A missing religious identity
For the first 16 years of Jiahe Hui’s life growing up in Beijing, religion never crossed his path until he began his studies in America. Hui is one of over 300,000 Chinese students studying in the U.S., and first felt pressure to put a label on his beliefs after beginning his schooling at a Catholic High School in Philadelphia. “I read the Bible from the first page to the last, and it didn’t make any sense to me,” Hui said. I then went on to read the Quran and I got the same feeling. After that, I just kind of started to become atheist.”
Douglas Sjoquist, a visiting professor in MSU’s Department of Religious Studies, said atheism is the norm in China.
Fall on Michigan State’s campus brings the enthusiasm of a new semester, Spartan football tailgates and, for about 3,500 Jewish undergrads, the celebration of the High Holy Days that overlap academics and social events. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins the “10 days of repentance,” ending with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Both holidays typically fall in the months of September or October. For 2017, Rosh Hashanah began at sundown on Sept. 20 until Sept.
The Satanic Temple and its message of opposition to the merging of church and state appears to be growing, along with its membership. “The Trump-Pence administration looks like it will provide us more and more opportunities to have our voice heard and establish our place in America,” said Shiva Honey, a member of The Satanic Temple and a resident of metro Detroit, in an email. According to Honey, the Temple will continue to advance its message regardless of the administration in office, however, membership has certainly increased since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, but could not quote specific numbers. Contrary to popular belief, the Satanic Temple does not worship the devil, instead describing themselves as a non-theistic religion whose mission is to “facilitate communication and mobilization of politically aware Satanists, secularists, and advocates for individual liberty.”
Members of the Temple are well-known for their intricate presentations and consistent protesting of religious displays on public grounds. This was one of the reasons why Honey was interested in joining.
Located on Cedar St. about two miles south of the capitol sits a rather unassuming brick building, however, on the inside, it is anything but. The City Rescue Mission of Lansing provides more than just food and a roof to sleep under, but hope to people in a difficult situation. Since 1911, City Rescue has a long and storied history serving the capital area as a nonprofit Christian ministry, operating solely on private donations. Laura Grimwood, the director of communications, has seen significant growth since she started working at City Rescue, particularly in the individual counseling and case management offered to guests of the shelter.
Sprinkled throughout the first two rows of sand-colored seating in Conrad Hall, the Michigan State University Gospel Choir rehearsed its rendition of Kirk Franklin’s “Brighter Day.” The five-minute song was practiced in complete A capella, with some members swaying to instrumentals they played in their heads and others using their hands to mimic the song’s thunderous beat. In harmony, the choir bellowed the chorus, sounding much louder than its size. The second largest religious or non-religious group in the U.S. is non-religious. Close to one in four Americans consider themselves religiously unaffiliated. At MSU, the size of its Gospel Choir, a Christian organization founded in 1971 reflects the trend of decreased religious participation.
When Starbucks released its cranberry-red and forest-green holiday cups in 2015, void of snowflakes or anything reminiscent of Christmas, Michigan State junior Arianna Dickason wasn’t a part of the outrage that ensued. To her, the blank canvas didn’t wage a “War on Christmas” that many politicians and holiday enthusiasts claimed. Instead, she considered it a nod toward inclusivity, drank her coffee and moved on. Two years and a re-installment of festive Starbucks cups later, President Donald Trump has declared a victory on his vow to end the “War on Christmas.” The Trump family’s official holiday card reads: “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” with the hashtag #WHChristmas.
Studies show spirituality rises while religiosity declines. Naledi Makhene had attended church a handful of times. She was familiar with a few verses in the Bible, though she rarely opened one. She prayed occasionally and believed in a higher power, though she didn’t know whether or not to reference it as “God.” When asked, she’d deny ever identifying as religious, but she had adopted the term “spiritual.”
According to a recent study published by the Pew Research Center, more than 27 percent of adults now identify as spiritual. This is an 8 percent increase over the past five years.
Batoul Sadek was a freshman at MSU when she first heard the term ‘towel head.’
Her roommate’s mom was referring to her hijab. Later in the semester during dinner, Sadek surprised her roommate’s family by revealing how empowered she feels, using the role of her religion as a means to create female-centered communities. “My old roommate telling me she was afraid to live with me when she learned I was Muslim,” was just one of the stereotypes Sadek, now a junior, has faced as a Muslim woman. But she isn’t alone – these are just some stereotypes Muslim women experience. Misconceptions
And the incidences of discrimination Muslims face continue to increase in the U.S.A., according to a survey conducted earlier this year.
An increase in religious “nones” challenge religious leaders in East Lansing, Mich.
While those of faith become more devout, the number of nonbelievers drifting further from religion grows, according to a study conducted in 2015 by the Pew Research Center. And millennials are the least devout of any generation, a trend observed by religious leaders around East Lansing, Mich. “There is a trend of people who shy away from the term ‘religious,’” said Matt St. Germaine, a 21-year-old volunteer at 242 Church, a nondenominational Christian organization based in Brighton, Mich.