God: Dead or Alive?
By Christopher C., Fredericton High, Fredericton, NB
Over the years, the concept of "god" has changed drastically. Students at Fredericton High School - the next generation of potential religionists - have a wide variety of opinions on the matter.
"I believe in God," said Emily McG., a grade twelve student at FHS, "and I believe in heaven as well as hell... I believe He [God] controls what happens in our lives, and that we should always turn to Him when troubles arise. I feel if you are a truly good-hearted person, there is a place for you in heaven."
Ms. McG., who participated in a recent survey of students, represents the margin of those questioned who are a believer of one specific religion. Most believe in God, in some form or another, but consider the Bible, as a moral textbook, to be outdated.
"I believe in God very much," said Christina C., another potential graduate, "yet I believe that some of the rules in the Bible today are too strict for today's society."
Amanda M. shared the same sentiment: "I believe in [God], but I believe that He has changed, as we have, so some things in the Bible are irrelevant."
Throughout the survey, the Bible drew quite a bit of criticism - the books of the Old Testament, in particular. Historically, the Old Testament serves as the basis of the world's three largest monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It was written over the course of centuries roughly 6000 years prior to the birth of Christ.
"I don't think people should base how they live their life on a book that was written thousands of years ago," said grade 12 student Jennifer C.
As an extension of this, few of the students polled go to church. Many are under the impression that all orthodox Christian denominations take a conservative stance on social or moral matters.
Sara D., a self-professed Agnostic, said she no longer goes to church because she doesn't "agree with their views." Male superiority and anti-homosexuality were among the reasons she cited to back her decision.
Looking at the matter from a strictly biblical standpoint, 1 Corinthians 11:3 (New International Version) says, "Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." But the chapter then goes on to state men and women are equal in the eyes of the Lord.
On homosexuality, Romans 1:26-27 says, "Because of this [the evil nature of man], God gave them [evil men] over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."
It should be stated that not all churches hold these views. There are no longer any denominations in America who, as a group, support male superiority. Homosexuality has even been accepted as a natural sexual trait by a handful of Christian sects (including the United Church of Canada).
Disenchantment regarding the church aside, the vast majority of those surveyed voiced a deep-rooted appreciation for a Creator.
One example came from Alicia F., who said "I believe in God, but I'm not that religious. I think that everyone can think or believe what they want. All I know is that God's there, [and] that's all I need!"
Even students who do not, themselves, believe in any particular deity, generally professed an element of respect for such an outlook on life.
One such student, grade 12 Liane L. said she believes God is "just another way of scaring us into showing a little decency."
Blake S. said "I think God is a good thing, if it's not looked at in a religious context [that is, with no inherent moral baggage]. It gives people something to live for, I guess."
But not all students consider the belief in God to be a socially productive one or a personally beneficial one, for that matter. As with Liane L., many feel the idea of a Supreme Authority is nothing more than a device to frighten people but not always towards "decency".
Sarah W., a grade 11 student, said, "I don't believe that there is a God... nor do I believe in the Bible. I think it was just written by some old prudes who shake their finger at us from two thousand years ago."
As has been stated, the antiquity of most religious texts have caused their credibility to be called into question. But another common argument is the inability to prove their content.
"Basing your whole life around something you can't see, and never will see, until you die (supposedly), is stupid," said Blake S.
There is, however, a handful of students who take the Bible at face value.
"I believe that there is a God, said Sol M. , "and He is Jesus Christ... [who] died and came back to life. Also, no matter how hard you try, you cannot find a single contradiction in the Bible, unlike other "holy" texts. This means it must be true."
Brooks G., a grade 12 student, added the Bible "has a lot of valuable lessons," though he, himself, is unsure of the existence of God.
This is not to say there aren't people of other faiths than Christianity within the school.
Nur A., a Muslim student, holds the view that God "is one Being. People think that I worship a different god because we [Muslims] call Him "Allah". Allah is just another word that means "God". [There is only one God]; He has no equals, no mates, no partners, and no offspring. God is very merciful and has put us here [as a test]. It doesn't take too much more than just believing [in Him] to pass."
Andy S., a Native student presently taking Canadian History, said, "I don't believe in God or the Bible. I don't really care for religion, except my own First Nations beliefs."
Despite the many different takes on God that people believe in, there has thankfully been no reports of hostility within the school.
David MacMillan, the principal of Fredericton High School, said, "I'm pleased to say there hasn't been any real issues while I've been principal. The only real thing that's happened is, one person addressed me on the subject of [Youth For Christ, a Christian club that meets weekly at noon]... [When it comes to religious groups within the school,] I ask that they be inclusive [to people of all beliefs] rather than become a "closed shop". We are a public school; we are supposedly a country based on good morals, and that is what we, as a school, should support."
There are indications, however, of unease between beliefs. Evangelism, in particular, has been a catalyst for social awkwardness and hard feelings.
"I do believe in God," said John F., Fredericton High's school president, "but not in the way the church puts it up to be. I really don't like the way people push their religion on me, because I need to make up my mind for myself."
Overall, though, the students at FHS are open and tolerant of others' opinions. It is generally accepted that one need not believe in God in order to believe in good.
Katherine H. summed it up nicely: "I believe that the word "religion", to most, means the wrong thing. I don't necessarily understand or believe in God. I believe in love, peace, and understanding... If that's what Jesus and God represent, I guess I believe in them, too."
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