Archive for the ‘Religion Story’ Category

On-campus ministries reach out to one another in order to gain one voice

November 30, 2007

by Shantrell Scott   

       TAMPA—With over 50 Christian ministries on-campus who say that they serve under one God, there are some students who feel that the ministry serve one God but with a segregated discipleship.    

      Although these organizations are all here to promote Christian agape love amongst their fellow man, many feel that the cause of separation within the ministries is because of those cultures that maybe reluctant to give up their traditional religious practices that they’ve been accustomed to for so long.  

     “I believe that the ministries are segregated just because each person worships in their own way and it is hard to find a group that will meet the needs of every single person,” said Brittany Haupt, member of Impact Christian Fellowship.

        The separation is not just centered on race. Krystal Herbert, 21, member of Shekinah Glory Student Ministries stated that it is more of a cultural difference within the ministries than it is about the color of one’s skin. However, Herbert feels that any ministry that follows the Bible should have no problem worshiping together no matter what background they come from.

   The reasons for the separation may also be from people who have their own particular group that they associate with. According to the president of Cornerstone Student Fellowship, Chris Baker, 21, many Christian groups don’t really come together as often because they are more worried about who they may or may not know instead of just joining together to do the same purpose.

   “One thing I see are groups segregated between other groups,” said Baker. “We have put on events, and before I could finish inviting certain members of other Christian groups, they stop me and ask if anyone from a ministry that they know of is going to be there and if it wasn’t, then they don’t show up.”

 So what must be done?     

     In the help to get every ministry together to praise as a whole, man y of the organizations, such as Koinania Covenant Campus Ministry, and Impact Christian Fellowship have started outreach programs in order to bring the many different ministries from out of the dark corner of separation and into the light of unity. Koinania Covenant tries to add more diversity within their group by having a multi-cultural week and do outreach projects that involve different cultures.    

     Another way of bringing other Christian ministries together was done on Nov. 19 when Impact Christian Fellowship hosted a night of thanks and worship with a thanksgiving celebration event called “One Voice.”  The event was put together by some of the on-campus ministries that don’t normally associate with each other on a normal basis, in hopes of breaking down the barrier of separation and come closer as one body.   

     Even though there were still students who kept to their own group and not willing to mingle, the event helped many who were willing to mingle to know more about each other’s style of worship and gain a great experience of being expose to another ministry.

    “I believe each ministry is doing the best they can to serve and minister to students at USF,” said advisor of Impact Fellowship, John Vollstedt. “Although not all are connected with each other, there are good relationships among the Christian campus ministries.  Things like ‘One
Voice’ helped build those relationships even more.”
 
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Document helps students establish religious dialogue

November 28, 2007

By: Eric Moeller

Universities are designed to create an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding.

The environment created by colleges around the country aims to facilitate the growth and learning of all students, no matter what subject they pursue.

However; when the subject being taught concerns familial and cultural traditions that sometimes go back hundreds of years, a certain degree of sensitivity becomes necessary.

“I think that religion is, potentially, a challenging subject area,” said Dell DeChant, the associate chair and undergraduate director of the Department of Religious Studies for the University of South Florida. “But, if you do your best to present the material in a fair, straightforward and neutral manner, then usually you don’t have any trouble.”

One of the reasons the study of religion can be more problematic that other subjects is because of the passion found in the subject that isn’t always present in the more concrete disciplines like math and science. DeChant believes that, while this aspect makes teaching religion more challenging, it also makes learning it that much more rewarding.

“The study of religion is the greatest opportunity to (grow and learn) because you’re not learning data in the same way that you’d access data in a course in the sciences or a course in engineering, in which the data is relatively fixed,” DeChant said. “What you learn when you study religion is that (the subject) is very fluid and the relationship that you have with the material is very fluid. There’s a lot of different ways of coming at it both from an academic standpoint and from a personal standpoint.”

According to DeChant, the most important aspect of teaching religious studies courses is to let the students know early that the courses are not designed to teach faith claims or change people’s beliefs. The primary aim of religious studies courses is to present each tradition in a neutral, factual light that increases and encourages the students’ knowledge and understanding of other cultures.

To accomplish this goal, DeChant begins his courses by instructing his students to read the Dialogue Decalogue, a document that lists the Ten Commandments required for having successful interreligous dialogue.

According to DeChant, the willingness to open a dialogue is the most important aspect of studying religion in an academic setting.

