Dec 042012

Author: Mary Willson

At the Shambhala Stupa, in Red Feather, Prayer flags serve to promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom.

At the Shambhala Stupa, in Red Feather, Prayer flags serve to promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom.

The Earth’s population lives on a single mass of land, yet through cultural divides it

Michael Lichtback lights a menorah at the Chabad Jewish Center located in campus west shopping area. The menorah is part of Hanukkah, an eight day Jewish festival also known as “the festival of lights,” which falls over finals week this semester.

Michael Lichtback lights a menorah at the Chabad Jewish Center located in campus west shopping area. The menorah is part of Hanukkah, an eight day Jewish festival also known as “the festival of lights,” which falls over finals week this semester.

can feel as if the seven billion inhabitants of this seven continent globe are disconnected by galaxies.

Through the religious divides based on morality, upbringing, culture and political pressure—society and religion can easily become intertwined. The melting pot of the United States and a very diverse campus blurs these lines and creates an accepting atmosphere. Despite the commercial Christmas trees—red, green and white merry making—and the overwhelming Christian symbolism throughout the winter months, diversity is celebrated—a unique asset in the grand scheme of the world.

“I feel like I can practice my religion freely here in the US,” said Fares Alotaibi, freshman computer engineering and computer science major, whom is here from Saudi Arabia.

“You can see that in said Arabia they say that Muslim is 100 percent  of the population, but I think that is impossible,” Alotaibi said. “I think you need to accept that there are other people and religions.”

Alotaibi will work for an oil company in Saudi Arabia when he graduates, an opportunity only the top 3 percent of a national test get the opportunity to do. His main objective for a United States education is for the degree, yet the accepting culture is something that has changed his own perspective on the way humans view each other. Which, as a practicing Muslim, comes as a pleasant surprise.

“A different country means different culture, so you get used to it,” Alotaibi said. “That was a big change, I love the US in the way that everyone can practice their own religion and people respect all religions. I respect that. If you people respect my religion, I will respect yours.”

Culture, family roots and society are three main assets to the formation of personal spiritual beliefs. Yet, within the realm of college and a fresh slate for personal growth, new paths can be shared creating new belief systems.

“It kind of started out with not necessarily agreeing with everything that came with the Catholic or Christian religion in general,” said Darrel Suer, junior marketing and CIS business major.

Suer started the Meditation and Buddhism Interest Club on campus last year after becoming passionate about the Buddhist belief system from a series of CSU religion classes. He was raised Catholic.

“The Catholic Church is very hierarchical. I don’t think that’s the best way to practice religions because then it feels almost like government rather than spiritual. At the end of the day, we’re all the same,” he said. “You’re a person, I’m a person, we should be treated that way.”

Within the worldwide pie of major universal religions, Christianity makes up 33 percent, Islam makes up 22.5 percent, Hinduism makes up 13.6 percent, Buddhism makes up 6.7 percent and Judaism makes up .3 percent according to, an online encyclopedia. Although these international numbers do not depict the personal lives committed to a certain belief system, through cultural pressures based on location and communal practices, religious pressures many times follow.

As December 24 comes around the corner, Christian churches see their pews fill, and a weeklong shift into religion many times takes place. This is just as prevalent as ever, even with different religions and in difference practices.

MacMcGolrick, a religious studies professor, is focused in teaching eastern religions and personally practices Buddhism.

“Religion and culture are extraordinarily important, and the religion and expression there is similar to the practice and expression here,” he said.

Through the hype that is depicted from the societal-made holiday, Black Friday, and onward through New Years, commercialism and present giving is ballooned into an economical monster. Yet, when pulled back inward it is structured on the practice of giving, a universal act.

“It’s just a matter of keeping it in perspective, I mean this was one holiday that used to mean something else. Its not a bad thing, I just think sometimes people mis-proioriatize what is going on,” Suer said.

Suer’s mother is Catholic, but feels her spirituality within herself, and it is not based on going to church or other societal practices.

“She feels so strongly that there is a god—she beliefs in that so strongly. I have a lot of respect for that,” Suer said. “She has just as strong of a faith as anyone else. I think that’s more the emphasis, the family sides of things.”

Although within the US, an attitude of acceptance is practiced and felt overall—the logistical side of a diverse practice of religions can ignite logistical problems for holiday practices.

Michael Lichtback, senior mechanical engineering major and president of the Jewish club, had an engineering exam on Hanukah last year, and regularly have important schoolwork on equally important religious holidays. His family is culturally and religiously Jewish.

“We just have to negotiate all kinds of things. It really bothered me when I was younger and classmates would say ‘Merry Christmas’ and I would respond with ‘you know everyone doesn’t celebrate Christmas, right?’ I would be really bitter,” he said. “And now I’ve kind of come to peace and it doesn’t bother me as much because they have good intentions.”

Through the explorations of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism, which have been taken on at CSU with confidence, the spiritual journey seems universal.

“It’s not about this practice or that practice because someone said so,” Suer said. “It’s about what is most effective for the person. There might be really great facets of all religions for human beings living in all different ways, but it’s about incorporating and not divisive in any way.”

Through the search for fulfilling spirituality, exploring out of ones culture can be revealing, whether to commit yourself to the roots personally, or to grow within a practice that has been within oneself all along.

“I think there’s a negative mentality where we need to appease everyone,” Lichtback said. “There’s this binary idea where you’re either religious or not. I think of it as more of a continuum where you can just do whatever you want.”

And for some, a path for change motivates pride in religion. Through the world of college, a melting pot of religions, ideas, ages, life stages and places are mixed together. With acceptance as a goal, there is always progress to be made.

“In the last 10 years there been a big bad idea about Islam. I know there are bad Muslims, but there are a lot of good ones,” Alotaibi said. “I think it is kind of going away, I am very grateful for that. You never know what a person is or who people are unless you go and talk to them. That’s the thing I want to bring to this conversation.”

In a diverse world full of seven billion unique and differing personalities, minds, soul and hearts, just as many belief systems manifest themselves. What is key is that the importance of our colorful world is never lost.

“I am learning diversity and actually when I get back to my country I will try to change the point of view,” Alotaibi said.

  No Responses to “A colorful blend of beliefs and the universal spiritual journey”

  1. Great Story. This writer deserves a raise

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