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Real Worth of Religious Diversity Transcends Spirituality

Guest column by Phil Marfuta

I'd like to applaud the column by Stacey E. Blau '98 ["Religous Groups Can Often Be Divisive, Aug. 27]. There are many atheists, agnostics, humanists, Jews, Muslims, Pagans, and other religious groups here at MIT.

The campus is a hodgepodge of ideas, backgrounds and beliefs, jostling around in this little environment we call home for most of the year. Many of these groups are excessively underrepresented, and do not get nearly as much space or publicity as Christianity. For example, I know there are many Indian students enrolled at MIT, but I find an alarming paucity of literature pertaining to Hinduism or Jainism.

I enjoy soaking up ideas other than my own, gleaning bits of useful wisdom from each. However, I resent indiscriminate bombardment to the nth degree. In the packet I received from the Association of Student Acitivites at my home address, there were phone numbers, office locations, people to reach and e-mail addresses for dozens of religious groups, 90 percent of which were probably Christian. I thought to myself, "If I really wanted to get involved, it couldn't be difficult at all."

Advertising excessively does seem to be a problem here, and I offer a solution: keep all the religious denominations' groups in a specific pamphlet listing every religion, who to contact, and how to get more information. (I have seen one such piece of literature offered.) It is a bit sick when one has to wade through 1,000 letters saying the exact same thing, with minor differences only a member of the groups would care about.

On the other hand, I applaud the Christians at MIT for making a firm declaration of their existance. Indeed, there is a popular paranoid belief that the word "science," upon having the letters rearranged and interpreted symbolicaly, spells out "Death of God." At MIT where rational, sanitary thought takes place, one might actually assume that there aren't any serious, practicing religious folk around; the groups aforementioned are simply trying to refute that ignorant misconception. Kudos to them.

As far as "clumping together," as Blau put it, people quite naturally seek out those of like minds, and venture forth infrequently to import thoughts that might bristle their feathers a bit. The Association of Student Activities religious groups are not leaches waiting to pounce upon naive MIT morons with accessable wallets (with the exception of a few, I'm sure). Rather, they offer a feeling of fellowship that other groups can't provide. Call it a security blanket, or call it a bond, but to each his own.

I myself can't say I have found many who share my ideas, as I am actually a Satanist, but recognizing the dearth, often venture out to meet many of the people in Christian, Buddhist, Islamic, and Pagan faiths, in order to soak up other ideas, as I am secure in my own beliefs. I actually find, despite their ideology being contradictory to mine, that they are often unpretensious, non-belligerant, and exude a sense of happiness few people enjoy. So while the administrators of these groups might actually be fishing the waters for constituents, the individuals rarely proselytize, and want nothing more than chat. Be sure to realize the difference.

Lastly, the sucessful search for people like you is one of the more rewarding of human experiences, and should not be ignored. But exclusivism will never be my policy, for by limiting your friends on the basis of any criteria, you limit only yourself. One should seek like minds, but not fear those that seem strange at first; what was once scary to many of us, is now beautiful.