The Diversity Dialogues, sponsored by the Office for Inclusive Excellence (OIE), hosted a discussion about religion and spirituality.
Kemoni Farmer, the graduate assistant for multicultural development, facilitated the discussion.
Participants were asked to begin with identifying themselves on a continuum of being religious or spiritual. They were then separated into breakout rooms based on their identification.
Those in the religious breakout room identified the term “religious” as believing in some higher power, having a relationship with whatever God or deity they believe in, and having more of a set way and a procedure to a specific belief or way of believing.
Others in the group said that the family one grew up with could have an influence on religion, but also that religion can be different no matter what definition is given.
The group was also asked to define spirituality, the other end of the continuum.
“Spirituality is that you believe something exists beyond your belief, but you aren’t going to a church or mosk,” Lyosha Gorshkov, the assistant director of the women’s and pride center said. “By default, you can define whatever you like to, and you communicate whatever you like to.”
Upon returning to the main session, participants came together to discuss what they believed were the key differences between religion and spirituality.
The general consensus was that religion focuses more on the relationship with a higher power, while spirituality focuses on more of a relationship with oneself.
“I don’t think you have to be in a community to be religious, but you can also be spiritual and be alone,” Aya Lippold said.
Another dividend between the two terms was the concept of family ties. Participants agreed that the family has a strong impact on faith and religion.
“My family had a strong impact on my faith and religion,” Mikayla Ridgeway, a participant, said. “When coming to college and going to Church on Sunday even if I wasn’t with my family, it was a way to feel connected. I think my religion grew stronger when coming into college.”
Illaria Perry, a participant, believes that a lot of religion is passed down from family as well.
“I feel my family didn’t really push any religion on me,” Perry said. “I find myself more on the spirituality side and taking different beliefs from religions and forming what I believe.”
After being introduced to the Webster Dictionary definitions of religion and spirituality, Farmer asked a question regarding spirituality and their loose restrictions.
Similarly to the conversation beforehand, participants believed that the idea of spirituality focusing more on the individual ties hand in hand with any restrictions they may encounter
“It would make sense for someone to be more spiritual because they don’t want to follow restrictions in a specific religion because those restrictions aren’t benefitting you in the moment, where if you’re spiritual, you get to decide what benefits you at the moment,” Gabriella McAdams, a participant, said.
Building up the personal connection with spirituality and the desire for the opportunity to forge one’s own path, Keisha Booker, the assistant director of multicultural development, said that with this in mind, Generation Z is more about spirituality.
Ridgeway said that there can be restrictions that tend to be more personal based on morals of what is right and wrong.
Where Lippold said that restrictions can be more metaphysical in nature such as dietary restrictions of being vegetarian or vegan.
However, some participants said that they have trouble defining their religious beliefs to begin with.
“I have troubles in identifying myself because I was discriminated against,” Gorshkov said. “I appreciated any religion that leads me to appreciate human life and any diversity. I try to find the moment of peace with that spirit. For me, I cannot envision the God.”
Bridging into the next topic based on Gorshkov’s story, Farmer asked if any of the participants had deviated from their previous religion.
Booker began by saying that she had what she would call a crisis of faith. She studied a wide variety of religions in college, but at the time there was a lot happening in her life. Booker said that her mother’s Baptist beliefs did not align with what she was thinking at the moment in her life. The problem that Booker stated was that religion does not teach oneself how to deal with it when you question it.
“I am so individualistic with my religion,” Booker said. “I deviated and found my way back to my parent’s religion, but this time I knew it was for real.”
Samantha Cox, a participant, said that she grew up in different churches in Christianity, but after seeing different types of religions she wavered on the one she grew up with.
“When I questioned [my religion] when I was younger, I was pushed into the religion,” Cox said. “For me, that pushed me out of it.”
Like previous diversity dialogues, Farmer related the topic of religion and spirituality back to Slippery Rock by asking participants how Slippery Rock can educate its students on other religions or practices.
Perry said that conducting different religious services each week would give people an opportunity to identify with a specific religion and experience other religions.
Others mentioned the idea of holding a club fair, but for different religions.
Although the idea of educating others on different religions seems like a good idea, Farmer asked participants if they feel comfortable asking their peers about their religion and their practices.
Booker said that it is hard to ask these types of questions.
“We are engrained not to,” Booker said. “It’s very hard for me to go up to a stranger and ask them about their religion. It’s more an internal struggle, but it’s the internal struggle of asking and encouraging people to do it, but recognize how hard it is.”
Both the participants and the facilitators agreed that conversations such as these are important to have to increase education.
The next diversity dialogue will be held on Oct. 20 at 5 p.m. discussing the topic “where will we go from here,” which will discuss action steps moving forward. Information can be found on CORE.