In 1962, the Supreme Court in the United States passed a ruling that banned prayers sponsored by schools. The court only allowed private prayers where a few students could meet and pray without involving the entire school. Some analysts believe this was the genesis of the many religious-social challenges in U.S. schools today.
Specifically, religion began to become a social issue in the U.S. universities, where students started distancing themselves from any religious affiliations once they joined college. The major divide today is between those who strongly stand by their religious beliefs and those opposed to such beliefs.
The silent conflict
There is a silent social conflict triggered by religious affiliations that are gaining roots fast in U.S. universities today. Unlike in the Irish conflict that started in the 1960s that had a clear divide betweenCatholics and Protestants, the conflict in the U.S. cannot be clearly defined as between specific religious groups, but about secularism versus religiosity.
For most students, their concern is no longer about their faith in religion but about their pursuit of education. There are, however, those who strongly hold to their religious beliefs and believe they have a responsibility to propagate their faith.
The greater challenge comes because colleges admit students from all religious affiliations and protect the rights of each. In the Christian faith, the Catholics and Protestants have differing doctrines, whereas the Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus, on the other hand, have their unique doctrines. The religious students can only watch in silence because on one side, they want to keep their faith, and on the other, religious pluralism is part of a university’s diversity — unless they’re attending a faith-based university, and even then, they will likely be asked to embrace students who are not of their same faith.
The role of science in religious-social challenges
According to research on the history of higher education in America, higher education institutions were committed to serving religious ends. They were more concerned with training students according to the Christian religion. As time progressed, this training began to slowly die out, and science began to take center stage.
Lecturers in the universities were under pressure to focus on scientific evidence that would help the nation to progress into a technological revolution. To the professors, religion was a stumbling block to science. The only way out was to immerse themselves into scientific research, regardless of what the religious community would brand them.
Students, on the other hand, it seemed, were seeking to know the truth about sciences more than the religious truth. Science brought about a paradigm shift in higher education in the U.S., and students who were not religious started to enroll in the universities in huge numbers.
In the early days of America’s higher education, religion was seen as a unifying factor that promoted social virtues. However, after science took center stage in higher education, religion ceased from being the perfect unifying factor, and there arose a social division between those pursuing science and those pursuing religion, or both.
The sociology discipline started being taught in American institutions of higher education in the 19th century. Many lecturers at that time taught that religion would finally fade away, and socialism would take center stage. To learn more about social issues, students need to read more from trusted sources to avoid confusion.
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Universalism and secularism
As much as religion had a universal dominion perse, its teachings in the universities didn’t seem to promote universal ideas where all were unified under one doctrine and faith. Apart from the divide between the major world religions, there was a further divide between different sects of the same religion, like in the divide between Catholics and Protestants.
The religious-social virtues didn’t seem to hold strong, and the boundaries were demarcated. Students from different faiths would meet in class as one unit, but in terms of religion and doctrine, they were different units.
Secularism was also taking root fast where the institutions of education that were at first established on religious foundations were now hiring lecturers who had no religious affiliations. The new norm in the universities was now based on education and career, and not education and religion.
The only thing that seemed to have a universal unifying factor in all sectors of life was science. It didn’t matter what religion the student believed in, social class, race, or nationality. Instead, science was founded on the same principles, and they all worked the same universally.
Some of these principles are the law of gravity, motion, cosmic expansion, evolution, thermodynamism, and so on. These are the scientific truths that provided practical truths that could not be doubted.
Regardless of these scientific truths, a large number of students continue to hold on to their religious beliefs to date. According to a recent survey, America is still a widely religious nation, and all the main religions of the world have deep roots and ties in the U.S., including Islam.
Diversity of religions in the U.S. universities
In the U.S., there are two kinds of higher education institutions – public and private schools. The public schools are government-sponsored and they seem to have a stronger influence on the kind of education systems the U.S. follows because it is the government that makes education laws.
Some of the private institutions are affiliated with specific religions, while others are only concerned with education. In this latter category of institutions and government-sponsored schools, you will find students from every major global religion.
Considering the 1962 Supreme Court ruling, you will likely find university student communities meeting and socializing according to religious affiliations. The effect on social fiber is more prevalent today than it was in the 20th century.
secularism takes center stage
Most of the American colleges and universities were originally founded on religious principles and gave more weight to religious education. After many years, these principles began to break off and science, universalism, and secularism took center stage. The Supreme Court ruling of 1962 put the final blow to religious cohesion in America’s higher education. The ripple effect today is a student community socially divided between religion, science, and career.
As long as students are free to worship — or not worship — how they please, what do you think about religion at uni? Has your faith had any impact on your education or your choice in higher education institutions?
Helen Birk blogs, writes novels, and works as a freelancer for an online essay service. She contributes to various premium sites as a guest blogger, and her love for the work she does goes even beyond that. She loves to attend book club events and training programs for writers to achieve her goal of being the most successful writers around.