“You have to recognize that dialogue is not debate,” DeChant said. “Often one of the great challenges is what ideally would be dialogue — where we would learn and change and grow — ends up as a debate, where each person is trying to win. Dialogue is not about trying to win, it’s about trying to learn.”

For students willing to follow its guidelines, the Dialogue Decalogue provides a resource that can be used in all religious courses whenever questions of appropriate conversation arise.

“It really gives you a good foundation that provides a sort of key for dealing with those issues through the rest of the course,” said Stephen Wright, a graduate student in Religious Studies at USF. “You can always refer back to that if something comes up that might be inappropriate.”

There are numerous religious studies courses offered at USF and the Dialogue Decaogue provides a guideline for interacting with peers in all of them, from broad, general religious courses — like Philosophy of Religion and Introduction to World Religions — to more specific classes like Roman Catholicism and Buddhism: Truth& Paths.

Ultimately, the use of the Dialogue Decalogue is simply a means of instructing students how to get the most out of their study of religion. According to DeChant, the Decalogue’s teachings are invaluable, not just to students of religious studies, but also to all students looking to get the most out of the college experience.

“In the end, the main goal is to have, to the best of our ability, a sympathetic understanding and, mainly, a neutral approach to all religions,” DeChant said. “You go into a dialogue with an openness and a willingness to learn and that, as I tell the students, should be the approach you have to college education. If you’re here and you’re not willing to learn and change and grow than you’re probably not ready for college.”

Why are you what you are?

November 28, 2007

Why are you what you are?
BY: CHRISTINE WOLSTENHOLME

*Kenza, freshmen, Mechanical Engineering
“I was born Muslim, but I wasn’t taught anything about religion until I was 17. But you need a little lamp that will show you the way. I looked into Judaism, but I like Muslim because I like how it tells me how to behave towards others.”
She lives by: “Don’t do what you don’t want others to do to you.”

*Will Grant, junior, Political Science:
“I’m Agnostic. I was born Christian, my parents are Christian. At age 17 I became Agnostic because it seemed like common sense.”
He questions if there is a god, he doesn’t really care about religion.

*Hong Lou, sophomore, BioMed:
“I’m Buddhist because my whole family is. Buddhism isn’t really a religion, it’s a way of believing, it’s a way of life.”

*Christian Giron, sophomore, Mechanical Engineering
“I’m Atheist because I think scientifically and logically, and logically religion doesn’t make sense to me.”
He was born and baptized Catholic, he changed religion when “I started thinking for myself and stopped listening to just what my parents told me.”

*Nipum Kumar, sophomore, PrePharmacy:
“I’m Hindu. Hinduism is very broad, each deity is supposed to show good morals and good behavior. There’s a lot of stories and epic tales, after what you find is good morals and good behavior, Hinduism tells you to be free and find your own salvation. Karma is to keep you in check. Reincarnation is personal opinion. When I was younger, I heard all the deities and I chose my own.”

*Tim Davis, junior, Engineering:
“I was born Catholic, but I’m not very good at practicing. Because you don’t know if this is it, or if there’s something afterwards. Am I wasting time, am I not wasting my time? Religion can be a good thing but it can also be a way to set people apart.”

*Jamie Lee, senior, BioMed:
“I am Christian. My parents sent me to Christian kindergarten.”

*Juan Serrano, junior, Foreign Language Education:
“I was born Catholic but I changed it because I found more profoundness in Protestants then Catholics. I changed when I was 12 years old, my parents supported me.”
He is very strict with his religion, he goes to church regularly, he observes holidays. His mantra: To do good, not to sin, and to receive righteousness.

*Ashley Holloway, freshmen, Art Studio:
“I’m Christian. I’ve researched a lot of religions for some classes, but instinctively I chose Christianity as my religion.”

*Urvish Patel, sophomore, BioMed Science:
“I’m Hindu because my parents are. Other friends have told me about their religions, but I stuck with Hindu because I was born this way and it would be weird to change. I’ve looked into Christianity and it’s interesting but my religion has become part of my culture.”

*Benjamin Jacob, junior, BioMed Science:
“I’m Christian because I was born into this faith, and through out my life I’ve grown stronger in my faith.”

*Mike Ebrada, junior, Education:
“I’m Catholic because my parents are, I know about other religions but I never thought of being another religion.”

*Bac Nguyen, sophomore, Industrial Engineering
“I was born Christian, I looked into Buddhism and Tao, but it didn’t interest me.”

