Battling Religious Bias

By Carli Striker & Rachel Beard
managing sports & speak up

“People think it’s a cult,” senior Allie Davis said in regards to her religion, Unitarian Universalism.

Senior Amanda Drottar, who is a solitary practitioner of paganism, has encountered similar assumptions.

“I’ve been called out for being a devil worshipper,” Drottar said. “They hear pagan and assume Wiccan, which is not what I am.”

In a town that is predominantly Christian, many people have misconceptions or negative ideas surrounding other religions. While these seniors are prejudiced for their religion, in contrast they’re open-minded about other people’s beliefs.

“[My religion’s] a lot about being accepting,” Davis said. “You can choose your own deity to follow or not to follow. They’re like, promote the inherit dignity in everyone, social justice, the inherit web of all things.”

Davis’ religion, Unitary Universalism, is a branch of Christianity. Practitioners of this religion believe in seven principles. Some of which include goals of peace, the democratic process and search for truth and meaning. Davis, however, hasn’t always been a Unitarian Universalist.

“My family started searching for a new church when I was little,” Davis said. “This one fit really well.”

Even though her father and sister are Unitarian Universalists, she has had doubts before.

“I went searching because I wanted to be sure I was correct,” Davis said. “I went to a Methodist church for a few months. I tried Lutheran. I tried Evangelical. I thought they were too strict.”

Drottar has had a similar experience with her search for a religion that fits.

“I first started with Buddhism which was the closest thing, but then I researched, and I eventually got [to Paganism],” Drottar said. “I was born into a Christian church, and I didn’t like having a book telling you what to do. I didn’t like the concrete rules, like how you could do ‘x’, but you couldn’t do ‘y’.”

By Drottar’s definition, Paganism is a nature-based religion. Pagans can choose to believe or not believe anything they want, including reincarnation or polytheism.

“It’s fun,” Drottar said. “You can pick anything you want and choose what you believe. It’s kind of like Christianity with all of the branches, but Paganism has just as many, if not more because it’s older.”

Unlike in Christianity, where the branches all follow a general set of similar beliefs, the branches of Paganism can differ widely.

“There are very different traditions,” Drottar said. “There is very extreme, which I don’t agree with it, and it can be very weak, which is what I am.”

Even the holidays practiced by the extensions can vary greatly.

“We have our main holidays, which are the Sabbat, it’s based off a wheel and it celebrates the changes of the season,” Drottar said. “It’s also kind of confusing based on what kind of tradition.”

Another religion practiced by some DHS students is Mormonism, a religion that began in the 1820s.

“[Mormonism] is what most people call it, but it’s The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,” sophomore Natalie Savage said. “People call us Mormons, because we read the book of Mormon. Some of us use LDS, Latter Day Saints.”

Unlike Paganism, Mormonism is a branch of Christianity. The primary difference is that Mormons don’t believe in the Holy Trinity as most Christians do.

“It is Christianity,” Savage said. “They believe different things than we do, but the center is still Jesus Christ.”
Despite this, some other branches of Christianity don’t approve of Mormonism. Some even call the religion a cult.

“Some people are anti-Mormon,” Savage said. “Normally, people aren’t like that. It depends on who I’m talking to. They try to tell me their beliefs, and I’m just like, ‘okay, whatever, this is what I believe.’ Everyone has their own beliefs.”

Mormons, like Unitarian Universalists and other Christians, practice their religion every Sunday.

“We have a Sacra-meeting, then people give talks about religion,” Savage said. “There’s no minister or priest. People from the ward just share things and tell their story.”

A ward is the congregation of the church and a Sacra-meeting is their term for the Christian sacrament, or Eucharist.
Despite the numerous similarities between Paganism, Unitary Universalism and Mormonism, many other people aren’t very accepting of these religions.

“My boyfriend converted to my church,” Davis said. “He was Catholic, so his old church doesn’t like me very much. They say things like, ‘Oh, you’re from that church.’”

Drottar has received somewhat similar treatment in regards to her religion.

“It’s mostly awkward with friends’ parents,” Drottar said. “My friends understand, but some of their parents are like, ‘we need to convert her.’ One parent actually made my friend get me a Bible for my birthday.”

Although Drottar has encountered opposition from parents, her friends have remained loyal.

“My friends understand who I am and that my religion doesn’t make me a bad person,” Drottar said.

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