Students formulate unique identities with different faiths

Leah Dunne, co-a&e editor

Some individuals go to church, synagogue or a mosque with their families to worship in accordance with their faith. Others may choose not to align themselves with the same beliefs as their families or even associate themselves with a particular religion at all.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, “One-in-four adults under age 30 are unaffiliated, describing their religion as ‘atheist,’ ‘agnostic’ or ‘nothing in particular.’” Similar to the PEW survey, an unscientific Oracle-conducted survey of 273 students showed 38.5 percent of students not practicing any religion.

One student, junior Manny Martinez, identified himself as irreligious for almost all his life. According to Martinez, his beliefs differ from his Catholic mother.

“My opinion [regarding religion] may change later, but right now and up to now I’ve never felt the need to go to [religion],” Martinez said.

Martinez noted how the way his parents raised him impacted his views on religion. According to Martinez, his parents set a foundation of faith for him but ultimately allowed him to create his own beliefs.

“My mom has always said to me, ‘You should always believe in some sort of God,’ although [my mom] has never forced religion onto me,” Martinez said. “It has kind of been more of ‘I’ll set the foundation, but you formulate your own opinions’.”

For junior Grace Cepeda, her beliefs were not as easily formulated or accepted by her parents. However, according to Cepeda, her devout Christian father greatly influenced her early religious scope.

“I am an atheist,” Cepeda said. “My dad is very religious, and I also grew up Christian but later decided that it was not for me. [My atheism] is kind of a balance between figuring out what I am comfortable with and not disrespecting [my dad], but also staying true to what I believe in.”

Throughout grade school, Cepeda was extensively involved in her church and parish-related events. However, Cepeda’s connection to the faith led her to question her beliefs. She recalled a particular retreat she attended in sixth grade and from that point going forward she questioned her beliefs.

“I went on a teen retreat and I just remember everyone else was crying and was so touched, and they said that they could ‘feel God in the room’, and I just couldn’t feel any of it,” Cepeda said. “I got frustrated because I thought I talk about God because that’s just what I had learned from listening to other people, but [I wasn’t] feeling any of these things.’”

Similarly to Cepeda, senior Brian Casey’s* beliefs were impacted by a moment in his life. According to Casey, he was not religious until his freshman year. Casey was influenced by the scriptures of the Bible, which ultimately led to his baptism during his sophomore year. Casey described how his faith was impacted in April 2014 when his mother passed away of abdominal cancer.

“[My mother] persevered [through her faith] even despite her deteriorating condition,” Casey said. “Often times people had questioned me saying, ‘Why are you still believing [in Christianity] even though your religion did not work during this time of distress, your mom did not get healed; why do you still continue to believe this?’ I say that sometimes the answer to prayer is no, because you do not know everything that God knows.”

Freshman Songhee Back similarly struggled to formulate her religious identity. Back was raised as a Christian until she was 6 years old when her mother converted to Buddhism. Back explained that growing up Christian brought an aspect of community to her life when she moved to the US, but ultimately she realized her beliefs did not align with Christianity.

“[My Christianity] was always a part of me, but [my differing beliefs] really hit me when I was around nine or ten when [my mom] was forcing me to go [to temple], and I realized no one can force me to do [something I don’t believe in] especially in [the United States] where you have freedom of religion,” Back said.

Although she does not affiliate with Christianity or Buddhism, each has impacted her individually. Back additionally noted that although she does not practice a religion, she respects and understands those that do.

“My [extended family] all practices different religions,” Back said. “Some are Catholic, some are agnostic, but between my mom and I religion really changed our lives. If something [such as religion] can really impact your life or change your perspective, then [you should believe in that].”

*name has been changed