*Elizabeth Garcia, sophomore, Philosophy
“I consider myself Spiritual and do not associate myself with a religion. I was raised Roman Catholic but after the age of eleven I realized that Catholicism did not answer my questions about life, death, humanity, etc. The answers I was always given were rather vague, so I went on my own spiritual journey, much against my mother’s wishes, to find a religion or faith that would better suit my questions and needs. I have taken many religion and philosophy classes, and though I found myself mostly interested in eastern religions such as Buddhism and Taoism, they are not really a religion but a way of life. I realized I didn’t need to affiliate myself with a certain religion, so I have taken bits and pieces of many religions, such as Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, etc, and Philosophies such as Socrates, Aristotle, Kant, Emerson, Thoreau, etc, and I have created my own sense of morality and ethics. Though in the end my foundations are still Catholic, I have made my way of being, influenced by the major religions and philosophies in the world. I don’t believe they contradict each other, but then again I have taken bits and pieces that enforce what I believe is morally/ethically correct.”

I have their contact info, obviously I didn’t want to post it.

Religion & War

November 28, 2007

By Priscilla Mader

Most of the religions teach that war is wrong and only justified when it is a last resort to settle a conflict, but human beings have been fighting each other since prehistoric times and people have been discussing the rights and wrongs of it for almost as long.

The United States is in war! The war in Iraq, also known as the occupation of Iraq began on March 20, 2003, and over 800.000 people already died in the Iraq war. The number of death between civil in Iraq in just one month, reached in October 2007 a record of 3.709 people dead, according to the records of the UN published in Bagdad on October 25, 2007.

According to the Word Public Opinion.org, the majority of citizens across the world (67%) think US-led forces should leave Iraq within a year, according to a BBC World Service poll of 23,000 people across 22 countries. Just one in four (23%) think foreign troops should remain in Iraq until security improves. However, half of those polled (49%) believe the United States plans to keep permanent military bases in Iraq. Another 36 percent believe the US will withdraw all forces once Iraq is stabilized.

Three in five Americans (61%) think US forces should get out of Iraq within a year, including 24 percent who favor immediate withdrawal and 37 percent who prefer a one year timetable. Another 32 percent of Americans say the forces should stay until security improves.
Opinions about the war vary. Dr. Betilde Rincon, an economics teacher at the USF believes that the war is good for the economy because it increases jobs for the production of military staff such as airplanes, submarines, munitions, etc. And she thinks that the US government needs to defend the nation. “As a Catholic, I believe that we should be in Iraq to defend, not to kill,” said Rincon.

So much hate, so much fight, so much death and too little peace. That is how the world is living today. The United States, the biggest Protestant country and its motto: In God We Trust, is it really true?

“I don’t understand religions that accept violence and war as part of their religion and government. It’s hypocrite! This war in Iraq is killing people, destroying families as well as our budget. Bush needs to stop it!” said Dereck Young, 20, Baptist, a junior Psychology student at the USF.
“Religion and War was always around and will always going be, but I believe that they shouldn’t belong together. This war in Iraq is unnecessary and it is pulling many people and families apart. Our soldiers should return home and this war should stop,” said Blake Fann, 21, Baptist, a junior Biology student at the USF.

Even the rest of the word has a different view about the war in Iraq. The chart below from the Word Public Opinion.org shows in numbers people’s opinion about Iraq’s war around the world:

“I believe that the US shouldn’t be fighting, but seeking for peace. The US government should for example: restore New Orleans, help this nation to rebuild broken families, and fight poverty instead of spend all this money killing our and other nations. America is great! It’s beautiful and it has a huge potential, but it is self destroying because of the greedy government that we’ve right now,” said Gervis Ochoa, 37, an international computer engineer student at the USF.

As long as humans, religions and politics are alive, it will always be a problem or a war around. That is the human nature.

Defining Religion

November 28, 2007

Defining Religion
By Courtney Herrig

Gandhi once said that there are as many religions as there are people in the world.  One perspective on Gandhi thought is that each individual defines their faith in their own way.  USF has students how practice Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Shinto and so on.  The majority of USF’s most practiced religions come from the Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

What is Christianity?
Christianity is a monotheistic religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as depicted in the New Testament. Christians believe Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament, and that the New Testament records the Gospel that was revealed by Jesus. Christianity began as an offshoot of Judaism, and includes the Hebrew Bible (known to Christians as the Old Testament) as well as the New Testament as its canonical scriptures.

What is Islam?
Muslims believe that God revealed the Qur’an to Muhammad, God’s final prophet, and regard the Qur’an and the Sunnah (words and deeds of Muhammad) as the fundamental sources of Islam.  They do not regard Muhammad as the founder of a new religion, but as the restorer of the original monotheistic faith of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets.

