Religion shaping society

I guess I never really considered religion having such a profound effect on society. Religion never seemed to me like a super prevalent part of every day life. Being in a new environment so far from home in a different part of the country with completely different society norms, I am starting to see religion sneaking its way into daily life.

Maybe I’ve just been ignorant to it my whole life, or maybe there is a real reason why the south is called the “Bible Belt.” Either way, it supports a Durkheimian point that religion expresses a sociological reality. Our views and beliefs and feelings are very much bound and influenced by the society we live in and our society is defined by our geographical location. Our physical coordinates on this Earth actually influence our society and therefore our religious feelings and outlooks.

Does religion shape even small communities? What about High Point University as a community? It’s hard for me to tell. What kind of signs does a religiously influenced society exhibit? HPU is full of good people who pick up trash and hold doors and and say hello when they pass other students on the promenade, but is this a sign of religious influence? Sure you could say that it’s a Christian school and the students are acting as good Christians in their acts, but I think that is stretching an explanation around a phenomenon that it does not actually fit and explain. Rather I think you see the influence in the groups that have formed on campus. Campus Life is one that I know of but have never been involved in. There is a methodist chapel service on Wednesday evening. But I don’t know much about that either because I attend the Catholic survives on Sunday night. The fact that a Catholic group has formed on campus to offer Mass to the Catholic community of HPU speaks to the religious influence on society. If there wasn’t an influence, there would only be a Methodist service because the school is Methodist affiliated. But because of the ability religion has to create unity, groups develop, the “Methodist” school develops groups of other beliefs. And the people of other beliefs find each other and create deeper societies within the very broad and diverse community that is HPU.

HPU as a Religious Community

Compared to my time at a Catholic grade school and a Catholic High School, High Point does not seem like a religious environment at all. It really is so different when I think about it.

When I first started thinking about college, I told myself I did not want to attend a Catholic university. I was so done with Catholic school. I don’t know how much of a different being at a Catholic university really would have been because I think the college environment is already so different from the high school environment that it still wouldn’t have felt the same as all my previous years in Catholic school. Now I sometimes even wish that I did go to a Catholic university.

Sometimes I just feel so alone and so judged. Not outwardly judged, I am just well aware that there are other religious beliefs, especially other Christian denominations, that view Catholicism as this crazy, strict sect. I know because I have made friends here who think that way.

It drives me crazy that after knowing me for months and spending so much time with me that they still generalize and group me with the widely criticized parts of the Catholic church.

I love my friends, and I don’t think religious needs to play a huge role in compatibility, but sometimes I just wish I was back in my sheltered environment where everyone was Catholic or at least raised Catholic so they didn’t hate on me for being Catholic. It sounds crazy. But it really drives me crazy that I am in such an open and widely diverse environment and still people who I have spent all my time with since coming here, generalize and stereotype me because of my faith.

I am not an overly religious person. I don’t try to push my beliefs on others. I couldn’t care less what religion someone follows. If it doesn’t hurt me in anyway, by all means. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and practices. And that’s all I ask for in return. I will not hide that I am Catholic. I will leave hanging out with my friends to attend campus Mass on Sunday nights, and I will wear my crucifix, but I don’t understand how that gives anyone reason to call me a crazy, strict Catholic, part of a corrupt and overly strict Church.

What?

It blows my mind that in a place of diversity people can be so close-minded and actually reject diversity with degrading stereotypes.

This environment should be one of learning and understanding.

I never thought attending a university with a religious affiliation different than my own would affect me. I remember when I committed to HPU, my boyfriend kept asking me what the affiliation was. He was more interested than I was. I had no clue and didn’t really care. My boyfriend, a year older than me, also chose a school in the south. A Christian school with no denomination. So, a year ahead of me and already experiencing life away from Catholic high school in PA, he told me the affiliation would definitely make a different.

