The Invisible Jesus

By Abigail Baumgartner Growing up in a small, conservative suburb in Michigan, I was always used to an imperious sea of white Christians with an occasional wave of diversity. At my primarily Caucasian high school, we were taught to be very accepting of all cultures. We practiced acceptance in a seemingly odd way: by avoiding every mention of religious words or phrases.

I will never forget when I was a junior in high school and our chamber choir teacher prevented us from singing the word “savior” in the traditional Christmas carol, Silent Night. This abolition of the mention of Jesus in a song that was clearly about his birth simply stunned me! It wasn’t as though we were praising the Lord, we were simply singing a traditional Christmas hymn. I remember going around the classroom asking students their opinions on our instructor’s idea of making Jesus “invisible” in regards to the music we sang.

glass

"Some students thought it was odd, but the majority of them shrugged it off their shoulders; they weren’t troubled one bit. This idea of the “Invisible Jesus” is seen very commonly today in modern society, especially in the ways in which America is becoming more liberal. According to an article by Joan Shipps, 75 percent more American 12th graders in 2014 than in 1970 believe that their religion is “not important at all” in their lives.

Why has this demographic changed so drastically in the span of 44 years? Many sociologists believe that adolescent religious development is triggered by influences in the home. In some cases, the effects of it can be positive or negative. In one case, Noah, a friend of mine from back home, was raised in a very

Catholic household and forced to attend Sunday school classes. By the time he was in middle school, he strained against his parent’s influences and as he put it, “I felt the need to discover for myself what my purpose in life was.” As a freshman in college, Noah now regards himself as an atheist and states that he is “always searching and welcoming new possibilities.”

In the case of another friend of mine back home, Hadley, her family never practiced a specific religion. They never attended religious services, they never prayed together and they never even spoke of God. Because of this, Hadley regards herself as agnostic, because she never knew what it was like to be religious.One of the major contributions to the decline of religion in modern American adolescents is the prevalence of technology. Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2008, Americans have slowly been spending more time in isolation with their eyes inches from their screens rather than engaging in real-life interactions. This idolization of technology replaces the God of All who told his children, “You shall not worship any other gods before me.” Taking this First Commandment into account, does this mean that the majority of Americans with smartphones and Instagram accounts are sinners? Hopefully this is not the case. But as more and more improved versions of smartphones are being invented, a large percentage of modern American youth are running away from God’s open arms to climb back under the covers of their protective and discriminating LED screens.

npu jesus

Being a first-year student at North Park, I have noticed a drastic change from home compared to here. At North Park, there is no dominant race and everyone is tolerant of everyone else’s religious beliefs and customs. One is free to practice their religion in private and in public and there is a strong Christian emphasis in many organizations all around campus.

In a way, I feel as though many students act as survivors in a battlefield, rising up from the ashes of a Godless society. They join together to praise the name of Jesus and regard him as a visible entity, not a forlorn ghost. Many students, whether they be male or female, seem to place their faith in God as a top priority in their lives. Pastor Judy is highly regarded as a sort of celebrity all over campus, my roommate is involved in multiple religious leadership groups, and my RA regards herself as a child of God and cares about everyone on our floor by doing the good works of the Lord. Unlike in my hometown, there is no judgment against others of differing faiths, even if they are someone of no faith whatsoever.

Although religious affiliation among modern American youth is steadily in decline, universities like North Park are here to show that there are still modern young adults who are willing to pull Jesus out from the shadows and praise his name while still accepting the other percentage of youth who still regard him as invisible.

The Institution of Religion: A Convention for Love

By Anthony Johnson

Sean believes that religion causes violence and discrimination. The sad truth is that he is correct about this. Religion is more or less a group comprised of human beings. There will always be tension between those who are in different groups. One example is found right here in the city of Chicago–gangs.

Now I am not saying that religious groups can be compared side by side to gangs but they have one strong similarity. They are both groups with very strong views and opinions. This also applies to a football team, or a non- profit organization. What do all of these groups have in common?