Almost all Muslims belong to one of two major denominations, the Sunni and Shi’a. The schism developed in the late 7th century following disagreements over the religious and political leadership of the Muslim community. Roughly 85 percent of Muslims are Sunni and 15 percent are Shi’a.

Diyanah Elyaman., a senior majoring in communication science and disorders says, “People don’t realize Islam is not much different than Judism and Chrisianity, We believe in one God. We believe in the same Prophet, Islam is building upon Judaism and Christianity”

What is Judaism
Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people, based on principles and ethics embodied in the Hebrew Bible. According to Jewish tradition, the history of Judaism begins with the Covenant between God and Abraham. Judaism is among the oldest religious traditions still in practice today. Jewish history and doctrines have influenced other religions such as Christianity, Islam and the Bahá’í Faith.

Judaism has always been monotheistic in theology. It differs from many religions in that central authority is not vested in a person or group, but in sacred texts and traditions. According to traditional Jewish belief, the God who created the world established a covenant with the Israelites, and revealed his laws and commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai in the form of the Torah, and the Jewish people are the descendants of the Israelites.

Rabbi Uriel Rivkin of USF’s Jewish Center says, “Judaism is just a religion, it is way of life for an orthodox jew.  Judaism is peace & love, not fighting.”

What is Buddhism?

Buddhism is often described as a religion and a collection of various philosophies, based initially on the teachings Buddha. To many, however, Buddhism is not a religion, nor a philosophy or a set of doctrines, but rather teachings to guide one to directly experiencing reality.

Buddhism began around 5th century BCE with the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who was born in Ancient India, and is hereafter referred to as “the Buddha.”

According to the scriptures, the Buddha taught that in life there exists Dukkha, which is in essence sorrow/suffering, that is caused by desire and it can be brought to cessation by following the Noble Eightfold Path. This teaching is called the “Four Noble Truths”.

Four Noble Truths
1. There is suffering
2. There is a cause of suffering—craving
3. There is the cessation of suffering
4. There is a way leading to the cessation of suffering—the Noble Eightfold Path

What is Hinduism?

Hinduism is a religious tradition that originated in the Indian subcontinent. Hinduism contains a vast body of scriptures developed over millennia, these scriptures expound on theology, philosophy and mythology.

Hinduism is A conglomerate of diverse beliefs and traditions, Hinduism has no single founder.

Most Hindus believe that the spirit or soul—the true “self” of every person is eternal. According to the monistic/pantheistic theologies of Hinduism, this soul is ultimately indistinct from Brahman, the supreme spirit.

Religious Skepticism–Coming to an Understanding

November 28, 2007

By Natalie Gagliordi

They exist on the outskirts of organized religion, beyond the realm of a theist classification. Beliefs can change from one person to the next, and all the while, there is no label that provides the perfect fit.

With no unifying order to unite them, skeptics are often on their own, struggling to find a place in a society filled with religious fundamentals.

Understanding the belief structure of a religious skeptic can be a daunting task. Gone are the days when atheist and agnostic were the only ways to classify the non-believers. Today, we are living with a “to each their own” mentality, allowing ones philosophical and moral infrastructure to guide their daily lives. 

In an attempt to bring together the like-minded and sometimes misunderstood, USF student Augustus Invictus began the Freethinkers at USF, a group open to atheists and agnostics, as well as anyone with an open-minded theist perspective.

Freethinkers member Dave Haynes, a junior majoring in philosophy, explained his reluctance at identifying himself as agnostic.

“It depends on who I am talking to,” Haynes said. “Because to the uninformed, an agnostic really doesn’t have an opinion, and that’s not really the case, so I will call myself an atheist to those who don’t really understand the difference.”

However, an atheist viewpoint, Haynes said, is just as illegitimate as a theist viewpoint, because they are both proposing to know something that they don’t.

“You can’t prove god exists nor can you prove that god doesn’t exist,” he said. “So the only legitimate viewpoint is that of agnosticism, which says that you can’t know either/or, so let’s only act upon what we know.”

As group president and fellow philosophy major, Invictus shares Haynes’ sentiments on the confines of an agnostic or atheist classification, choosing to call himself a secular humanist instead.

“Saying you are either atheist or agnostic is like defining what you believe in terms of theism,” Invictus said. “And it doesn’t really matter what you believe, as long as you believe in the philosophical sense. As long as you think that if humanity can get by without religion, we will be better off.”

