Opinion: Religion and college should mix

Religious classes are necessary for students to have an educated understanding of others

As students prepare to register for next semester’s classes, it’s time they consider taking a religion course. 

Whether it’s Hinduism, Judaism, Islamic studies or any other religion, students should take a religious course on campus because it can help them better understand their own beliefs as well as learn to empathize with fellow classmates who may not have the same viewpoints as them.

Pew Research Center released a study showing the diversity of religions in Arizona, ranging from Hinduism and Buddhism to Christianity, Judaism and Islamic beliefs. There are many others, and each religion has different philosophies that its members believe.

If students want to understand the various perspectives of fellow Arizonans, it could start in the classroom where perspectives on different religions are taught. Students should utilize access to the classroom and from these lessons, students can grow to understand and appreciate different religions — even if those religions may challenge some of their beliefs. 

Nadia Muraweh, a senior majoring in global health at ASU, has been an active participant in various different religious courses on campus. As outreach director for the Muslim Students Association of ASU, she believes that it’s important to not only know about her own religion but other religions as well because it has helped her attain a different perspective of what she and others believe in.

“It really enhances your ability to treat others with respect even if we may have differing opinions,” Muraweh said.

ASU offers a variety of religion classes to choose from. 

Blake Hartung, a religious studies professor, is currently teaching religions of the world where students have the opportunity to learn about multiple different religions. 

Hartung said the course gives students the opportunity to view religion from a new cultural perspective.

“Not all religions are asking the same questions or dealing with the same problems,” Hartung said. “Taking different religion courses allows you to see life and people through a different lens.”

Students also have the opportunity to start combatting religious intolerance in college. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in March of this year showed that many Americans felt several religions were discriminated against, with a majority of respondents believing that Muslims were subject to a lot of discrimination. 

Discrimination against religious beliefs is a problem because it contradicts one of America's principles in the Bill of Rights including freedom of religion.

If we are to consistently uphold the freedoms of others, we have to learn tolerance of other beliefs and philosophies. One of the best ways to do this is by learning about what others believe and why they believe it. 

Some students who already have religious beliefs may fear that their own personal testimony will be compromised. Personally, I have met Christians who are afraid to learn about other religions because they are worried they will begin to doubt their own faith.

“Knowledge is always power. If you’re afraid to take a course because you’re worried it’ll change your beliefs, that’s not a very good sign,“ Muraweh said.

If students aren’t able to learn something more about themselves without shaking their testimonies, then it’s important to consider whether that’s truly the right religion for that student.

“I’d rather people actually understand their religion than be casual followers,” Hartung said.

Whether students are religious or not, religion courses can help challenge students to question their own perspective on what they believe and why they believe it. 

As a result, students will be able to analyze whether they believe what they’ve been taught or not, and grow from their experiences. 

If students want to gain a greater understanding of themselves as well as understand other religious perspectives it is the perfect time to sign up for a religious class next semester.


Reach the columnist at slbrinso@asu.edu or follow @Stacy_L_Anders on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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