Written by Grace Ryan, Contributor
On Wed., October 23, Furman hosted its annual God? Forum. Many students were drawn to the cultural life program (CLP) for its intriguing title, some hoping to finally find an answer to the persistent question of the existence of a heavenly power. The CLP, however, offered little in terms of answers, but rather brought together non-believers and staunch believers alike, allowing all parties the chance to articulate and reconcile their own ideas on religion.
Although sponsored by Campus Catholic Ministry (CCM), the God? Forum is open to all. Maddie Tedrick, one of CCM’s student leaders, said that, like the event, CCM “provides Catholic students on campus with community, fellowship, and a place to worship,” but the organization is not exclusive; all events, from Sunday 9pm Mass to weekly Wednesday fellowship nights, are open to everyone.
Margaret Maloney, another one of CCM’s leaders, described the God? Forum as an event specifically tailored to attract minds of differing thought; after all, she notes, it is “a space where people can ask questions about other faiths, learn about beliefs that differ from their own, and share their own personal beliefs without the feeling of pressure or judgement.”
I had the chance to attend the God? Forum, and as Maloney suggested, diversity of opinion was plentiful from the start. At my table, I found myself sandwiched between a devout Catholic and an atheist. The rest of the group was composed of a smattering of other religions, and resting in the middle of our table was a card of pre-fabricated questions designed to spur on our conversation. The card, in hindsight, was unnecessary. As our conversation bounced from topic to topic, each student willingly sharing their own experiences with faith while others respectfully listened.
In my experience, the overwhelming atmosphere was one of acceptance. After twenty minutes of discussion, the tables rotated and new groups were formed. When the CLP came to an end, however, many of my questions about God remained unanswered. Nonetheless, I have come to understand that the CLP was not intended to answer all of those questions. Instead, it was meant to facilitate a debate that makes each student think about faith in new ways.
Lizzie Robinson, a Furman student who attended the CLP, said that “the God? Forum was a really great, unique experience in which people could come together and share what they believe. I was able to express my own beliefs while also being exposed to new ideas/beliefs. I think having those types of conversations allows you to both question and confirm your beliefs, which ultimately leads to growth.”
Furman is home to fifteen different student groups related to religion and spirituality, whose focuses range from Hinduism to non-religious study and seemingly everything in between. Daniel Chapel hosts a variety of worship services weekly, and the surrounding Greenville area also offers opportunities for students or faculty seeking additional opportunities.