September 26, 2012


Jesus was 33. If you add four to that, you’ll have the approximate number of religious and spiritual groups and networks on campus. Whether you’re Sikh or secular, humanist or Hindu, atheist or Zoroastrian—or you’re just interested in trying something new—there’s a campus organization to sate your spiritual or secular desires.

For Atheists/Agnostics/Humanists/Secularists and more, there’s the Secular Alliance, an organization founded three years ago that began as a small group of students “meeting once a week to watch YouTube videos” and discuss secular issues. It’s grown since then to an active community that hosts talks, participates in debates, and provides a home for all those seeking fellow non-believers or questioning religion.

There are also spiritual and religious organizations for those interested in exploring the following faiths: Bahá’í, which emphasizes the unity of God, religion, and all mankind; Buddhism; Christianity; Hinduism; Jainism, an Indian faith that believes in non-violence toward all living creatures; Islam; Paganism and Wicca; Quakerism; Sikhism, a monotheistic religion that stresses the individual’s internal religious state and doing good actions; Unitarian Universalism; and Zoroastrianism, a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster.

The University also boasts several Interspiritual groups: the Spiritual Life Council, “a group of undergraduate and graduate students—nominated by their own faith communities—who serve as the voice of spiritual life on campus, organizing the annual Spirit Week and Multifaith Celebration among other events;” the Guild of Student Carillonneurs “is dedicated to promoting the playing of the carillon (the bells in Rockefeller’s tower) on campus;” Interfaith Community Service “offers opportunities to engage in community service and reflection with students from diverse spiritual, religious, and philosophical traditions;” Interfaith Dialogue “is a student-led dialogue group, promoting exchange of ideas between students of diverse faith communities;” and Queer Spirit, which is backed by LGBTQ Student Life, “is dedicated to exploring the intersection of spirituality and sexuality through conversation.” There’s also Restorative Yoga available Tuesday evenings at 5:30 and 6:45 at Rockefeller Chapel.

And for the overstressed, overburdened, and overworked, there are several Meditation groups offering instruction on campus, including the Art of Living, Mindfulness Meditation, and Twenty Minutes Still. For those interested in Buddhism, there is also Samatha Buddhist meditation, UC Shambala Meditation, and Zen Buddhist meditation.

In addition, the U of C is home to an eclectic group of interfaith, denominational, and educational spiritual centers. The Divinity School, located in Swift Hall, is the University’s graduate school for the study of religion. According to Dean Margaret Mitchell, the Divinity School is a “rigorous and dynamic conversation” about the meaning of religion and its vital significance. Every Wednesday, undergraduates can join the conversation at the Divinity School’s community lunches ($4 with a student ID) which feature a new guest speaker at each event. Swift Hall offers more than 100 courses each year across 11 areas of study, including Anthropology and Sociology of Religion, History of Christianity, History of Judaism, History of Religions, Islamic Studies, Philosophy of Religions, and Religion and Literature. Affiliated institutions include the Joseph Bond Chapel, the Baptist Theological Union, Disciples Divinity House, and the Hyde Park Cluster of Theological Schools.

There are also the Hillel Jewish Center, Chabad Jewish Center, and JUChicago, which serve as Jewish resource centers. They connect students to opportunities like courses and programs offered through the University’s Chicago Center for Jewish Studies; study abroad and alternative break trips in Israel; and employment. Weekly Shabbat dinners at Chabad are open to all students for free.

The most visible center of religion on campus however, is Rockefeller Chapel. A major performing arts venue, it is also the home of the Rockefeller Interreligious Center. Hindus involved with Hindu Student Sangam, for example, meet for prayers and discussion in Rockefeller’s Hindu Prayer Room each Sunday. Hindu and Muslim students say daily prayers in the same chapel where Christians take Communion and Buddhist students meditate.

Here’s the thing: At Chicago, you can continue to practice your faith. Or question it. Or reject it. Or explore different faiths and see if one is more enriching for you. And if you’re a secularist, there’s a place for you, too. Do what you’d like.

For everyone else, there’s always Kimbark Liquors—“Where fun gets resurrected.” Praise.