Not Your Life, Not Your Soul

I’ve talked about this before—this being the religious rights of young children and infants. Circumcision, where it is not medically necessary (in most cases, it is not), should not be practiced upon infants or upon children too young to give informed consent (if you’re too young to have a say in which parent should have custody of you in a divorce, you’re too young to consent to minor elective surgery).

And I have mentioned that infant baptism is creepy as hell. And please do not misunderstand my meaning—if you are fifteen or twenty and you decide that you are a Christian and want to dedicate yourself to whichever denomination of that faith, more power to you. Get baptized. If you decide on Judaism or Islam, then, by all means, get circumcised. At such a time as you are capable of making that decision for yourself.

I understand the mechanics of baptism—which, depending upon the denomination or the family, ranges from a pledge by the family to raise the infant as a Christian to claiming the child’s soul for the Christian God to divinely cleansing the infant of spiritual evil (sin) believed to be inherent to all humans. As with all religious rites, some members of faith communities treat these as expected social events and give them no more thought than one would a bridal shower, while others hold baptism and other early religious rites as being of vital spiritual importance—as well as mandatory.

Please stop it. Like the title says—it’s not your life. It’s not your soul. This extends beyond infancy and early childhood. If you are a Christian and your thirteen-year-old wants to start reading about Theravada Buddhism or another denomination of Christianity or otherwise does not believe what you do—that’s normal.

Adolescence is a standard time for children to begin striking out on their own in small ways—questioning the political views of their parents, seeking alternative activities ( Like the cliche: “But you love football.” “No, dad. You love football! I like ballet!”), discovering where they fit in socially, and very likely reconsidering their religious beliefs. Atheists may take up an interest in Jesus. Reform Jews may look into Orthodox Judaism. Agnostics may start reading about contemporary Paganism.

It’s called being in high school. Students are more open about it in larger schools, when greater diversity makes them feel more comfortable being honest with themselves (my school had about a dozen Pagan students and you were likely to have an openly LGBT classmate in every class, especially by senior year—but, in college, I met people who never met a non-Christian until high school).

It’s also called growing up.

If you’re a Methodist and you are worried that your child may leave the church because he or she is reading about Buddhism in his or her free time, relax. Sometimes, students just read about their friends’ beliefs, or for school projects. And sometimes looking at other faiths can help you to put your own into perspective—and to strengthen your preexisting beliefs. Faith is not worth anything if it cannot be challenged.

Now, in some religions (namely, the Abrahamic religions), being outside of the faith is believed to have severe consequences—beyond simply making one’s parents uncomfortable. I’m a Pagan. Specifically, an eclectic Revivalist. If my child became a Buddhist or an atheist or a Christian, my response would be mild, mostly silent, disappointment. I would much prefer that to a child who did sports, dangerous drugs, or worse, was an otherkin. That’s it. I would never raise my child to be a member of my faith. I would not withhold affection or financial support or dangle incentives in the hopes of getting a hollow admission of adherence.

Why? Because, in any religion, accepting a label and having genuine belief and devotion are radically different. Going through the motions without true belief is completely meaningless.

You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. Your children are not equines—in this metaphor, you can recommend your favorite drinking spots and watch them figure it out for themselves. That way, if they choose the same one that you chose, whether they are in middle school or college or later in adulthood, it will actually mean something.

(Christians are certainly taking notice of drops in church attendance and religious adherence among their children who go to college and, for the first time, find that they have a choice. Give them a choice earlier on, and they’re more likely to make one that will make you happy. Even if they make another choice, it will still be their choice.)



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Duke University Likes Women, They Promise

Duke University isn’t known for being progressive, especially when it comes to women. There were the rape allegations in 2006 and last Halloween’s fratboy party invites, the one’s that asked women to dress as “a slutty nurse, a slutty doctor, a slutty schoolgirl, or just a total slut,” while Alpha Delta Pi’s email read, “Dear bitches, I mean witches.” Classy. Anyway, Duke has always been in the crosshairs of feminists but they’re trying to change that.

The writers of the Duke Chronicle, a student newspaper, are attending workshops throughout the semester including four dinners with visiting feminist bloggers and journalists: Jill Filipovic of Feministe, Irin Carmon of Salon.com, Heather Havrilesky formerly of Salon.com and now a New York Times contributor, and Rebecca Traitster, formerly of Salon.com. In addition to this they are required to write three blog posts to be published on either the Women’s Center blog or Duke’s feminist student blog, Develle Dish.

Duke University, you little devil’s! That’ll fix it. That’ll change the bad PR and fratboy mentality, three blog posts and some dinners with awesome chicks. That’s the equivalent of telling your priest you just raped three koala’s with pogo sticks and him saying “five hail Mary’s and an our father. This is a PR move, this bullcrap. I’m not buying it Duke. I’m not falling for it!



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College is Becoming Cooler

Colleges are finally taking note and taking care of their students. Several studies have been done about the mindset of college students and how stress impacts the body. Think back to when you were in college—when were the most stressful times for you? No, not waiting the three minutes for your pregnancy test to register a “negative” result, or stepping on the scale freshman year—its finals week!

Students hunker down in libraries and pull all-nighters studying for the ever-looming “finals.” The stress is immense. There are always stories of binge drinking, Adderall-popping, and stress eating around these times. Colleges have now started implementing things that will help mentally relax students.

Cornell University installed grass. Doesn’t sound very impressive except they didn’t install it on the quad—they put it in two libraries. Gilad Meron is a recent graduate of Cornell and the “indoor lawn” is his idea. It’s based off the Attention Restoration Theory, “… which says that direct exposure to nature, viewing nature through windows, and even viewing images of nature are restorative.” That’s pretty cool … but it’s nothing compared to Occidental College.

Occidental College designates a room during finals week and fills it with puppies. From 6 pm to 8 pm, stressed out students can take a break and roll around a room filled with little puppies. If that’s not your cup of tea (HOW DARE YOU!) than you can head over and get a massage from 7 pm to 11 pm.

Puppies, grass, massages? Why weren’t these implemented when I was in college? I think it’s a good idea that the puppy time is limited otherwise I think we’d see a higher flunk out rate. I know I’d spend all my time in a puppy-filled room instead of in Psych.



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A Possible Title IX Violation Rocks Yale University

I’ve written before about Title IX and its ramifications on college life; in the past, Title IX has gotten the most press for its effect on athletic programs. But in recent days, the U.S. Depart­ment of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has opened an investigation into Yale University’s “failure to eliminate a hostile sexual environment on campus, in violation of Title IX,” launching what could become one of the largest looks into a prestigious American university seen in years.

The investigation began after a complaint was filed on behalf of 16 current Yale students and alumni, and includes both personal experiences and descriptions of five notable recent public incidents. Some of the strongest language that has been released from the report includes this statement via The Yale Daily Herald by …

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