Invictus was not the only one to personalize his system of beliefs. Ph.D. student Rodrick Colbert prefers to call himself an agnostic multiculturalist.

“I always thought reading about other cultures was much more interesting,” Colbert said. “That’s why I like saying I’m an agnostic multiculturalist, I like to read religious things from India, Egypt…they are a lot more interesting.”  

Just as complex as their beliefs is the road which brought them there. Their experiences in both childhood and adulthood play a part in their current outlook.

“I had very Christian, very tyrannical parents; I was forced to go to church all the time,” Invictus said. “They used to steal by books and my CD’s and throw them away.”

When he was 13, Invictus said he read the bible in order to form an opinion of his own, rather than believing what everyone else told him it said.

“I saw all the contradictory information and all the immoral stuff in (the bible) and that was pretty much it,” he said. “I’ve been vehemently against it ever since.”

Regardless of any hardships, Invictus said that it didn’t matter how he was raised, and that he would still hold the same religious beliefs had he been raised under different circumstances.

Mike Perenich, a senior philosophy major, was raised in a staunch Catholic family. But instead of resenting the religious affiliation of his youth, he uses it to better understand himself today.

“It’s being able to transcend your paradigm and being able to rise above the way you were culturally shaped,” Perenich said. “It’s knowing where I came from that allowed me to say, ‘this is what this is,’ and ‘I need to rise above this type of thing’. Now I align my life to things I think are valuable, like humanism.”

After being raised as a Southern Baptist, Haynes expressed his remorse for not having less conservative parents.

“I started seeing the religious right coming out and bashing gay people and hating women,” Haynes said. “And that’s not what I remember from Sunday school. So I started reading and thinking and now I’m sad that I grew up Southern Baptist. Why couldn’t I have been brought up by liberals?”

Redefining faiths: Student organizations adapt religions to meet society’s needs

November 28, 2007

Natalie Shultz

USF student Ryan Ramsey, 22, grew up in a Southern Baptist church in a Brandon, Fla., while Andrea Koegler, 23, now USF alumni, was raised in a Jewish school in San Francisco.  Despite their different religious upbringings, both had similar experiences during childhood that influenced their takes on traditional religion.

 
“One day, I came to church wearing school clothes, and a kid next to me turned to me and asked, ‘What are you wearing?’ So after that, I wanted to dress more ‘religiously,’” Ramsey, a psychology major, said. “Now, looking back, I have a problem with going to traditional church. It is not a safe place when people are judged, and I think it is a good thing that church is moving away from traditional beliefs.”

 
Koegler also experienced harsh judgment by another child after moving from San Francisco to Jacksonville.

 “When I first got to Jacksonville, I didn’t tell anyone I was Jewish.  There were only four Jews in my whole school, and a little girl once came up to me and told me I was going to Hell for being a Jew. I felt shy about it and I wanted to keep it a secret from everyone,” she said.

 

Ramsey says he had gone to church with his parents for as far back as he can remember.  On a typical Sunday morning at his Southern Baptist church, everyone was dressed up, and either singing hymns or listening to the pastor, but there was not much interaction between its members, which is what Ramsey craved.

 

Ramsey often questioned the ideals of his church even as a child, and eventually stopped going for a while, but about half way through his sophomore year at USF, he had a spiritual revelation sparked by Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship.

 

“The church had a philosophy that interaction happens in Sunday School, but even then it was very designed,” he said. “I went to Justice Week that November which is something Inter Varsity puts on, demonstrating that there is suffering in the world, that God has something real to say about it and that the Bible is not just Sunday School Christianity.”

 

Based her experiences, Koegler says location has shaped many of her ideas about traditional religion. Before their move to Jacksonville, her father, who grew up there, warned her and her younger brother that being Jewish in Jacksonville was going to be different than being Jewish in San Francisco.

 

“I grew up in a Jewish school in San Francisco.  It was very traditional and we learned Hebrew, prayed and studied our religion every day. I didn’t feel different from anyone else,” Koegler said.  “Jacksonville, though, is in what people call ‘The Bible Belt,’ and there are not that many Jews, so being one is just not very accepted.”

 

She says she had a much more positive experience in Tampa and at USF.

 

“There are a lot more Jews [in Tampa] than in Jacksonville, and it is a lot more accepted,” Koegler said. “When I started at USF, I was constantly getting e-mails from the Jewish Center about bagel meetings and things to do for kids who couldn’t go home for Jewish holidays.  There was always stuff going on,” she said

 

Jeremy Stephens, an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship staff member at USF, says ideas about religion are beginning to change due to the decline in attendance at many traditional church settings.

