Noctiluca

Stereotypes Surrounding Different Religions

Olivia Molter, Photography Editor

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A study done by the Pew Research Center in 2017 measured Americans’ feelings toward various religious groups. Participants were asked to quantify their feelings about different religious groups on a scale of 0-100, 100 representing the warmest and most positive feelings and attitudes and 0 being the most negative or coldest feelings toward.

It’s no surprise that the religious groups that received the lowest overall scores are those with very small populations in the US compared to more common religions. These religions and affiliations are disliked because, without significant representation in the US, they’re misunderstood. The theme of this issue of the Noctiluca is “black-and-white thinking”, or, more specifically, seeing beyond black-and-white thing. I wanted to give members of the three lowest-scoring religions a platform to address and dispute some of the stereotypes associated with their religion. The three students featured in this article are friends and classmates, people many of us have known for years. The hope is for everyone to start to see beyond the labels given to people who are different from us and start to see just how much we all have in common.

 

Nathan Syring

Senior at Appleton North

Mormon American

 

Stereotype: All Mormon men have (or aspire to have) multiple wives

“No. Okay, so some weirdos might aspire to have multiple wives, but that’s definitely not a part of the doctrine of our church. We don’t encourage having multiple wives. That was something that was done away with by the end of the 1800s.”

Stereotype: That Mormons can’t have fun

“Well…I mean…that depends on if your definition of fun involves drugs and alcohol. We don’t think that we can’t have fun because none of us feel that we’re not having fun. We don’t feel like we are missing out on anything.”

Stereotype: Mormons have weird eating rules

“If you’re not familiar with them they do seem really weird. Other religions have things they don’t eat. We don’t drink coffee, alcohol or anything made from tea leaves.”

Stereotype: Mormonism is a cult

“Well no. We don’t have a cult leader. We are not cut off from other people or anything. We are not a cult.”

Stereotype: Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are the same thing

“Yeah no.”

Stereotype: Mormons are obsessed with Utah

“In the 1800’s the Mormons got literally kicked out of cities by mobs with torches and pitchforks. They ended up in Utah where no one was bothering them, so that’s where they stayed, so that’s where most of them are. I don’t like Utah.”

Stereotype: That all Mormons have to go on mission trips

“Yeah, people go on mission trips to other countries to help people. My brother is one right now, you go 2 years, to somewhere and you spend all your time just finding people to teach.”

Closing thoughts

“People sometimes assume that Mormons dislike other religions, but that’s not true. We want to be kind to everybody.”

 

 

Our Second student is an Atheist at Appleton North. They wished to remain anonymous.

 

Stereotype: Atheists have no morals

“Not all morals revolve around religion. I can figure out what is right and wrong based on my own experiences, not based on a book.”

Stereotype: That Atheists are against religion

“I do not hate religion. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. I’m not going to be offended if people believe something different from me. People assume that not having a religion must mean you hate religion. That’s not true. Not having a god and not believing a god doesn’t mean you can’t be accepting or understanding.”

Stereotype: Atheists like Satan

“Satanism is a religion in and of itself. If I loved Satan, I’d be a Satanist, not an Atheist.”

Stereotype: Atheists were just raised wrong

“You can’t just believe that you were raised “right” based off of where you think you are in life. I feel like that’s just an argument from someone who has a very strong belief in their own religion and maybe doesn’t look outside the bubble of their own religion. Also, just because I am an Atheist doesn’t mean my parents are Atheists. It’s what I believe, not my parent’s beliefs or anyone else’s beliefs.”

Stereotype: That Atheists are unaware of religion

“You cannot be unaware of religion. It’s literally forced upon you everywhere you go. There’s billboards. There’s shirts. There’s jewelry. There’s websites. It’s in the news and politics. You have religion classes. Even in AP World History, most of what you talk about is religion. The Pledge of allegiance says “Under God.”