At first I embraced it. I liked being in what I viewed as an open minded and freeing environment. A place open to exploration and freedom. Now I am not so sure. Sometimes I seek that safety of my Catholic school and it acceptance.

Some would argue that HPU is not a religious community. But I would say that’s only true for the Methodist population hear. Because I have felt judged even by my closest friends here for being Catholic. It’s not the majority. And sure there have been scandals within the Catholic church, but I don’t see that as justification for judgement.

It really is much easier to be religious when you are surrounded by likeminded people.

First attempt at meditation

I’ve attempted meditation in the past…I don’t think I was every very successful, but now I think I know why.

 

I tried again for the first time in a while, and it was just like the video we watched in class. Everything from my day and my surroundings raced through my head so fast. I couldn’t clear my head. It was like the more I tried to not think, the more thoughts came to my head. I was incredibly frustrating. But, nevertheless, I endured because I really wanted to work on meditation. After a little while, all the images went away, and I started to become aware of how uncomfortable I was. I would feel the need to flex my toes or move my legs or my arms or crack my neck. It was so hard to push those feelings out. Like having an itch and trying not to scratch it. I felt like I had been at it for at least a half an hour, but when I stopped I realized it hadn’t even been ten minutes.

 

Meditating was definitely difficult. And I definitely wouldn’t call it relaxing it. It was a struggle for me, but I am determined to keep at it. I want to reach the point where meditation is clarifying. It definitely seems like a worthwhile challenge. 

Buddhism

I have never been so fascinated by a religion as I am by Buddhism. Everything about it just really made sense to me. That isn’t something I have ever been able to say about my own faith. I never loved my religion classes, I never looked forward to studying the bible, but something about BUddhism just makes me crave more information.

 

It is so fascinating because it makes so much sense. It is so much more relatable and real that Christianity. After discussing it in class I thought a lot about finding more info. Even the readings in our textbooks were so intriguing and enjoyable to read. I really want to learn more about Buddhism and its beliefs and practices.

 

One of the most basic things I can think to do is try meditation. Maybe not a ten day period of complete silence, but adding meditation as a part of my daily routine is a way that I would like to explore Buddhism beyond reading about it in books.

Break was definitely well needed.

Being so far away from home (about 500 miles) definitely made going home a treat. High Point is like a whole different world, and I feel like a different person here.

One of the first things I got to do while home was go to Mass with my family at my parish. Needless to say I really missed it there.

Everything there was so familiar and comforting. I love that there is a Catholic community at HPU that holds mass every week. And as laid back as it is, it just never feels homey. I loved being back in the same wooden pew my family almost always sits in, and I loved hearing my pastor give the homily, and I loved waking up early with my mom and talking over coffee until my dad and my brother woke up, and I loved going out to breakfast afterward. 

There is something about familiarity that adds to the power of ritual. You can go to Mass almost anywhere and worship, but it never feel quite as effective as it does when you are at the place where you are most familiar and at home. Going to Mass here at school is nice, and I love that it’s an available option, but I almost wish I lived closer to home so I could go to Mass at St. Christopher’s parish every Sunday with my family.

Diversity

(I never know how to title these…)

This is the first time I have ever attended a school that is not Catholic. When looking at college I specifically said that I did not want to go to a Catholic university because I was tired of Catholic school. Sometimes I love that High Point isn’t affiliated with the Catholic Church, but other times I feel lost, alone, and I miss the community of my former schools.

 

Within the close group of friends I have made here, I am the only Catholic. I love my faith and practice it, but I have never been one to outwardly express it to or push it on others. In the beginning of the year I think I just assumed everyone else was Catholic too because I was raised in a bubble where everyone was. So it came up in conversation, and I realized that my friends weren’t. That didn’t bother me at all. I really don’t get why people do have problems with people who have different faith. I believe my thing and act according and you believe another and act respectively to it, but as long as it doesn’t harm me in any way I don’t care. My friends thought it did. About a week later one of them pulled be aside and said these words: “You know, we don’t care that your Catholic, right? It doesn’t change what we think of you, and we don’t judge you for it. There’s nothing wrong with you being Catholic.”

