How To Be An Ally with the Secular Community

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Secular students are the second largest group on campus according to a student omnibus survey conducted in the fall of 2018. With input from Interfaith Student Council’s Co-President Elexis Kain, here are some tips on how the university can better its  alliance with the secular community. 

The word secular is derived from the latin word saeculum meaning a “fixed period in time or  roughly the lifetime of a person.” Within Christianity, the word saeculum helped to distinguish the differences of earthly finite affairs from those of infinite spiritual affairs. After the Age of Reason that took place in the late 17th and early 18th century, the definition of secular broadened to define anything non-religious and became what is now a blanket definition for a  community of people who do not hold, believe or participate in religion or religion based views.

Not everyone under the secular umbrella fits definitively under the definition of secular, the name is simply a blanket term used for ease of use. Some well known groups of people included within the secular community are: atheists, agnostics, humanists, nones and non-believers. 

“50 percent of UVU students when polled said that they had never talked to someone with a different worldview than them. That’s crazy, because the likelihood of that is not,” said Kain, “What’s more likely is that they didn’t know they were talking to someone of a different worldview because of lack of sharing on both sides or because there aren’t spaces to have these really sensitive conversations.”

UVU’s Interfaith Student Council is helping to create these spaces by holding interfaith forums on and off campus. According to Kain, the purpose of these forums is for students of different worldviews to meet, engage and learn about one another. 

To help create a safe space that’ll foster dialogue among secular and religious Wolverines alike, here are a few tips. 

Be brave

When confronted with conversations that misrepresent what you know to be untrue of those within the secular community, be willing to correct or dispel any rumors and stereotypes. Miseducation of a group’s beliefs, morality and ethics can damage relationships before they have the chance to begin. 

Be adaptive

A person’s religion or lack thereof  is a part of the many subcultures that make up their worldview. Adapt new language to invite dialogue that’ll allow for the exploration of others’ personal philosophies regarding the world and life. This will allow for the humanization of a secular individual to begin eradicating any preconceived notions. 

Be mindful

When in an environment that is predominantly one group, often times those who aren’t affiliated with the culture of that group are isolated from conversations due to lack of understanding of the its contents. Be mindful of your language and avoid assumptions that everyone around you understands common terms or phrases indicative of your affiliation with a certain group.  Explain or expound upon acronyms and slang terms when talking to groups of people where strangers may be present.

Be secure

To acknowledge and accept that there are other worldviews doesn’t take away from your belief in your own. Take the time to explore your own feelings of your worldview. Annoyance, disagreement or lack of understanding of components within your worldview when honestly shared can help create bridges with others in conversations.

Be open minded

Allow yourself to be open to the possibility of having the opportunity to share worldviews with individuals whose philosophies differ from yours. These opportunities can allow for the fostering of friendships with those who may never cross your path if you remain secluded to one community with similar views. 

UVU’s Interfaith Student Council hosts monthly events that will allow for Wolverines to have the opportunity to express personal, or explore others’ worldviews. 

“Being an ally is important. It doesn’t ask you to forfeit yourself to come to the table and do that,” said Kain, “We’re only asking that you allow yourself to come to the table.”

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