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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, 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, 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, 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 omes? said a more diverse student body

at Harvard had meant that he place is more representative of mainstream


hat provides a group of people who don 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. hat new, and it a remarkable shift,?Mr.

Bare said.


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

religious services.


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. suspect a lot of that has to do with uncertainty over the war,?Mr. Steffen said.


y theory is that the baby boomers decided they weren going to impose

their religious life on their children the way their parents imposed it on

them,?Mr. Steffen continued. 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 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. e don use that kind of spiritual language

anymore,?said Rebecca S. Chopp, the Colgate president. 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.


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. 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 re really exploring, they are really

interested in trying things out, in attending one another services.?

Lesleigh Cushing, an assistant professor of religion and Jewish studies at

Colgate, said: can fill basically any class on the Bible. I wasn

expecting that.?

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

in August.


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 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 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 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, alking

to God: Portrait of a World at Prayer?(Stone Creek Publications, 2006), a

collection of essays and photos about prayer in world religions.


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 omething outside yourself?and another saying that

ometimes 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: 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