 

“A lot of what we see in America as far as religion has grown up in modernity. Wearing the tie was dogmatic. You had to do that. Now you are seeing a shift from that with Postmodernism, and that there is a lot more flexibility in religion,” Stephens said.

 

Ramsey is a bible study leader at the Beta dorms for one of Inter Varsity’s various small groups that meet on campus. He says the spark for change is needed.

 

“It means that people not responding well to strict church rules.  It is allowing people to be more free and honest with each other,” Ramsey said.

 

Student organizations, both on campus and within the community, are redefining religion for the younger generations from Christianity to Judaism and beyond, because the ideas of traditional religion, just like technology and other aspects of society, are changing with the times.

 

And as far as Stephens can predict, he says this change is a welcome one.

 

“Organizations provide a catalyst for communication across denominational lines.  These people, both believers and non-believers, are coming and having spiritual conversations.  We need each other.  We want that conversation,” Stephens said.

  

**Statistic that can possibly be used as some kind of visual with the story:

Approximately 47 percent of American adults say they attend church regularly, according to the Institute for Social Research’s World Values survey conducted in 2005.  That means about half the colonial American population would have been in trouble with the law for missing church on Sundays.  Today, many religious groups and organizations are attempting to appeal to more young people by putting a non-traditional spin on traditional religion.

Religious Symbols and the meanings behind them

November 28, 2007

Jennifer TeuberReligious Symbols and the meanings behind themBaha’iFrom Leslie Martinez, President of Baha’i Club @ USF, 20 years old, Senior majoring in English and American LiteratureA simple nine-pointed star is generally used by Baha’is as a symbol of their Faith. The number nine has significance in the Baha’i Revelation. Nine years after the announcement of the Bab in Shiraz, Baha’u’llah received the intimation of His mission in the dungeon in Tehran. Nine, as the highest single-digit number, symbolizes completeness. Since the Baha’i Faith claims to be the fulfillment of the expectations of all prior religions, this symbol, as used, for example, in nine-sided Baha’i Houses of Worship, reflects that sense of fulfillment and completeness. Particularly cherished by Baha’is are calligraphic forms of the word Baha (Arabic for “Glory”), known as the Greatest Name, a reference to Baha’u’llah. In this category is the above symbol which is engraved on personal rings and on buildings to establish their Baha’i identity. Another calligraphic form of the Greatest Name involves an invocation in Arabic “Ya Baha’u’l-Abha,” which says: “O Glory of the All Glorious.” It is displayed in Baha’i homes and places of Baha’i activity. Judaism

From Nicky Spivak, Executive Director, Hillel Jewish Student Center of Tampa

 Chai is easy – it is the Hebrew word for “Life” Star of David – (Hebrew: magen David)   This is a bit more complex – I found this article at: http://www.aish.com/literacy/concepts/Star_of_David.asp Buddhism  From Josef Rios, President of Soka Gakkai at USF, 21 years old, junior @ USF, majoring in International Studies

The mala, literally garland, are prayer beads that we use when we pray or chant counting each bead as we do, and in most other Buddhist schools, when we meditate. There are several different types of mala, depending on the country and sect. The most common are strings of 108, or 109 counting the larger bead, symbolizing the 108 desires that tie us as sentient beings to the world of reincarnation. As I said there is a larger bead that essentially ties them all together, and usually has a tassel of sorts coming out of it. This is the Guru, or Buddha bead. Some schools will say a special prayer when this bead is reached.   The Tomoe however, is more of a Shinto concept, though it can be seen on both Shinto and Buddhist temples. It is similar to the yin and yang. This link has a good explanation of it. http://altreligion.about.com/library/glossary/symbols/bldefstomoe.htm

 Atheism 

From: Augustus Invictus, 24, majoring in Philosophy, President of Freethinkers @ USF

       

