Over-Religiosity: When Religious Beliefs and Social Issues Clash

By Rebecca Cohen
For Unwind magazine

The University of Maryland houses a wide range of students from varying backgrounds and a multitude of religions. The campus, in turn, offers resources for those who honor different faiths, from programs at Hillel to services at Memorial Chapel. On top of that, online student involvement website OrgSync states that there are 57 student organizations for different religious groups.

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Lutheran Church and Student Center. Photo by Lauren Fuchs.

Since religion is such a personal experience, each student on this campus expresses their beliefs in a different way. Some dedicate their lives to upholding religion while others do not identify with one. This university offers options for those students who observe religions heavily, such as services for religious holidays and an excused absence option for students who cannot attend class due to religious observances.

As seen in today’s national news, religion can sometimes impact people’s opinions on social issues such as LGBTQ+ equality.

A primary reason that many are still opposed to accepting LGBTQ+ rights is because common religious mandates dictate homosexual relationships are unacceptable and unnatural, according to a Gallup poll.

In this case, religion goes beyond implementing faith and connecting and supporting its members. Instead, this crosses the line into exploitation: the point at which religion is regarded too highly.

The laws of religion were implemented long ago, so the creators of these laws spoke to only the aspects of their world they thought would remain relevant into the far future. They might not have even taken into consideration how far into the future their religion would remain in practice. This explains why controversial social issues are not accepted in religious constitutions; the creators could never have imagined the world in which we live now.

After graduating from Jewish Day School in Miami, sophomore kinesiology major Nicole Greenberg decided to take a gap year to study in Israel.

She identifies with Modern Orthodox Judaism. Last spring, Greenbaum joined a Jewish sorority but opted to not live in the house with her sisters since her religious practices would have gotten in the way of elements of their lifestyle, such as keeping kosher and not using electronics on Shabbat.

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The Hillel Center. Photo by Lauren Fuchs.

Greenbaum emphasized the role of individuality within one’s religion.

“It’s important to have faith, but at the same time you have to put in your own effort,” Greenbaum said. “Followers do not always practice what they preach, therefore exploiting their own religion.” She added, though, that she understands the importance of standing strong for whatever you believe in.

Other students value the culture religion offers.

“I don’t believe in religion as my faith; it’s more the culture I live in,” said Rachael Weinberger, a sophomore enrolled in letters and sciences.

Weinberger is in the same sorority as Greenbaum, and their opinions on their religions differ heavily. Their ability to coexist, though, proves there is a way to observe and practice religion without it taking over your lifestyle.

For Weinberger, Greenbaum definitely relies too heavily on religion, but from Greenbaum’s perspective, she’s still living her life as a normal college student while heavily observing her religion. She is able to balance everything that is important to her while maintaining her academic standing and having a social life.

Jesse Viggiano, a sophomore biology major, believes that people can begin to rely too heavily on religion when they don’t give God the opportunity to help them, but instead sit idly by and expect him to fix all of their problems.

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The Catholic Student Center. Photo by Lauren Fuchs.

“When it comes to relying on religion, it’s not like I will just sit around and pray something gets done, but I believe that through faith and God’s grace that he can help me get it done,” Viggiano said.

Religion is a driving force in many people’s lives, but each person has his or her own way of observing it. Most can agree, though, that religion is in the hands of the observer. Ultimately, this university is one that is accepting of religious beliefs and provides services to those who want and need them.

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