We need to have more conversations about religion at CMU

Credit: Anna Boyle/Art Editor Credit: Anna Boyle/Art Editor
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Ask yourself, are you proud of your race?

I am. I am a proud Asian-American. Specifically, I am a proud Chinese-Filipino. I am proud of my rich heritage and want to speak of it and learn more about it. I freaked out over the teaser trailer for the movie adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians last Friday. Even amidst everything going on in the United States and its administration, I am a proud American.

Now, ask yourself, are you proud of your religion?

I’ve been a member of the Catholic church since being baptized as an infant. I’ve gone to Church every Sunday with my parents in one of my hometown’s various local churches. I’ve been an altar server, attended Confraternity of Christian Doctrine classes as a child, and participated as a Eucharistic Minister at my Catholic high school. At Carnegie Mellon, I still regularly attend mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral or the Pittsburgh Oratory every Sunday.

But, despite all of this, my racial pride still overtakes my religious pride.

When I first came to college, I wanted to be more in touch with my faith. One of my older, more devout friends joined the Newman Club at the University of Pennsylvania so I strived to find an extension of that at Carnegie Mellon. I was a little surprised to find that we share a Newman Club with the University of Pittsburgh. While I enjoyed the Newman Club talking about broader topics about the Christian faith and challenging me to examine my faith in general, I wasn’t a fan of their timeslot for the nightly meetings and had formed stronger connections with people from different on-campus organizations.

But, I guess I should ask first, do you even have a religion?

When you go on The Bridge and search for organizations about “faith," you pull up 15 organizations, such as the Interfaith Spirituality Embassy and the Tartan Athletic Fellowship. If you type in “religion,” you pull up six, overlapping clubs. Compared to the 403 organizations listed on The Bridge, those are incredibly small numbers.

I don’t want to admit it, but one of the bigger, unfortunate reasons that I also phased out of the Newman Club was that none of the friends I hung out with most of the time were very religious. When I’d mention my faith to them, they’d joke around saying, “God, I haven’t been to Church in a long time,” just nodding and accepting this big part of my life. There was really no further discussion to be had, since they didn’t really have a strong stance on it. Or, they were atheists.

It’s a lot easier to talk about race in America than religion in America. It is because race is so easily identifiable and physical, while religion is much more personal and intimate. Additionally, certain religions have stronger associations with different races and political parties. Speaking from what I know, Filipinos are known to be strong, devout Catholics with religion heavily tied into a large portion of their daily life and the country’s culture. This also applies to the Irish and Hispanics. The most popular of these associations are white Christians, whether they be Catholic, Protestant, or — the most radical and loud of them all — Evangelical Protestant.

In an article published on FiveThirtyEight, 38 percent of young adults are not affiliated with any sort of religion. While the article mainly focuses on the decline of white Evangelicals (and quite honestly also could mean that the participants in the study were mostly white), it is that 38 percent of religiously unaffiliated individuals that is striking because of its sharp difference compared to other age groups. It considered the thought that religion and faith systems are dying out.

While I’ve formed incredibly strong connections and friendships with religiously unaffiliated students here at Carnegie Mellon, there is something special about the bond you have with someone who also shares a faith — either the same one I have or a religion that’s completely different. There’s that belief in something higher and greater. We’d be better equipped to have a larger conversation about religion. But we don’t.

I want to clarify that the last thing I want to do is criticize someone for not having a faith. In fact, I’d enjoy knowing more and learning from them so I can challenge my own faith to make it stronger. Although, conversations about religion might be challenging, they are undoubtedly rewarding and introspective. Maybe it’s because we’re trying to avoid creating more stigmas that relate religion with a specific race, but in doing so, we’re sacrificing the chance to have a more open conversation to possibly break down those stigmas for good.