If you’re an undergraduate student at the University of Portland, chances are you’ve taken at least one theology and one philosophy class and if you haven’t, you will. And if you’re not passionately drawn to existentialism or religion you might find these classes useless.
Now, I’m not here to do the PR work of the good people at UP who have decided we need to take these classes — you unfortunately already get that during Anchor Seminar — but I do have a suggestion for how you can use these contact hours to your advantage: Interrogate and shape your own belief system.
Who has time for questioning religion, spirituality or a belief system? When one accounts for work, school, friends, extracurricular activities and breathing, who actually has time to question long held beliefs? Do you think you’ll have more time in the future?
College students are less religious now than they’ve ever been, but if you still wonder, question and second guess the truth of it all — the time is now in these mandatory classes to give yourself room to do so.
In THE 105 I read a text for the first time that described a creation story void of the thinly veiled misogyny used to justify the oppression of women for thousands of years. I knew about the misogynistic undertones of creation stories but I had never felt anything other than a glimmer of curiosity to question what others had to say about it — including the church and how I would fit it into my belief system and worldview.
Does that make me a bad person — that I didn’t have the time or willingness to investigate that aspect of a belief system that I once wholly subscribed to? I don’t think so. I don’t think it will make you a bad person when you forget to question Long Held Belief About The Universe #4 when you’re 33 years old and quite busy because you have a german shepherd to feed.
That’s why it was a secretly fortunate thing to have a required theology class. I was given the time and space to explore a belief that is important to me, one that I think says something about my character and how I want to move through the world.
This opportunity doesn’t begin and end with the exploration of religion either. Some theology classes at the University focus almost entirely on Christian theism, making them arguably much less useful for students of other faith traditions. However, the ideas explored in theology and philosophy classes at the University are applicable to those completely disinterested in following any religious doctrine and who instead have to do the strenuous work of deciding how to be a good person.
For instance, in PHL 150 I learned about partisanship and its epistemological virtue and decided whether or not I should lean into partisanship or resist it. This is relevant to me because I’m into politics. I was able to use that required class to develop more of my personal belief system — something one can use regardless of religious beliefs.
So make this mandated time a time for you. Figure out if you want to be religious or spiritual, what your values say about you and what to say to the guys in white button downs, ties and name tags that will inevitably knock on your door. Learn about others and learn about yourself. Change yourself — after all, you probably need it.
Maggie Dapp is a sports reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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