 

I appreciated her reaching out to me, but sometimes when I think about it, I’m a little offended. Why should me being Catholic have anything to do with what you think of me? That’s what I really don’t get. When my friends told me they were either raised Catholic and hate it so they don’t consider themselves Catholic, or that they just don’t practice whatever religion they were raised, it didn’t even for a split second cause me to judge them or think of them differently.

I just don’t understand why people make such a big deal out of diversity in faith. Does that happen with other things too? Like if someone is a Republican and it comes up in conversation that their friend is a Democrat, do they immediately see them in a different light?
Does it happen with all religions? Or just Catholicism because it has a reputation for being strict and corrupt?

Maybe spending the first 18 years of my life in a community of Catholics sheltered me from the real world. Maybe it’s normal for people to look at you differently because of your faith… But that doesn’t make sense to me. 

Points of No Return

Rites of passage can be define very strictly too only include monumental changes in one’s life, or they can be defined loosely to include and number of “firsts” and important events.

Moving from fifth grade to sixth grade my grade school (some people divide it up into elementary school, grade school, middle school, but I don’t really understand the distinctions so when I say grade school I am referring to grades one through eight. Just to be clear.)  is a building with two floors. grades one through five had classrooms only on the first floor, and grades six through eight were located on the upper floor. So until you reached sixth grade, you never even saw the second floor of the building. It was a well known fact that when you reached sixth grade your life was completely different because all your classes were now on the second floor. You were officially recognized as older and cooler than all the little kids down on the first floor.

 

Graduating grade school/high school obviously these are two very different events. Moving from eighth grade to high school is not nearly as great a transition as that from twelfth grade to freshman year of college, but it’s the same basic process. It’s a sight of moving up in the world. More responsibility, more independence. There is also less of a division between peers as one progresses to these later stages. My high school and little to no cliques. Everyone just seemed to coexist outside the realm of bullying and teasing. I would say the same rule applies for college so far.

 

These events change a person in a way that can never really be reversed. Once you cross the little rope bridge from one cliff to another, the rope bridge breaks and falls away.

 

Getting your driver’s license definitely a big deal. When this occurs one’s responsibilities sky rocket. When I got mine, my friends started asking me to drive them places, my parents started asking me to run errands for them. In a way getting that little plastic card gave me a whole new meaning. I could take myself places, I didn’t have to rely on my parents for rides. 

 

18th birthday I can’t say that this was a significant change for me. At 18 sure you can now buy cigarettes and get into strip clubs, but I didn’t do any of that. I had been getting into R rated movies for years without being carded so it didn’t really effect me there either. I went to a hookah bar one night after working with a coworker just for the sake of actually being carded. I even bought lottery cards a few times and wasn’t carded then either! Like c’mon! I’m trying to exercise my new rights and privileges and you’re denying me the satisfaction!!

 

Some points in life are obviously more meaningful for other people. I’m sure turning 18 is life changing for some people, just not me.

 

The guitar lesson when everything finally clicked I have wanted to be a guitarist since I was about five probably. I got my first guitar about then. I tried to teach myself for years, but all I ever did was learn songs. I never understood the theory or reason behind the beautiful instrument. One of my best friends is an amazing guitarist, and I used to watch him in speechless awe when he played. I never understood how he did it. I started taking lessons, and at first it was frustrating because I still didn’t really “get” it. I felt like I was just memorizing patterns all over again. One day it clicked. One day something made sense and that made everything before make sense.

 

Some events are like reaching the top of a mountain. You’ve been hiking for hours and it seems endless and you hate life because you’re tired and can’t see the top and just feel like you’re not making any progress. Then, you’re there. And you’re able to look back down and see where you were and all the places where you doubted yourself and it’s truly amazing.