Religion classes help students explore beliefs

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By BETO HOYOS

Religion classes are not often a top priority for college students. Students may stay away because the class is not needed for a selected major, or because the topic seems intimidating.

“I’ve never thought about taking religious classes until now,” Pima Community College student Kenya Jimenez said. “But it’s good to know the meaning behind certain stories in the Bible and to understand how society views our faith.”

PCC is offering dozens of religion class sections for Spring 2014 at five campuses and online. Choices include Asian Religions, Philosophy of Religion, Religion in Popular Culture, Old Testament and New Testament.

Student Victor Gonzales said he enjoyed taking an Old Testament class at the Downtown Campus this fall.

Gonzales said Bible classes like the ones offered at PCC give people a better understanding of Christianity.

“As maturity comes, you start to see a benefit to religious practices,” Gonzales said.

PCC instructor Julianna Wilson taught a REL 220 Old Testament class this semester and will teach a REL 221 New Testament class in the spring.

She thinks students enroll to better understand the Bible.

“People take my classes because they want to know what’s in the book from someone who’s perceived as not being biased,” Wilson said. “I’m just here to set the table. You decide what to pick up and eat.”

Just 24 percent of self-reported American Catholics say they attend mass regularly, according to an article on slate.com. Gonzales said the finding echoes his personal observations.

“When I look at Christianity as a whole, I tend to see a lot of people not practicing it,” he said.

As a young adult who balances college and a life outside of school, Gonzales credits being around positive people who share similar beliefs as a big reason why he has remained devoted to God.

“It takes being a part of a group that really practices what the scriptures say,” he said. “Other people see that and it’ll call to them.”

Jimenez said peer pressure sways religious belief for many students. “Honestly, influences have a lot to do with why people leave the faith,” she said.

Many young people want to separate themselves from their parents’ beliefs, Wilson said.

“When you’re growing up, you want to be your own person and establish a difference,” she said. “If you feel like an opinion is being pushed onto you, you’ll want to resist it.”

Young people may also view traditional religion as out of touch with modern times.

“A lot of churches miss out on an appeal to young people because they’re seen as so conservative,” Wilson said. “They have these dogmatic principles that kind of drive out young people.”

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