DARWIN FISH The Darwin fish is just a play on the Jesus fish. Because Jesus was a fisherman, and because Jesus is the Christian version of Mercury, one of whose symbols is a fish, the Christians use a fish to symbolize Jesus. It also is reminiscent of Alpha, the first Greek letter, and Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. The Darwin fish is just a joke. I has a fish with feet to symbolize evolution. It's just playing on the assumption that all life came from the sea, and it is a slapstick blasphemy to the Jesus fish.   AMERICAN ATHEISTS LOGO I'm not sure what they intend it to mean, but I would guess it's just to show that Atheism embraces science instead of superstition by using the valences. The bottom valence is missing to give the middle pillar the shape of an "A", for "American" and for "Atheists". But that's just my interpretation and assumption.   INVERTED PENTAGRAM Here is the fun stuff, and this is actually meaningful. It means different things to different groups of people.   To the Masons, the Knights Templar, and other such lineages, it is a symbol of Baphomet, the hermaphroditic goat-god. But that symbolism is a whole 'nother ball game.   To the Satanists (i.e., those in the Church of Satan), it is also representative of Baphomet (because they stole it from the Masonic tradition). Anton LaVey, founder of the Church, explained that the two points on top were the two horns of the goat, which supposedly symbolized duality. This just goes to show his own ignorance of philosophy, for to admit duality is to admit that there is such a thing as spirit, which is completely antithetical to everything the Church of Satan teaches. So they're a bunch of dumbasses.   The most "correct" way to view the inverted pentagram is by viewing it as nothing more than the inverse of a right-side-up pentagram. The pentagram symbolizes man aspiring to God; the two points at the bottom are his legs, and the two points at the middle are his arms outstretched to receive the love of his God. When inverted, it does not symbolize man's aspiration upward, but rather God's grace downward. It is power descending from the heavens. Fascinating.     Christianity    From: Chris Baker, 21 years old, Marketing Major, President of Cornerstone Student Fellowship.

 

           I don’t know much about the Jesus fish, but I’m willing to share what the cross means to me.  When I see a cross I am reminded of love; John 3:16 says, “For God so LOVED the world, that He GAVE His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  Jesus willingly gave all that He was when He died on the cross for us.  He became the very thing which He hated, sin.  At the cross curses are broken because Jesus became a curse on our behalf, bearing the punishment for us.  The cross represents complete sacrifice.  The Bible commands Christians to “take up their cross” (Matthew 10:38, Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23).  What this means is in order to truly be a Christian, a person has to be willing to sacrifice all he or she is and all of his or her possessions (notice I said willing to, I didn’t say must).  A Christian must stop living his or her life for herself and start living it according to God’s will.  The cross is a place where forgiveness is found and grace abounds.  So although Jesus died a horrendous, bloody death on the cross; every time I look at a cross I am reminded of His love. The cross was such a powerful symbol to the original disciples of Jesus, that when they themselves were martyred and punished by crucifixion, they pleaded to be crucified sideways or even upside down (and they were).

 

Does religion have a place in the 2008 presidential election?

November 20, 2007

            Whether Americans like it or not, religion continues to play a role in each presidential election. It can shape a candidate’s moral values, policies and leadership techniques, as well as skew a voter’s opinion in the polls.

            According to past surveys by the Pew Forum on religion by the Pew Research Center for the People and Press, most Americans said it is important for a president to have strong religious beliefs. Voters who viewed presidential candidates as more religious expressed more favorable views toward them.

            Ronnique Lippett, a senior in criminal justice and a Christian, agrees with the 2004 opinion poll.

 “Religion is just as important as the role they will play as president,” she said. “It reflects their character and how they will go about leading our nation.”

            However a more recent surveys suggests that voters are more willing to accept a candidate who is not seen as very religious.

 In an August 2007 Pew Forum survey, participants viewed Mitt Romney as more religious than any other candidate for the White House, while Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani were voted the least. Despite these opinions, Clinton and Giuliani are leading contenders on Gallup, CNN and Newsweek polls this November.

             “Religion shouldn’t matter or determine whether they are good or not. Just because you go to church does not mean you’re the best for the job,” said Azizah Muhammad, a medical science major and a Muslim.

Franki Weddington, an english and journalism major, is an atheist and says a candidate’s beliefs will not affect her vote.

“If candidates want to use their religion to introduce their background and beliefs, that’s fine, but it is not necessary,” Weddington said.

The particular religion that is practiced also has a bearing in the presidential election.  Despite the fact that nearly half of Americans who participated in February Pew opinion polls believe Mitt Romney is just as religious as George W. Bush, a quarter of voters say they would be less inclined to vote for a candidate who is Mormon.

            “Romney tries to downplay the fact that he’s a Mormon. He thinks it’s a turnoff,” said Michelle Palladino, a senior mass communications student who does not consider herself a religious person.

“Unfortunately, practicing a religion other than Christianity, or practicing no religion, is a major disadvantage in most American political races,” said Dr. Steven Tauber, a political science professor.

