Religion is a sensitive topic to some, but one that needs to be open for discussion in order to facilitate understanding. RIT is very religiously diverse, with Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists and Bahá’í students forming communities of devotion on campus. In addition to religious representation, the institute has one non-religious group, the RIT Skeptics. Two of the more public groups, the Campus Crusade for Christ and the Skeptics spoke out in an interview about the RIT community and their involvement.
Joe Stevens, a fifth year Software Engineering major and president of CCC said, “I love dialogue about spiritual things, because it’s an important thing to think about, and I feel like people seldom do it on their own.” His campus group strives “to get a dialogue going.” Their mission, according to the CCC website is based upon Matthew 28:18-20.
The passage reads, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”
They hold weekly meetings, to help students to “grow spiritually,” as well as small Bible studies to examine the word of God. CCC is getting ready to head to the Boston Winter Conference where they will “hear the word of God without distractions of daily life … with other college students, powerful worship, and guest speakers that will encourage, challenge and empower your walk with Christ.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the RIT Skeptics are trying to “promote the use of and respect for reason and rationality in all aspects of student life on the RIT campus.” Ben Isserlis, third year Computer Science student and club president, added, “We differ from the religious groups on campus in that we don’t claim to have any special knowledge or direct message from a deity.”
This year they have held two lectures based on the idea of the separation of church and state, with renowned activists Michael Wenstein and Dan Barker. Weinstein’s Military Religious Freedom Foundation was nominated for 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, and Dan Barker is co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which pursues public interest lawsuits to further its goals. The skeptics hold weekly meetings, allowing everyone to discuss many issues ranging from religion, science fiction, paranormal, and many other topics concerning skepticism and rationality.
Trevor Key, a member of CCC noted, “Blind acceptance of Christianity or any other religion is not something that we promote, and the Skeptics are a healthy addition to the campus dialogue.” Religious groups on campus try to work together to promote conversation and discussion in order to promote healthy exploration of human mind and beliefs. “I have worked with the religious communities a lot in the previous year as I sit on the Interfaith Student Council. While I disagree with their beliefs, we can all respect each other’s opinions. Last year we had a discussion on the question of whether or not you can be moral without God,” said Isserlis.
When asked about RIT’s religious landscape, both parties had similar views. Stevens and Isserlis agreed that people would much rather talk about something else than religion.
According to 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, the number of Americans unaffiliated with any religion rose from 14.1 percent in 2001 to 15 percent in 2008. “The U. S. population continues to show signs of becoming less religious, with one out of every five Americans failing to indicate a religious identity in 2008,” according to the survey. “The challenge to Christianity in the U.S. does not come from other religions but rather from a rejection of all forms of organized religion.”