I feel like a lot of people use religion as almost a security blanket for not knowing, not truly knowing, what happens when you die. Obviously, that’s a terrifying thought and a lot of people use religion to feel better about it. I don’t feel need to be comforted or protected by a higher being when I die.”

Stereotype: Atheists are selfish

“That doesn’t even make any sense to me. How does your religion make you more caring of other people? You’re saying that I’m selfish, and that I don’t care about people, while some religious people who claim to have a very loving and forgiving God are treating certain groups of people (homosexuals, other religions) terribly.”

Stereotype: That Atheists are sad because they have nothing to look forward to after death

“I don’t believe in anything after death. When you’re dead, you’re dead. But just because I feel that that’s when my life ends doesn’t mean I have nothing to look forward to. I feel that not believing in an afterlife helps you lead a more fulfilling life. I believe that I have to make my time while I’m still alive count. I feel that I almost have more to look forward to in the lifetime that someone who bases their actions around getting to an afterlife.”

Stereotype: Atheists have no meaning in life

“I can come up with my own meaning and goals in life. I want to travel the world. For me, that makes my life meaningful. I almost feel that it’s more freeing to not have to live by a set of rules given to me by a church. I don’t need someone to tell me what will make my life meaningful.”

Closing thoughts

“What you believe is what you believe. Obviously, we have a very long way to go, but what I believe or what I do with my life should not affect yours.”

 

 

Sara Zaidan

Senior at Appleton North

Muslim American

 

Stereotype: That Muslims are terrorists

“First of all, there are like 2 billion Muslims in the world and if all of them were terrorists, everyone in the world would be dead, I’m pretty sure. So obviously, we’re not. The thing that makes people think is the media. You have ISIS and everytime there’s a Muslim committing a terrorist attack, it’s covered. When the media is trying to create a specific image, it’s going to extensively cover stories that promote this image, and push aside other irrelevant stories. When any other person commits a crime, they are not labeled by their religion, but when it is a Muslim, that headline is everywhere. We as Muslims are often told to apologize for these bad people, but that shouldn’t be the case because they just don’t represent us.And all these attacks that happen, in Islam we are taught that killing one person is like killing all of humanity and saving one person is like saving all of humanity. So just that act of terrorism: are you even a Muslim? You’re literally disobeying the whole idea. And so instead of focusing on this small number of acts that happen in the name is Islam, meet a Muslim. The majority of Muslims don’t do these acts and you just have to go out there and meet somebody, you know? In a lot of these smaller (less diverse) places, they’re probably going to think every Muslim is a terrorist, all I see on the tv is Muslim terrorists, when that’s literally nothing to do with Islam. It feels like the media is trying to give that image because it gives everyone something to fear.

Muslims are not terrorists, we are peaceful people.”

Stereotype: That Muslims hate Christians

Since I believe in heaven and hell, it’s like I want you to be religious but I’m not going to hate you if you’re not. Like for me, I wear a hijab. Some Muslim women don’t. I’m not going to judge those people. I don’t care. Like yeah, it’d be cool if you wore a hijab but that’s not my life, that’s not my place. We also believe that God judges everyone, one of the most important things in Islam is that you’re judged on your intentions, not just your actions. So you could give a million dollars to charity, but if your intention is to show off then there’s no point. There’s no way of knowing what’s in somebody else’s heart. Know one ever knows, but God does. I don’t hate Christians, Muslims don’t hate Christians.”

