You can’t teach faith

Matthew Carroll's view

Before coming to Kent State, I spent 12 years of my life at the same small private school. How small, you ask? My senior class consisted of myself and nine other people.

When the time came to apply for college, I had to make the decision whether to go to a public or private university. Finances and my choice of major dictated that a private school would probably not be my best choice; however, there were also other things to consider.

In my senior Bible class I remember reading an essay written by a guy who went to college a devout Christian and left an Atheist. There was no resolve. No last paragraph detailing his return to faith. His faith was gone, presumably never to return.

Different surveys have concluded that this is not just an isolated incident. A study done by Gary Railsback in the mid-90s found that 28 percent of students who considered themselves to be Christians when they entered college did not consider themselves Christians four years later. That is a pretty striking number.

What causes this sharp shift in religious ideology?

The answer to that question is a little murky because people may not have had the same experiences that led to their departure from religion. What is clear is that no matter what the reason, the process doesn’t happen overnight.

For many students, it starts with time constraints. Balancing schoolwork and a social life leaves little room for church attendance, and it probably doesn’t help that your regular church is at home and you are away at college. “Always” church attendance becomes “sometimes” attendance which leads to “when I’m on break and my parents make me” attendance.

For other people, church attendance is not the problem. They live close enough to home that they can go to their regular church. Many students attach themselves to on-campus religious organizations that have activities and services that better cater to students’ schedules and interests. For these students, the attack on their faith comes from college itself.

I’m not talking about liberal teachers or those groups who are intolerant of anybody who is not tolerant of everybody (which is quite amusing when you think about it). I am referring to the concept of higher education.

We go to class to learn facts that we can later regurgitate on a test. Grades are not handed out based on what we believe, but rather what we know. Even classes that focus on religion deal only with facts and leave out faith. It would be wrong of me to suggest that higher education is wrong for being this way; however, facts are not necessary for something to be true.

Webster’s Dictionary defines faith as a “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” Faith is in direct contrast with education. You can teach people about religion, but you can’t make them believe it. You can prove to someone that Jesus and Mohammed were real people, but you cannot prove that either of them taught the truth.

For college students it is sometimes hard to harmonize these seemingly conflicting views. We are force-fed facts Monday through Friday and then told just to have faith on Sunday. Faith has a place in all our lives, but many people struggle to find the right fit.

Matthew Carroll is a sophomore magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].