At the end of the survey, students were invited to write about their thoughts and experiences with religion at MIT. We selected the best comments and stories from the survey to fill this page. To publish all the comments would require several pages in an issue of The Tech, so these responses represent just a small sample of the nearly 400 answers we received.
Responses ranged from concerns about the religion survey itself, to stories about religious discrimination at the Institute, and thoughts about how MIT can improve its spiritual life. Opinions varied drastically for every topic; we had feedback from the most militant of atheists to the most devout theists about the state of religion at the Institute.
Students described situations of being told to believe in God while sitting in the fourth floor of the student center, or of being harshly rebuked by friends for trying to invite them to a religious service. Several comments bemoaned the absence of a sense of religiousness on campus — chastising MIT for depriving students of a chance for spiritual growth (“MIT does a terrible job nurturing this essential aspect of our life,” one respondent wrote, “and thereby does a great disservice to MIT students.”) Others decried that religion existed at MIT at all.
We tried to capture the essence of the community’s feedback in these comments. Read on for more!
When you die you rot.
People here are pretty open-minded
Being at MIT has made me more religiously tolerant.
I don’t think it is difficult to reconcile science with religion, but I do think it is difficult to reconcile scientists with religious people sometimes.
There is no forcing of religion onto anyone that I’ve seen since being here. That is a vast improvement from everywhere else I’ve lived
I love the diversity embraced by MIT
I think that people who are super religious and attend MIT have to deal with their contradictions everyday. I feel bad for them until they start telling me I am going to hell.
The stresses and pressures at MIT have at times made me wish that I were more religious. It would be nice to draw strength from something other than myself sometimes.
Religion is annoying. People are cranky when they’re fasting.
I find fuller meaning and joy in my research and studies appreciating it as a God-given opportunity to peek at His amazing wisdom and beauty; seeing good ideas and sparks of insight during my research makes me more in awe of God. Research, study, and teaching are great ways of worshiping God.
I avoid mentioning my faith to because I know they will see it as a sign of my lack of intelligence. While they (might) not be so rude as to express it to my face, I know it would change their opinion of me for the worse.
At MIT, I found a rich and friendly religious community that guided and welcomed me upon my decision to convert to a different faith. I had not been religious before matriculating, and my classmates helped me to enrich my life in this way.
MIT is downright hostile towards religion. People here I so very close minded to the supernatural that they are even more irrationally against religion than religious people are against naturalism. They believe naturalism with more blind faith than any other religion believes in their God. I have been sworn at, insulted, had my beliefs insulted, yelled at, shoved aside and had backs turned on me for inviting people to religious events when a simple “no” would have sufficed.
I find that MIT is largely split on this issue, where there are fiercely religious people, and fiercely atheist people, and when you are religious but it doesn’t inform every facet of your life, it’s almost like you’re doing it wrong in the eyes of both groups and it can be very isolating. The religious don’t want you because you aren’t religious enough, or they want you a lot and want you to be more religious, and the atheists want you to renounce religion all together. I will add the caveat that there are a large number of religious people that will offer for you to come to church with them, but will not pressure you if you choose not to join.
When I was younger, I believed very strongly in the existence of God, and this was the cause of a lot of pain in my life at that time. I suffer from OCD and depression, and starting from the age of ~5, I was terrified of performing a “sin”. I remember spending hours praying at night in secret, asking God for forgiveness for various intrusive thoughts. By the time I was 8, I’d concluded that I was damned to go to hell as a sinner, and only prayed to God to forgive my family and not punish them for my “sins” (telling white lies, cursing, being resentful of others at times). Needless to say, I was lonely and afraid most of the time as a child, and suicidal by middle school. My experience with “God” was not a happy one, and I do not find the idea of my thoughts and actions being watched by a higher power to be comforting in the least. I am currently fighting my OCD and depression with atheism and antidepressants, and I’ve learned not to tell my religious friends about my mental illnesses. I don’t have a problem with people having different opinions and beliefs from me, and I think it’s great that people can find comfort in something. However, whenever people tell me that I wouldn’t need medication if I learned to believe God’s grace, I want to punch through a window. TL;DR — religion, your mileage may vary.
I am disappointed with how religious MIT is. Nearly everyone in my living group is religious. I would think that of all places, MIT would have students that realize religion is ridiculous and goes against the goal of science. How can a scientist, who questions everything, accept extraordinary claims without any evidence on the basis of pure faith? It’s incredibly hypocritical.
I have absolutely no problem with anyone believing in Santa Claus, Zeus, unicorns, dragons, God, or any other fairy tales they would like, so long as such views do not discourage open minded, critical thinking, impede the progress of scientific understanding, and promote hatred and bigotry towards others.
I have occasionally been excluded by Catholic PI’s during fieldwork from scientific discussions because I refused to pray beforehand. I feel that religious discrimination still occurs in New England and that it should not impact how we work. I find people that try to impose their spiritual decisions on me to be rude and unsavory. I would prefer that none of my student activity fees be given to any religious group because these people have treated me so poorly in the past.