But with more people squashing the importance of religion in recent Pew surveys, how will it affect the 2008 presidential election? Our founding fathers promised the separation of church and state, so how much is too much?

Only 27 percent say that there has been too much expression of religious faith and prayer by political leaders, but 26 percent says there has been the right amount. Thirty-eight percent would like to hear more about religion from politicians.

James Nauck, an engineering student, does not subscribe to any particular religion and feels it’s expression is too much a factor.

 “It would make me want to vote less for them,” said Nauck.  “In my opinion, you have to separate church and state. “

            “A candidate’s religious beliefs should be a private matter. It only becomes a matter for public discussion because the candidates like to emphasize that they are religious in order to pander the American public,” Tauber said. “I think candidates, both Democrats and Republicans, rely far too heavily on religion to advance their agenda.”

“Some people use religion just so people of the same religion will vote for them. For example, they use going to church on Sunday as photo ops,” said Palladino.

Whether a candidate is truly sincere about their faith or not, it remains on the front lines, especially because many social issues such as abortion and gay rights can hint towards a person’s religious beliefs.

 

–Courtney Allen

On a Mission for God (revised)

November 14, 2007

by Tiffany B. Talley

  Frank, 70-year-old Acorn Trace Senior Housing resident was unable to do simple tasks in his home as his health took a toll on him. A group of USF student volunteers saw a need, gathered some tools and got to work. 

Steven Mayock was one of these students. A resident in the USF Leadership House, Mayock studies servant leadership and finds volunteering a cherished experience.  

It starts with a love of God, and people. Mission trips provide a variety of unique opportunities to respectfully serve and experience other cultures. A commitment to any one of our mission projects yields a myriad of opportunities to be challenged to grow, be of service, be humbled, and be forever changed. 

Here at USF, these student-led organizational advised projects provide grounds for amazing and often life-changing experiences.  They also require extensive preparation and fundraising.  Each project is carefully designed to facilitate growth in spirituality, servant leadership, intercultural understanding, social justice, and the connection between service and learning.   

“It definitely stimulates personal growth. Mission trips take you out of your comfort zone when you are serving other people”, said Kylie McCracken of USF Christian Challenge Baptist Collegiate Ministries.  

McCracken, along with 50-60 students participate in mission trips to England, Peru, Africa, Australia, Mexico and most recently New Orleans to participate in the Hurricane Katrina clean up.  

“Our soul passion is to love God and our neighbor with all we have,” reads the banner that hangs in the lobby of the organization. Students raise funding and receive support from local churches to finance mission trips taken.  

It could happen to anyone,” said Mayock as he reflected on an alternate spring-break trip sponsored by the non-religious affiliated USF Center for Civic Engagement and Volunteerism. Mayock and other students traveled to Washington D.C. to work in a homeless shelter alongside Creative for Community Non-Violence (CFCNV) 

Jennifer Smith, Director of USF Crosswinds Wesley Foundation agrees with Mayock. 

“Mission trips give you a sense of love for all people. God loves you, you should love others,” she said. 

Crosswinds of USF recently re-opened as a ministry in January of this year. Already off to a fast start, the servant –minded organization provides services to local homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters including food give-aways.

They will participate in an AIDS Awareness “Walk-through South Africa” experience in connection with the Van Dyke Church on November 16, 2007. In addition to its service in local communities, USF Crosswinds supports and sponsors two South African children. Njabuliso Gwebu, ages 3, of Swaziland and Memory Tembo, age 2, of Zambia are children of AIDS ridden families that receive care from Crosswinds every month through fundraising from concerts and donations.  

USF Crosswinds along with other service organizations will participate in “One Voice,” a Thanksgiving service held on November 19, 2007 at 8:00pm in ENA 105. 

USF provides several opportunities to get involved in serving the community through its Center for Civic Engagement and Volunteerism located in the basement of the Marshall Center. Though it is not religiously affiliated, the Center offers different resources to get involved and provide memorable and valuable experiences of a lifetime, not to mention boost your resume.  

Gaelle Pierre, USF student and Volunteer Service Coordinator participated in a Stampede of Service where she along with other USF students helped clean the yard of a 90-year-old Tampa resident. 

 “You’re just unaware of people in the community and their needs until you’ve experienced it”, she said. 

All and all, USF provides different venues for volunteerism in accordance to religious or non-religious values, so suit up and get on board! 

“We might do little things, but we make big impacts,” said McCracken as she reflected on her mission trip to New Orleans.