Mar 242005
Authors: Joanna Thomas

College is the first time many students investigate their own faith without their parents' guidance.

As a result, some college students today are engaging in their faith through spiritual aspects, and not necessarily organized religions.

Idris Hamid, an assistant professor of philosophy, said there is a trend in today's college students to be spiritual but not necessarily "religious."

"There is definitely a renewal of spiritual thirst on the part of many young college students," Hamid said.

Hamid said traditional religious systems, to some extent, do not adequately address this thirst, placing more emphasis on results and structure.

"What traditional system gives is dogma, rituals and rules and students are grasping what's behind the rule," Hamid said.

Hamid, who has expertise in the religious fields of cosmology, mysticism, metaphysics and Islamic thought, said oftentimes traditional religious organizations are not fulfilling that thirst. He said students are yearning for cosmology and praxis that underlies religions beliefs.

"Most traditional religion frameworks have roots in some cosmological reflection. From that reflection comes dogma," Hamid said.

Dogma are principles people must believe to be considered a part of a religion, such as belief in the trinity in Christianity, Hamid said. Cosmology is the reflection and meditation of cosmos outside and inside, such as the sun, moon and seasons. From it comes questions of the origin, purpose and destiny of the world and humanity.

Hamid further addresses this in an essay entitled "The Cosmological Journey of Neo: An Islamic Matrix" in the novel "More Matrix and Philosophy, Revolution and Reloaded Decoded," edited by William Irwin.

Hamid said it is not uncommon for college students to seek spirituality when they first come to college and are taken out of the traditional context in which they were raised.

"They start thinking there must be something more out there," Hamid said.

Holmes Ralston, department chair of the philosophy department, said students may change their point of view after coming to college.

"Some come to college and hear for the first time arguments against their beliefs. Some welcome and change their beliefs and some stay firm," Ralston said.

But Ralston said he does not think today's students are any different than students 50 years ago. He said college has often been the first time students are challenged in their beliefs.

Unlike Hamid, Ralston is more skeptical of what being spiritual and not religious entails. He said he views it as a loaded phrase, with no clear definition.

"I have a vague impression that spiritual is used more often, but it's not well defined," Ralston said.

Instead, there is a more generalized interest that hovers around religious questions such as life after death or what is morally right and wrong, he said.

Brittany Lipkie, a senior biology and zoology major, said spirituality in college students is definitely a trend she sees. She understands spirituality differently than Ralston.

"Spirituality is the understanding of a higher being but not trying to figure out what that means or being a part of a certain religion," Lipkie said.

Todd Bourdelais, a graduate psychology student, agreed and said spirituality is the belief in higher power and afterlife and not necessarily the guidelines that go along with religion.

"It's more of an open feeling because you don't have to follow certain patterns," Bourdelais said.

Bourdelais said being spiritual but not religious is at an extremely high point for college students. Generally, the student population has wider beliefs.

"In college it's becoming more of a trend to turn away from religion, but who knows; it could change back when our kids go to college," Lipkie said.

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