I have always loved mythology. When the “Percy Jackson” books first came out, I devoured them, and then while waiting for the next installment in the series, I re-read them. This was the first time another culture’s beliefs had been presented to me in a way that made me want to know more, and I began to research not only the religion of the ancient Greeks, but the religions of other societies and groups.
One of the reasons I came to Baylor is because of its faith-based academics and community. While I admire the school’s requirement of courses like Christian Scriptures and Christian Heritage, I believe students would also benefit from taking a course in other world religions as well.
By requiring students to take Christian religion classes, Baylor is meeting its goal of integrating Christian commitment in the classroom. However, if the only religion courses a student ever take have to do with Christianity, how can we be leaders in the world and go out and interact with people from all religions?
I am not saying that a world religion course would take the place of either of the Christian religion classes, Christian Scriptures is my favorite class this semester, and I think most of my classmates would agree with me.
A required world religion class would be beneficial to students because not everyone they’re going to encounter in life will be Christian. Out in the workplace, Baylor students will come across people from all walks of life with various beliefs, and when they do, how will they discuss and defend their own beliefs if they are unaware of their peers’ belief systems?
And, as I mentioned before, studying other religions can be fascinating. There’s a reason the “Percy Jackson” books are a New York Times Bestselling series, and it’s only partially due to Rick Riordan’s extremely engaging writing style. For those of us who grew up in Christian homes, the concept of multiple gods and specific rituals and practices can be intriguing.
For those questioning why a Christian university would teach their students about other religions knowing what our friends and neighbors regard as religion, and being able to either dispel or agree with their beliefs is the first step in evangelism.
Another benefit in taking a world religion class would be gaining respect for those who practice and preach other faiths. Some Christians can be dismissive of those who believe differently than themselves — this is not entirely their fault, though, because they were never taught otherwise.
And, if Baylor were to require students to take a world religion class, they would not even have to create a new curriculum. World Religions 3345, although not mandated, is already offered to students, and the prerequisites are Christian Scriptures and Christian Heritage.
In many cultures, religion is everything. It dictates what they eat, what they wear, where they work, where they go to school. In order for us to respect what a religious community believes, we must understand why they believe what they do. Religious toleration begins with understanding, and Baylor can further enlighten its student body by requiring them to learn about more than just Christianity.