Believing in something gives you hope

Renee Rosenow

“Hope” and “Change” have been inescapable buzzwords in America for the past two years and I’m not going to let you off the hook just yet even though the election is over. I have hope. I’m calling for change. The change I’m talking about, however, has nothing to do with President-elect Barack Obama.

I want change in Eau Claire, on campus, in the dorms, in the horrible student housing, in the hearts of students. I want change – in you.

Earlier this week I read about a recent global study by The Center for Spiritual Development that said 93 percent of youths believe life has a spiritual dimension. So if this is the case, why does the evidence I see show the opposite?

I could go around asking religious leaders in the community, any community really, if they are reaching young people effectively and if their numbers are growing. I could cite a survey done in 2007 by the independent Christian research group LifeWay Research, or I could share a recent study I heard on a talk radio show. Holding that global study aside, it doesn’t matter where I go or who I talk to, the consensus is young people are spiritually apathetic, if not completely dead.

If you’re like me, you went to church with your parents growing up. Furthermore, if you’re like me and the seven out of 10 young people in the LifeWay study, you no longer go now. What I’m seeing is students are not personally involved in some sort of faith and seemingly believe in nothing.

I’m in no way telling you to go to church, confess the past 20 years of your life and get baptized. I’m not telling you to find Jesus and start shouting at students on the Campus Mall. I’m not telling you to become a nun or an extremist Islam and proclaim Jihad on unbelievers.

I’m asking students just to believe in something.

I don’t care what you believe in, that’s not for me to decide. If you want, listen to the ads on D.C. buses saying, “Why believe in a God? Just be good for goodness’ sake.” The American Humanist Association unveiled the provocative ads last Tuesday and said they define humanism as “a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.”

Having belief does not imply one has faith and having faith does not betoken religion. Believing in something means you have a firm conviction in its goodness or efficacy, or you consider something to be true and honest. If I throw a cup of boiling water up in the air, I believe physics professors when they tell me it will badly burn me when the laws of gravity pull the cup and water back down. Humanists believe in leading ethical lives.

Associated far too often with religion, faith means believing in something for which there is no proof. Faith simply means having complete trust in something. Even though I’ve never seen it, I have faith that I have a brain. There’s no proof whatsoever that this will happen, but I have faith that someday my roommates will do their own dishes.

Finally, that offensive “R” word. Religion is a man-made system of rules and behaviors that separates a person from God. When I hear the word, I picture God throwing me from a paddle boat into a cold lake and shouting at me as I swim towards him. No matter how hard I swim, no matter how hard I try, God keeps paddling just out of reach, shouting, “try harder!”

So no, I’m not asking you to conform to any specific religion and lose faith swimming after God. To quote Jonathan Swift, “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love.” Beliefs and faith more often than not lead a person to showing love for others, like the Humanist approach to leading ethical lives of value to self and humanity. The point is to change, believe and have faith in something and discover hope.

When we believe in something higher than ourselves, we are given hope. Hope that there’s something more than this thing we call “life.” I can hear people arguing about this already. But if beliefs, faith and hope are of no worth, what more is there? A hopeless life is a life not worth living.

Believing in something has profound effects on people, even more so on cancer patients. While praying for their cancer to be cured may not lead to that, their faith inarguably helps them cope with their illness and improves their quality of life. If believing in something gives a person a sense of hope and peace, and furthermore, improves a person’s quality of life, why not believe and have faith in something? What is there to hold students back?

So I plead to the students, believe and have faith in something. I’m giving in to relativity and letting you choose for yourself. If you need an opinion, e-mail me. I’d be glad to talk to you further about this. But all in all, change, believe and discover hope.

Knox is a senior print journalism major and a chief copy editor for The Spectator.