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Title: More spiritual interest now than 100 years back
User: Swami Gaurangapada Date: 2007-05-02 21:41:56
From the NY Times, 2007/05/02:
Peter J. Gomes has been at Harvard University for 37 years, and says he
remembers when religious people on campus felt under siege. To be seen as
religious often meant being dismissed as not very bright, he said.
Erik Jacobs for The New York Times
Peter J. Gomes, the Harvard preacher, said of the university, 揟here is
probably more active religious life now than there has been in 100 years.?No longer. At Harvard these days, said Professor Gomes, the university
preacher, 揟here is probably more active religious life now than there has
been in 100 years.?
Across the country, on secular campuses as varied as Colgate University, the
University of Wisconsin and the University of California, Berkeley,
chaplains, professors and administrators say students are drawn to religion
and spirituality with more fervor than at any time they can remember.
More students are enrolling in religion courses, even majoring in religion;
more are living in dormitories or houses where matters of faith and
spirituality are a part of daily conversation; and discussion groups are
being created for students to grapple with questions like what happens after
death, dozens of university officials said in interviews.
A survey on the spiritual lives of college students, the first of its kind,
showed in 2004 that more than two-thirds of 112,000 freshmen surveyed said
they prayed, and that almost 80 percent believed in God. Nearly half of the
freshmen said they were seeking opportunities to grow spiritually, according
to the survey by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University
of California, Los Angeles.
Compared with 10 or 15 years ago, 搕here is a greater interest in religion
on campus, both intellectually and spiritually,?said Charles L. Cohen, a
professor of history and religious studies at the University of Wisconsin,
Madison, who for a number of years ran an interdisciplinary major in
religious studies. The program was created seven years ago and has 70 to 75
majors each year.
University officials explained the surge of interest in religion as partly a
result of the rise of the religious right in politics, which they said has
made questions of faith more talked about generally. In addition, they said,
the attacks of Sept. 11 underscored for many the influence of religion on
world affairs. And an influx of evangelical students at secular
universities, along with an increasing number of international students,
means students arrive with a broader array of religious experiences.
Professor Gomes (pronounced like 揾omes? said a more diverse student body
at Harvard had meant that 搕he place is more representative of mainstream
揟hat provides a group of people who don抰 leave their religion at home,?he
At Berkeley, a vast number of undergraduates are Asian-American, with many
coming from observant Christian homes, said the Rev. Randy Bare, the
Presbyterian campus pastor. 揟hat抯 new, and it抯 a remarkable shift,?Mr.
There are 50 to 60 Christian groups on campus, and student attendance at
Catholic and Presbyterian churches near campus has picked up significantly,
he said. On many other campuses, though, the renewed interest in faith and
spirituality has not necessarily translated into increased attendance at
The Rev. Lloyd Steffen, the chaplain at Lehigh University, is among those
who think the war in Iraq has contributed to the interest in religion among
students. 揑 suspect a lot of that has to do with uncertainty over the war,?Mr. Steffen said.
揗y theory is that the baby boomers decided they weren抰 going to impose
their religious life on their children the way their parents imposed it on
them,?Mr. Steffen continued. 揟he idea was to let them come to it
themselves. And then they get to campus and things happen; someone dies, a
suicide occurs. Real issues arise for them, and they sometimes feel that
they don抰 have resources to deal with them. And sometimes they turn to
religion and courses in religion.?
Increased participation in community service may also reflect spiritual
yearning of students. 揥e don抰 use that kind of spiritual language
anymore,?said Rebecca S. Chopp, the Colgate president. 揃ut if you look at
the students, they do.?
Some sociologists who study religion are skeptical that students?attitudes
have changed significantly, citing a lack of data to compare current
students with those of previous generations. But even some of those
concerned about the data say something has shifted.
揂ll I hear from everybody is yes, there is growing interest in religion and
spirituality and an openness on college campuses,?said Christian Smith, a
professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame. 揈verybody who is
talking about it says something seems to be going on.?
David D. Burhans, who retired after 33 years as chaplain at the University
of Richmond, said many students 揳re really exploring, they are really
interested in trying things out, in attending one another抯 services.?
Lesleigh Cushing, an assistant professor of religion and Jewish studies at
Colgate, said: 揑 can fill basically any class on the Bible. I wasn抰
When Benjamin Wright, chairman of the department of religion studies at
Lehigh, arrived 17 years ago, two students chose to major in religion. This
year there are 18 religion majors, and there were 30 two and three years
At Harvard, more students are enrolling in religion courses and regularly
attending religious services, Professor Gomes said. Presbyterian ministries
at Berkeley and Wisconsin have built dormitories to offer spiritual services
to students and encourage discussion among different faiths. The seven-story
building on the Wisconsin campus, which will house 280 students, is to open
At Colgate, five Buddhist and Hindu students received permission to live in
a new apartment complex on the edge of campus this year. They call their
apartment Asian Spirituality House and they use it for meetings and
occasional religious events.
The number of student religious organizations at Colgate has grown to 11
from 5 in recent years. The university抯 Catholic, Protestant and Jewish
chaplains oversee an array of programs and events. Many involve providing
food to students, a phenomenon that the university chaplain, Mark Shiner,
jokingly calls 揼astro-evangelism.?
Among the new clubs is one created last year to encourage students to hold
wide-ranging dialogues about spirituality and faith. Meeting over lunch on
Thursdays in the chapel抯 basement, the students talk about what happens
when you die or the nature of Catholic spirituality.
Called the Heretics Club (the chaplains were looking to grab students?attention), the group listened to John Gattuso talk about his book, 揟alking
to God: Portrait of a World at Prayer?(Stone Creek Publications, 2006), a
collection of essays and photos about prayer in world religions.
揇o you need to believe in God in order to pray??Mr. Gattuso asked.
The discussion was off and running, with one student saying one needed only
to believe in 搒omething outside yourself?and another saying that
搒ometimes 慣hank you?can be a prayer.?
Afterward, several students talked about what attracted them to the
sessions, besides the sandwiches, chips and fruit. Gabe Conant, a junior,
said he wanted to contemplate personal questions about his own faith. He
described them this way: 揥hat are these things I was raised in and do I
want to keep them?
Title: Re: More spiritual interest now than 100 years back
User: Neil LA Date: 2007-05-03 16:23:55
This it truly facinating. I hope that its a trend that continues and is not just a shallow interest.
I hope that we can get the message of Gauranga Krishna Consciousness out to seekers