Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim students — and students who don’t identify with a religion — were all present at TableTalk’s first discussion about religion this year.
The discussion, titled “Religion: Unlocking the Millennial Mindset,” was organized for students to learn from others in different religions and have discussions about being religious in college.
“There is a lot more we can learn from each other’s religions and everyone’s experience with religion in college,” participant and College senior Jane Xiao said. She added that she learned a lot about religion even though she is not religious herself.
The event, which was held in the basement of Harnwell College House, was completely discussion-based.
“At a certain point, you get bored of going to panel events,” TableTalk Co-Chair and College sophomore Sophia Simon said. “Penn students are so smart and have a lot to contribute, and they often can’t in panel events.”
Event coordinator and College sophomore Julia Barr agreed, adding, “Maybe talking to people of other religions, you can figure out your relationship with your own religion.”
The event was sponsored by the Jewish Renaissance Project, and organized in collaboration with Penn Muslim Students Association, Penn PRISM Interfaith, Penn Newman Catholic Community, Penn Hillel and Penn Buddhism Club.
Participants were broken up into three circles of about ten people each. In discussions moderated by TableTalk members, participants shared their religious backgrounds and how the experience of transitioning into college had influenced their faith.
Discussion topics included the relevance of religion in the 21st century, the differences between spirituality and religion, separation of church and state and the lack of discussion about religion among Penn students.
One group noted that students may not always be comfortable with all the positions taken by their religion and may choose which beliefs to accept. They also observed that society, in becoming less religious and more spiritual, is now less focused on institutionalized religion.
TableTalk Penn encourages people who do not normally speak to one another to break barriers and engage in conversation. One way to do this, Simon said, is through interfaith conversations.
“There are so many interfaith groups on campus,” she said. “We thought it would be meaningful for people of all different backgrounds to come together and have meaningful conversations about their identity, their relationship to religion and what that might mean today.”
This event was held this week as part of student Interfaith group Penn PRISM’s Interfaith Week. PRISM is organizing several discussions and encouraging students to attend prayer services of other faiths.