At the University of California Irvine the other day, “dozens of students” participated in a special event developed by Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based non-profit.
From the Los Angeles Times’ write-up:
You have 10 minutes to sell someone on Catholicism, no more than that to distill the teachings of the Koran or the foundations of Mormonism. It’s speed-dating for religion, and in a burst of faith-driven curiosity, dozens of students . . . raced from room to room . . . to listen to religious students (and two atheists) break down the core tenets of their belief system while on the clock.
The point of all this is to “promote religious tolerance.” Fair enough, so far as it goes. But, really? Racing around and gathering bits of different religions for a few minutes at a time?
I found it noteworthy that “one of the largest crowds” gathered around two atheists, only one of whom, a former Catholic who is still keeping his new non-beliefs a secret from those close to him, was quoted.
When another student asked whether atheists believe in any kind of accountability, his first response was, “I personally just enjoy being a good person.”
I have so many questions (concerns, qualms) about this event. For starters:
- Is this actually a university-level event?
- Isn’t it a shame that, for this vulnerable questioning group of young people, only a couple of anonymous and still unsure guys carried the burden of explaining atheism?
- If learning about diverse views is the goal, then why set a clock at all?
- I don’t know how much interest there is in this kind of event (after all, “dozens of students” isn’t so many), but shouldn’t there be a more professionally prepared presentation, maybe for class credit, where students are offered resources, including lists of podcasts and blogs, to satisfy their curiosity? Students could, of course, participate actively by responding to each other’s questions.
- Aren’t there already classes called something like Comparative Mythology or Comparative Religion or Religion and Culture, or some such? One of these ought to be highly recommended to all freshmen and offer lots of credit, but all versions ought to present the same material (i.e., an emphasis on all the dead gods and how society has slowly become more enlightened).
Share your thoughts about “speedfaithing” or suggest other and better ways to promote understanding.
Copyright (2013) by Susan K. Perry
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