From simple topics like the best show on Netflix to the burdensome opinions on presidential candidates, communication is a large part of college life.
But even considering the open-minded environment that is a university setting, some topics remain slightly taboo.
“Religion is very controversial, so some people want to stay away from it,” said Garfield Walker, a junior biomedical sciences major.
A recent event at UB aimed for students to have a conversation about this controversial topic. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a UB Campus Ministry Association group that meets on campus every week, held an event called “I hate religion because …” on Feb. 26 in the Student Union.
The name of the event was more controversial than the actual event. Through the event, InterVarsity members aimed to connect with people who might not have that much of a religious background.
“We wanted to do an event where we can build trust with people who aren’t that religious on campus,” said Ryan Thomas, a junior aerospace engineering major and vice president of InterVarsity.
Thomas blames college students’ lack of trust in Christianity on a failure of the Christian Church.
“I think oftentimes the Church seriously fails to live out their purpose for a lot of really young kids, like those in elementary and middle school,” Thomas said. “Then they finally get to college and they have a ton of freedom and they can make their own choices and they decide, ‘Man, all that stuff I did when I was a kid made no sense.’ I think it’s totally understandable.’’
Other members of Intervarsity agreed with Thomas’ feelings about some college students not being very invested in religion.
“We know that there’s a lot of skepticism and cynicism towards religion, particularly in this generation,” said Nate Schutt, UB’s campus minister for Intervarsity. “We wanted to begin to build some relationships with people on campus that might consider themselves skeptical towards religion because those are people we’re not hanging out with a lot.”
Those who attended the event were split up into around 10 different tables with about five people sitting at each. The night began with easier questions such as “What’s your name and major?” and slowly progressed toward more weighted questions like, “What’s your experience with the Church been like?”
Each topic had a time restriction but an open exchange of opinions was encouraged.
While the event did strike up conversation about religion between the people that attended, some students were disappointed by the lack of diversity that the event offered.
“I was under the impression that there would be a bunch of atheists here discussing factual information and that we could have an intellectually stimulating conversation,” Walker said. “However, when I came I saw that it was a Christian group and most people here were part of the group.”
Walker added that he would have liked to see a better mix of people from different faiths at the event. Although the event wasn’t as diverse as he might have hoped it would be, he still believes that it was helpful.
“I still got to talk to some people about their opinions,” Walker said. “I had more of a science-based approach while others made it more about their emotions but we still had an interesting conversation.”
John Jacobs is the assistant editor for the features desk and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org