Faith and University: Facts vs Beliefs

Teaching in the context of religion, belief and faith

When we think of religion, belief and faith we open ourselves to a mode of thinking which highlights the ‘individual’ along with their sense of self and strings together our collective similarities providing a space and vehicle for further and possible discussions around our differences as an opportunity for learning. Equally with the latter in mind, one must be mindful of the fact that students are perfectly within their rights to abstain from engaging in certain discussions that may infringe on their privacies, however, this raises questions about how we ensure that the classroom is a ‘safe space’ for all.

In the context of an art school/university religion, belief and faith serve an important role in the output of the work created by our students. Within my personal practice, I do not believe it to be possible to see or create art without feeling some form of emotion which is indirectly linked to religion, belief and faith in its broadest sense whether it be in support, a commentary or direct challenge of these modes.

In thinking of relation to how this may be applicable to my students, I believe this centres around the idea or rather so the acceptance and understanding that “one voice cannot drown the rest”.  this draws direct parallels with conversations that are being had specifically within the context of museums and the ever-evolving dialogue between the institution (museum) and audience when thinking about how to tell stories of objects which are have their rightful places within other cultures which may be heavily influenced by a religion or belief which ultimately determines their significance.

The video ‘Does Religion have a place in Modern Society?‘  provides an example of how we can start to understand and being accepting of one another.

Religion In Britain: Challenges in Higher Education

In reading the stimulus paper by Tariq Modood and Craig Calhoun it becomes clear that continual evolution is necessary to keep not just religion but also our societies alive. I think some of the most interesting themes to focus on in terms of how we view religion and the challenges it may face in Higher Education are the following; Western European moderate secularism, Multiculturalism, Minority Identities, The ‘vaguely Christian’ UK and Religion as a public good.

In looking at the complexities of religion it is necessary to consider the fact that specifically in the UK the state and church were once engaged meaning that the two ran alongside one another. Modood points out that organised religion can play a significant role in a number of factors including our cultural heritage and national identity which of course trickles down into the identities of the individual thus creating the personalities and markers of normality within our communities. It is also well acknowledged the strength in which religion displays in the context of bringing people together which can play a larger role in providing peace of mind for students (both Home and International) during a period of their life which can often prove to be one of the most challenging parts of adolescence and finding ones place in society. The latter shows religion in the form of public good but it is again important to look at wider context of religion and the intollerance which have caused rifts between different religious groups fractioning further into racial groups over time.

Further to this when we start to consider the connection between state and religion it is vital to emphasis that as educational establishments there is a sense of a duty of care to ensure that all religions are represented fairly and accurately.

In thinking about this some of the questions that have arisen are

Question 1: Who is it that decides the circumstances where religion becomes a ‘public good’ as we have seen throughout history cases where religion has been used to benefit the few rather than the masses

Question 2: Can state and religion ever be truly disengaged when many laws of the land are steeped in christianity?

On Creed

Listening to philosopher and theorist Kwame Anthony Appiah speaking On Creed left me with a smile on my face. Although it was a 30-minute lecture there were many back and forths at this address. What I found to be interesting within this talk was the interconnectivity between belief/religion, community and culture. Being born to Nigerian parents in the UK I felt some synergies with the way Appiah talked about the complexities of religion and how I whilst growing up saw those same complexities within the form of culture and religion intertwining which often caused confusion not just for me but for many of my peers. The latter also spoke to the concept of questioning – what is the difference between religion and belief? Furthermore, we start to look at the idea of interpretation and the unyielding need for religious structures to see its followers and the context of modern society and adapt.

In conclusion, I really do feel that religious identities connect us with some of the oldest stories that we have. As someone who is captivated often through the personal experiences of others it is apt to say that religions do not speak with a single voice. Our identities are utterly personal but this notion of identity can seemingly be shared by thousands which seems to present itself as a re-occurring theme when talking about this topic.


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