Everyone who is a part of the organization believes in what the organization stands for and will most likely defend it to the ends of the earth. This is why there is violence and discrimination between religions. If you were raised your whole life to believe the Earth is flat, and then someone came along and told you the earth is round you’d say, “No way man, you’re crazy!” You may respond with violence to anyone who has a different view than what you’ve felt your entire life. To make this a lot more personal let’s dwell on this idea.

We are all sons and daughters, friends and lovers. We love our entire family in ways we cannot express. We belong to our family. In a sense, our family is our group that we believe in and would take nearly any means necessary to protect it. If someone disrespected your mother, what would you say? If someone hit your mother, what would you do? Anything that someone feels so very strongly about they will protect with whatever method they feel is most productive. Violence for one person may mean simply a cold shoulder to the next. The truth is, we all have different backgrounds and upbringings.

In my opinion, it depends on how you were raised. I come from a Christian household and I tell you if someone says they hate God it doesn't make me want to bash their skull with a pipe. I was told to love everyone. I was told to love hose who are different from me and those who are less fortunate. As humans we are not taught enough to love, we are not taught to be accepting and reasoning creatures. We are here to lead balanced lives and part of balance means stepping out of your comfort zone. How can you grow as a person if the only views you know are biased?

Sean argues that religion teaches us to obey our God and, if we do not, we will be punished by him and sent to the depths of hell. Frankly, Sean, this is not true. The reason why people live in fear of God or any religion is because people do not truly understand the Bible. They take the words of the holy text and use them literally or misuse them. Many people also forget the Bible was written for people in a different time. It still is written for us, but we must understand the Bible is also a historic text. If the Bible says “slay the lamb and bring its blood to my church and pray over it,” I’m sure that was a lot more normal for people thousands of years ago than now. That’s because the people were different and the times were different.

If God says in the Bible “drink my blood and eat the bread of my body,” I’m 100% sure you cannot literally do that. This is because the word of the Bible is not meant to read and practiced in the literal form. The Bible uses a lot of imagery and metaphors. In the Bible, bushes can speak, seas are parted, and miraculous miracles resurrect the dead. For some this seems impossible in life and this is why they cannot believe. Some believe these actions are literal and others–including myself–believe they are figurative. Regardless, the strongest message of the Bible is love. Love is the most important.

I am not asking anyone to believe in Christianity but I would never bash anything that a person chooses to put their faith in. I would never tell them that their faith is wrong and my faith is right. We all have a reason to be- lieve in what we believe in. God teaches us to love all of our brothers and sisters no matter what our differences may be. The Bible teaches us to spread goodwill, peace, harmony and truth. Violence and discrimination comes from when someone does not truly accept another person or understand why they want to hurt them. If we all look deep inside ourselves we see that, underneath everything, the only thing we truly want is to be loved and appreciated.

This is what God teaches us. The word of God teaches us to love everyone. All worldly and unjust things come from those who do not love. You don’t even have to be religious to spread peace and harmony. You simply must have a good heart and have a sense of integrity. Also, in the Bible it says that God will relieve us of the burden of all of our sins if we simply ask for forgiveness. It is that simple. God understands that as humans we are flawed and for this reason he gives us what is called reasoning. If anyone tells you that if you do not follow every word of the Bible God will smite you they are lying to you.

They are lying. If you are to take one thing from this letter please take this into account. Religion does not cause hate nor violence. It is those who misuse it or are not able to accept those who are different from them. Understand you can love someone without having to like them. You can love someone and accept them without wanting to ever speak to them again. You can accept what someone says without believing what they say. This is called tolerance, and the more tolerant we are as human beings the better. Love is the answer to everything and religion is not an antonym of tolerance.

The Institution of Religion: A Vessel for Hatred

By Sean Lyons

I have an announcement to make: I am unequivocal which religion is correct. Given that there is no objectively an atheist. Today, I read about the attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo by Islamist militants. Twelve individuals were shot dead due to the magazine’s lampooning of the prophet Muhammad.

