a federal court in Wisconsin had ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional and reading the article written by Jack Sykes in The Phillipian last week, I couldn’t help but feel conflicted about the ruling. On the one hand, the ruling is an important step towards a secular world, but on the other hand our government already advocates for other religious practices. Sykes argued that many aspects of our government –from the inauguration of the President to our currency–are still closely tied to the religious roots of our country. This got me thinking about the religious dimension to our political society and the role of religion here on campus. We can’t speak of the role of religion in our society in recent years without mentioning, at least briefly, the role it played in the 2008 elections. Conservative newscasters and radio hosts used the term “Muslim” and “terrorist” hand in hand as arguments against Barack Obama . While the President is, in fact, Christian, it is absolutely ridiculous to use religion as a basis for discrimination and insult. The impossibility of electing a Muslim or Jewish president in the world we live in today is a sad reality, as is our unwillingness to talk about religion without it turning into a shouting match. I see an unwillingness to discuss religion all over the PA campus. Despite weekly services and calls to worship, we remain a secular community. We pride ourselves in keeping religion out of the classroom and allowing our peers the right to their own religion without questioning their beliefs. However we also value diversity and a majority of our students show an interest in cultures and experiences that are different from their own. I would argue that religion is a part, or a direct product, of these cultures. I would argue that perhaps we’ve become “too secular.” Religion is a topic that should never be broached at the dinner table, but should that rule apply to the classroom and to our community? Admittedly the topic of religion has the potential to turn even the most rational people into raging fanatics. However, we have much to gain from detaching ourselves from our personal beliefs and discussing religion more openly on this campus. Oddly enough, it is not atheists or agnostics who are met with a scoff on this campus, but the people who actually identify with a religion. Personally, I think learning about different beliefs is a great educational experience and one of those that drew me to PA in the first place. Unfortunately, we don’t create an environment that encourages that. For instance, I have a Catholic friend who would rather remain silent whenever the topic of religion is brought up because she often feels judged and attacked for her views. While many of the people who seem wary of religion have concrete arguments and remain aware of religious beliefs, others show complete disinterest and ignorance. It would do us all well to realize that not everyone shares our views. We don’t live in a secular world. All that’s left to do now is to learn more about different perspectives and come to respect them. Tia Baheri is a new Lower from Plano, TX