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2012 Fall Issue 4 (October 12, 2012)

Re-Evaluating Religion

October 16, 2012
By Matthew Fitzgerald

This week the Pew Research Center reported that the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans has reached a record high. 

One in five of all U.S. adults does not identify as religiously affiliated (http://www.pewforum.org). In our generation, “The Younger Millennials” (born 1990-1904), that number increases to 34%. These two statistics contrast sharply with only 9% of those over the age of 65 categorized as religiously unaffiliated. It appears that there is a shift in the way our generation constitutes itself as religious and spiritual beings.

The move from traditional religious institutions has implications for our campus and broader community.

Jumping from hard numbers to the realm of social media for a moment, I would recommend checking out the Dalai Lama’s Facebook page (yes, he has a Facebook page).

In September he posted a status update saying: “the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate.

This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.” With these two divergent sources with similar themes in mind I want to encourage Carleton to spend time revaluating the place of religion on campus.

I am a firm believer in the power of conversation and challenge each one of you to speak with another Carl about religion and anything else that falls under the broad umbrella of spiritually.

I don’t make this request as a way of proselytizing but rather I hope to encourage a space for dialogue on campus about the role of religion in our daily lives, our campus ethos, and further yet, how we relate to world beyond Northfield.

In light of an election year and a new campus strategic plan, I am challenged to discern my own beliefs as a means of relating to other individuals and communities.

In more concrete terms, I have been thinking about questions like: what do Minnesota constitutional amendment issues like Voter ID and Marriage Amendment have to do with morality and ethics? How should religion and spiritually function on Carleton’s campus?

I don’t promise any answers or promote and agendas, rather I again urge you all to reflect and sincerely talk with one another. Based on Pew’s report and the sentiments of major religious leaders like the Dalai Lama there in an increased need for reevaluation. 

What are you excited or challenged by? How would you fit into the Pew study? Is the Dahlia Lama onto something new? Take a risk and share your thoughts.
Have a good conversation, safe weekend, and make sure to play.

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