As incoming freshmen begin trying to find their niche on campus, they will find more than 50 registered religious groups offering spiritual comfort and a sense of community.
Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and other religious groups are represented on campus, though the majority of Virginia Tech students are Christian. Approximately 30 of the registered religious groups on campus are Christian.
“We live in a compartmentalized world, so people see organized religion as structure, and individuality as freedom for the heart to believe,” said Father John Grace of the Catholic Campus Ministries. “But when they come together is when you have the good stuff.”
He said he believes that for many students, there is a lack of connection between individual spirituality and organized activities.
“The gap between organized religion and spirituality is another problem,” Grace said. “Spirituality tends to be very personal and individualistic. But religion means bind together.”
As freshmen come in, they are faced with the decision of whether or not to join these groups, and the struggle to define their religious identity. At the same time, many returning upperclassmen are deciding how they want to continue their religious paths.
“I have never found that the religious identity question is not connected to other questions of personal identity,” Grace said. “I find that a lot of times students later on in college say they want to belong (to religious groups) because of the values they hold and this is really what they believe in. Freshmen will be coming in trying to find how they fit in in this new world of freedom, but the upperclassmen have resolved those issues of society.”
However, with so many individual preferences toward religion, it is hard to tell whether more students at Tech are joining these groups to further their religious experiences or whether they are losing religion as the years go on.
“I feel like students lose religion because their parents are no longer pressuring them to participate,” said Chris Briggs, a senior sociology major. “They commit acts most religions forbid such as heavy drinking, lots of sex, drugs, etc.”
Briggs is a non-denominational Christian who attends the Largo Community Church in Mitchellville, Md. However, Briggs does not attend any services on campus.
He said a person’s individual religious views can be changed or lost in the process of trying to find themselves.
“I think that people feel more attached to their communities at home because that is what they have grown up with.” Briggs said. “As a result, I think people are more religious in terms of going to services when they are at home instead of while they are at school. It is also a time issue having to balance school, extra activities, and work.”