Stereotype: That Muslim women are forced to wear hijabs

A lot of people think that we are forced to wear hijabs but that’s not the case. It’s written in the Quran that women and men alike should be modest. Not only through clothes and how we look on the outside, but through your actions; don’t be extravagant buying things, don’t be screaming and laughing like crazy. Both men and women: be moderate in your actions, don’t go over the top with everything. So that being said, wearing a hijab is a choice that a woman makes herself. It says it in the Quran, I want to follow it, I want to obey my god, I want to wear my hijab. Like that’s not something my dad told me to do. Obviously they recommend “Oh yeah, in Islam we were a hijab because of these reasons, you should wear it when you get older.” When I was younger, I started wearing a hijab in 5th grade. I just wore it because my mom wears it, that’s what I knew, so I was like “Okay, I’m going to start wearing a hijab.” But as I grew older I started understanding the real meaning behind: it’s for modesty and so people judge you based on your intellect and your personality, rather than judging you based on your looks or your body. Especially in this time, with girls being reduced to their sexual allure and treated like they’re objects just based on their bodies and stuff, I’m rejecting this idea by choosing to wear hijab. This is keeping me respected as a human. And yes, I’m not going to deny that unfortunately there are people in some countries and some women that are married to men  who say they have to wear it. But that is not religious, you can’t force someone to do those actions, you can’t hurt them to do that. That doesn’t even make sense, you’re not allowed to oppress somebody. You’re not supposed to oppress somebody into doing something, like there are many hadiths about how “the oppressors will be punished”, if it’s in this life or the one after: you can’t oppress people.”

Stereotype: That Muslims have a sexist culture

Some people think that Islam is sexist because in some Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia women have not been allowed to drive. I definitely disagree with that because the Prophet’s wife literally road a camel on that same land, so I don’t know what they’re doing over there! Just because a country doesn’t allow something doesn’t mean it has to do with their religion. A lot of people confuse religion and culture, especially in Muslim countries. They’ll say “Oh don’t do that, that’s not good for a women to do.” That’s culture. That’s not religion. A lot of people try to justify religion with culture. You can’t do that. Culture is imperfect and our religion is made to be perfect, so a woman can have all her rights. Also I lived in Saudi Arabia for 2 years, my dad worked there. I actually thought some aspects of it were kind of freeing for women because they have, like, malls just for women. So if they want they can take off their hijab, and have fun and do whatever they want. They have amusement parks just for women. They don’t have any of this for men and it’s really cool.

Also Muslim women are capable of working and achieving their goals. There are many Muslim women doctors, actually in Muslim countries the norm is that engineers are women. Here women get scholarships to be an engineer because there’s very few women in that field but over there they are trying to hire more men in that field to add diversity. Islam is not sexist. Culture may be. But Islam made everything equal, especially in the eyes of God: our actions are the same. A man commits a sin, a woman commits a sin, we get punished the same way and when we do good deeds we get rewarded the same way. A man is not higher than a woman in Islam. There are even many hadith about the mom and how she should be valued,

“A man once consulted the Prophet Muhammad about taking part in a military campaign. The Prophet asked the man if his mother was still living. When told that she was alive, the Prophet said: ‘Then stay with her, for Paradise lies beneath her feet.’ (Al-Tirmidhi)”

Meaning if you want to be successful and go to heaven, pleasing the woman who gave birth to you is the way to go. Great respect is specifically described for the mother.

“A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said: Your mother. The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your father. (Bukhari, Muslim). Again, this shows the great honor God has given to the mother before the father. The father is still to be respected, but this hadith just shows that no, a father is not above a mother just because he is a man.”

 

Stereotype: That Muslims hate the lgbtq community

“First thing I’m going to say is that gay marriage is not allowed in Islam, but also mocking others and separating people is not allowed in Islam. Like yes, you may not agree with their action, but they’re still a person and you should treat them like a person. The Prophet never mocked someone for something they did or something they didn’t do. It’s the action we don’t like, it’s not the person. I have friends that are gay and lesbian, and I definitely don’t hate them.”

 


Closing thoughts

“Mostly just don’t always believe everything you see in the media. The media is working to create an image that they want. Take everything with a grain of salt. Especially if you don’t know that person, if you don’t know a Muslim, don’t make conclusions until you know a Muslim. Ask them, bring up these conversations respectfully. Don’t generalize. The majority of us are not what the media shows.

Islam literally means peace. For most Muslims, their actions are influenced by what God told them to do, and God didn’t tell them to do anything wrong or harmful. He simply asks us to be kind and stay God-conscious and to treat everyone equally. Stay woke kids.”

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