jummadReligion, in our ever-advancing society, is often looked down upon or seen as “uncool,” especially among our younger generation. Strict religious devotion is, at times, perceived by many as a backwards and timeworn practice that does not have a rightful place in our current era; religious thought seems to be dwarfed in comparison to our continuous scientific expansion and technological advancement.

In essence, the general consensus among those with this perception is this: we don’t need religion. We don’t need a system of beliefs to dictate every aspect of our lives. We can be fully logical, moral and functional beings through practicing our own, self-sufficient mental processes and evaluations.

On the other hand, those who do practice a religion devoutly are often turned off completely by the thought of a Godless world, one where we are all free to make judgments based on our own situational evaluations and experiences. The most common theological protocol is this: you pick a side, make sure that everyone knows that your belief is the right belief and fail to acknowledge the possible benefits of other practices and reasons that certain people may identity with them.

Let’s use the classroom as a metaphor:

“Alright students, I’m going to start off the semester by saying this up front: this is an extremely tough and rigorous class. I don’t announce when my exams or quizzes will be, you are responsible for keeping up with the material. I expect you all to be in attendance, and I require participation from everyone in this class. I assign daily homework assignments, which can be quite involved. Let me tell you right now, you will get frustrated, you will run into questions and problem sets that will stump you and you will find that this course will force you to have your priorities in order, starting now, day one. I can sense the rightful contempt in your faces, but fret not; I’m going to tell you exactly what you need to do to pass this class with flying colors.”

Almost all of us have had something along these lines dictated to us at some point in our academic careers. It’s that class you dread to even think about. It’s that class that gives you the heebie-jeebies. It’s that class that makes you smirk when your younger peers mention it when discussing their next semesters’ schedules. But outside the academic framework, this class is called Life – and you’re enrolled.

Some of us will listen thoroughly to the professor and practice the suggested studying techniques to the T. Some of us know that we need all the help we can get to reach our goal of an A in the class. We’ll read the textbook from cover to cover. We’ll attend every single office hours session and participate regularly. We’ll stay in on weekends and stay up late completing practice problems and reviewing the material from the previous class. We have a designated spot in the library, and we study — religiously —  and it pays off.

Some of us figure out how to study smarter rather than harder, be it by allocating resourses wisely, adopting efficient time management and/or catching subtleties expressed by the professor. These students practice the adage “work hard, play hard.” We know when to read the book, catch the essentials and then move on. We take more than sufficient notes in class and underline keywords emphasized by the professor. We might attend an office hour session every now and then when we’re confused, but other than that, we’re pretty self-sufficient, and we know how to get an A.

Finally, there’s that one student in every class who just seems predisposed to do well. These students don’t find the need to read the text; they study only a few days before exam day and put little to no effort into developing a relationship with the professor, yet they still somehow manage to do well. And, hey, who can blame them? If they’re doing just fine with minimal effort, why not keep at it?

Adhering to the practice of religious customs is parallel to following the suggestions of a professor or another authority figure. If you’ve got your own personal keys to success (aside from blatant cheating), nobody can tell you how to succeed. The metaphorical professor might address some specific guidelines which will help you achieve your goal, and you have the ability to choose to follow them. You can be self-sufficient, which is perfectly fine, or you can read the text from cover-to-cover, which is also perfectly fine. One method is in no way superior to the other; everyone has his or her own comfort levels and needs when it comes to studying. Similarly, everyone has his or her own means of practicing or not practicing religion.

It might be an unorthodox (or unpopular) way of thinking about religion, but at the end of the day, if you’re getting that A, and you’ve got even a remote smidge of a conscience that says “Hey bud, don’t be a shit-head today,” then we’re all playing for the same team.

aliAli Ahmed is a junior from Louisville. He is a double major in biology and business and hopes to pursue a career in podiatry and medical directing. He would classify himself as a realist, a moderate and a passionate hookah enthusiast.