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Saturday, Sep 25, 2021

Opinion: It is time for Religion courses to Go?


Like most universities, Mercer University requires students to take a religion course. However, the selection of courses at Mercer are miniscule and seem to be less diverse than most other course catalogs.

Mercer offers six classes to fulfill the required religion section; English 225, Philosophy 240, Religion 110, 130, 150, 170. Only one of these course descriptions, English 225, does not state that the course focuses on Christianity or the roots of Christianity.

At a university that is rated “above average” for diversity by, should we not have more diverse religion courses?

The University of Georgia offers “Any courses taught from or cross-listed with Art History (ARHI), Religion (RELI), ARTS or Philosophy (PHIL)” according to the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences website. In addition to these classes there are 97 other classes that are eligible to fulfil this requirement.

These classes include interesting and diverse topics such as “Dance History,” and “African Cinema.” However the University of Georgia is not only a state school, but is bigger than Mercer, and therefore able to offer more classes.

A private, smaller school such as Brenau University has more in common with Mercer. Brenau actually does not require a religion course at all. Middle Georgia State University, a college very close to Mercer does not require religion classes either. Even Wesleyan College, a private Methodist-affiliated women’s college does not require a religion course.

Is it time for Mercer to drift away from required religion classes? Most students complain and gripe about their classes, and personally I’ve never encountered anyone excited to attend their religion course.

Mercer also needs to step away from the concentration on Christianity. Every course seems to touch on Judaism, mainly due to the commonality of the Old Testament and Abraham with Christianity. “Why Religion Matters” looks at the start of all religions in the world, but still focuses on Judaism and Christianity very heavily. There are several classes that focus just on Christianity.

At the beginning of July 2016, the department changed from Christianity to Religion. However there are still only five courses not primarily focused on Christianity. The Mercer “Religion” department still seems to be a “Christianity” department. Why isn’t there a class concentrated on Hinduism? There is plenty to read and analyze from the Vedas and Upanishads.

How crucial is a religion course? Most students won’t need to know about Abraham or Moses. When will I ever be grateful for having read the Old Testament? Perhaps a course on dealing with cultural differences, or better living would better help students more. I would rather learn about wellness, healthy eating, cooking or general life skills than be studying religious texts.

Tradition is a big part of life at Mercer. Mercer started as a Baptist school and still holds onto some old Baptist traditions. With changing times and changing students, it is time to rewrite this Mercer tradition.


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