Religious Discussion Desired

“Challenges to Faith at Harvard,”a panel discussion moderated by the Harvard Political Union last night, examined the social and intellectual pressures that influence undergraduates’s religious life.

The panelists and audience were in agreement that more religious discourse should occur on campus in order to incorporate the diversity of religious viewpoints.  Many of the panelists said that Harvard’s climate helped to ground their religious beliefs.

“At Harvard, I am forced to think about what I believe, and to explain why I believe X,Y, or Z,” said Aneesh V. Kulkarni ’10, a member of Dharma, Harvard’s Hindu organization.

Batool Z. Ali’10, a member of the Harvard Islamic Society, offered a similar sentiment. “The unashamed character of people who have faith at Harvard is really refreshing,” said Ali.

However, some panelists said that Harvard’s attitude towards religion is at times problematic.  “At Harvard, we are told to think critically about every aspect of our lives, except for faith and religion”, said Stephanie M. Cole ’11, a member of the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship.

Daniel P. Robinson ‘10, a member of the Harvard Secular Society, echoed this idea.  “While political views can be challenged, religious views are sometimes considered off-limits, which is a problem,” said Robinson.

The panelists in turn said that pluralism is included in each religious tradition.

“You don’t have to agree to a certain political opinion in order to be a member of the Catholic Student Association,” said Katherine J. Calle ’10. “The expression two Jews, four opinions is a good one, I think,” said Jason W. Schnier ’11, a member of Hillel.

Shankar G. Ramaswamy ‘11, the discussion’s moderator, said the event’s co-sponsorship by a number of religious groups—including Hillel, the Harvard-Radcliffe Catholic Student Association, Dharma, the Harvard Islamic Society, the Harvard Secular Society, HRCF, and the Harvard College Interfaith Council—reflected Harvard’s diversity.

Students said they welcomed the exchange of religious ideas.

“Quite often this matter doesn’t arise in your day-to-day interactions with people. It’s still important for Harvard to allow students to talk to each other about religious issues,” said Christopher D. Wood ’12.

“These types of discussions should definitely happen more often,” said Rachel A. Levy ’11,

Jessie J. Jiang contributed to the reporting of this story.