This is the latest of many events in which members of the human race have inflicted an uncivilized and unjusti- fiable act onto other members of the human race. When I pause and think about all of the senseless acts of violence, discrimination, and ignorance that religious fundamentalism causes, I feel perplexed to say the least. “Disturbed” is a better word to describe these religious acts of terror.

Despite my intolerance of religious fundamentalism and how it promotes backward, ancient, nonsensical ideas, I also extend feelings of intense cynicism even to milder forms of religiosity.

Though the attack on Charlie Hebdo was committed by a small slice of Islam that holds fundamentalist interpretations of the Quran, and that only occasionally commits acts of terrorism, those who are reliant on faith are at an increased risk for committing irrational acts against other human beings. Those who adhere to the unnecessary divisions that religions construct between members of the human race are more likely to lash out at those who do not agree with them. Not everyone will do this, but if everyone in the human race were completely secular, we would live in a more advantageous and efficient world.

Hearing children argue about whose imaginary friend is cooler is synonymous to hearing adults argue over proof of the existence of the various gods we pray to, our time and efforts would be much better spent if we settled our made-up differences and acted together to improve the lives of everyone present on earth.

As a race as advanced as humans we must ask a question: how does humanity benefit from faith? Humanity’s ongoing reliance on the archaic, flawed belief systems like Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism (just to name a few) are deluding themselves into simplified versions of what existence can be.

Many may argue religious institutions do plenty of good in our societies. This is true. They donate money to those in need, they teach us to have compassion for others, they give followers rules by which they can govern their lives in an orderly fashion.

These are obvious benefits, but these institutions promote these seemingly good lessons on a notion that their god will destroy you and punish you for all of eternity if you do not comply—no questions allowed.

Teachings from major religions skew our perceptions about reality. Such teachings have led many of those who practice them to not believe that the world is 4.6 billion years old; some of them practice genital mutilation for superstitious reasons. In addition, most religions believe those not belonging to their respective faith are bound towards an eternal damnation in hell or purgatory. Ultimately, such beliefs produce ignorance to a varying degree.

Unlike the totalitarian society in George Orwell’s 1984, I do not believe that “ignorance is strength.”

I do not praise anyone who suspends critical thought on purpose, especially because the holy text says so, especially for promises of eternal paradise, regardless of evidence against both topics. I do not condone a way of lifestyle in which people spend their days living in fear of being annihilated by an omniscient, unaccountable deity. Some of you will say that my lack of religion makes me inherently without morals, or that I’m living in sin, but truth be told, since I carved god out of my life at the age of 18, my life has only improved.

That’s right. I have not believed in god since 2012. He has yet to smite me.

I believe that people should live their lives without constant fear, without believing that you will upset your god if you say the wrong things, eat the wrong foods, or love the wrong people/gender.

I look forward to living in a world without institutions that make individuals fearful of gods that exist as much as Zeus or Odin do.

I am happy to say that my understanding of the world has only broadened since abandoning my faith. Being disconnected from any religion has allowed me the ability to rigorously question every aspect of my life. From this, I can honestly say that I know who I am. I have lived my life without lying to myself. I have never been happier or more productive.

So while many of us on planet Earth are worried about traditions that religious institutions impose on us, (We must baptize our child! Am I allowed to take communion? Surely, women must be completely covered from head to feet when in public! I don’t care about climate change because god has a bigger plan for us all. Birth control is against the church.) I am glad to say that secular humanism has allowed me to live my life without unnecessary burdens.

As for whatever happens when we die? I say science will answer that question infinitely better than any doctrine from which an assault in Paris can be interpreted as justifiable.

We are granted this one life to live. There is no evidence to believe otherwise. Why waste it believing that we’re destined to live in eternal bliss with whatever god who allows events like the Charlie Hebdo attack to happen?

Though this atrocity was committed by a small fraction of Islam, I believe that doing away with religion entirely, and replacing it with an admiration of human advancement such as science, would allow for the human race to move into a more peaceful and productive future.

We can avoid enormous gaps in logic that promote endless fear, unwarranted oppression and superstitious traditions. Lastly, all people must ask how religions have dogmatically stripped us from living a free life—unbound by a deity that may be fictional.