Opinion: Lost my religion

Matt Vroom

Matt Vroom

By Zachary Schuster

Like so many students at the University, I stopped attending weekly religious services during my college career. I attended Catholic Mass on campus for a year and a half before I realized my church was not fulfilling my spiritual needs. I know there are many other students out there who, like me, want religion to be a part of their lives, but cannot find fulfillment in the type of religion that is presented on campus.

This phenomenon is important, but no one wants to ask the difficult question of why students give up on religion. When the issue is addressed, most people simply level accusations or make excuses. I would hope that the decision to give up on religion is serious enough to warrant serious discussion.

While my break with the Catholic Church was because of a personal reason, the dissatisfaction had been building inside me. I realized that the leaders of my church had absolutely no clue what college students wanted and needed. Religion for college students should be an important guide to dealing with the changes and stresses of college life, not something that forces future issues into the present.

I found that important issues in my early-college life never were addressed at my church. Instead, I distinctly remember hearing about things like the pressing need to decide whether I was going to enter the priesthood or get married.

Marriage was hardly at the forefront of my concerns as a 19-year-old freshman who had trouble saying “hi” to girls. There is so much the Church could have taught that would have been more relevant to college students, like building strong friendships and learning how to serve others.

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When students give up an hour of their hectic schedules, they want a religious service that provides help finding stability in the chaos of college, not a sermon on something they cannot even begin to comprehend.

The Catholic church I attended also showed this lack of understanding with the message it presented. I remember an overwhelmingly negative focus on everything I should not do. I also remember hearing – on more than one occasion – rhetoric basically saying that human beings are depraved individuals who should feel guilty for being so awful.

This idea smacks in the face of everything college should be about. College is a time for students to have the opportunity to experience everything they have ever wanted while in pursuit of discovering themselves. Attending a religious service that tells them to be afraid of making mistakes for fear of damnation is hardly the way to encourage self-discovery.

The Church may feel human beings are depraved, but honestly, most people have good intentions and are trying their hardest to do what is right. Sure, we all make mistakes from time to time, but that is a key part of being human. And because Jesus Christ was a human being, I would think he can empathize with that struggle.

College students would be much more receptive to a church that gives positive encouragement instead of negative reinforcement.

The good that people do in trying to follow the life of Jesus far outweighs any small faults like drinking too much on the weekend. College students would love to hear this from their church, and it would undoubtedly make attending Mass a beneficial experience rather than a chore.

I personally have not returned to Mass on campus in more than a year. Perhaps I will give the Catholic Church another try sometime. While I fear the worst, I hope the Church finally has realized that college students are too idealistic to respond out of fear of future retribution. Rather, they are looking for positive ways to make life better for themselves and others in the present.

Zachary Schuster is a senior in engineering. His column runs whenever he wants. He can be reached at [email protected].