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Religious and ethnic diversity help shape FAU students' lives

Religious diversity at Florida Atlantic University is alive and well.

This comes as no surprise considering the fact that "44 percent of our 27,000- member student body is made up of minority or international students,” President Frank Brogan stated in his 2008 State of the University address.

Religious clubs on campus active and pending approval include a wide spectrum of spiritual interest groups. Just to name a few: Baptist Collegiate Ministries, Jehovah's Witnesses, Living Water Chinese Bible Studies, and even Meditation, Mindfulness and Personal Growth.

Noriko Okada, 25, multimedia journalism major, practices Buddhism and acknowledges the religious diversity on campus.

"I talk to other students about religion all the time and it fascinates me to see how their religion differs from mine in so many ways,” Okada said.

Among the differences Okada has experienced while attending FAU, one stands out: Sunday relaxation. She has come to enjoy what she calls “lazy Sundays.”

“When I returns to Japan to see my family Sundays are just a regular day. Working on Sundays is encouraged. Here, Sundays are more laid back, schools are closed and a significant number of people shut down and don’t go to work,” Okada said.

Although scholars have difficulties defining who counts as a Buddhist, estimates of the number of Buddhist followers range from 230 million to 500 million throughout the world.

Sarah Abbott, 20, is a self-proclaimed agnostic. Apparently, attending Catholic school from kindergarten through 12 grade didn't weight heavily on her decision.

“My parents aren’t very religious, either. They just wanted me to have a good education. They weren’t trying to indoctrinate me with Catholic beliefs,” Abbott said.

She compares Catholicism to just living a good and moral lifestyle.

While this controversial way of thinking about life may spark a heated debate between childhood catholic friends Abbott is not afraid to be different. She walks through the halls of FAU with a lot of political and social views swarming in her head, and at the end of the day she also realizes that these differences make her unique.

“I believe in abortion and although it might come up when conversing with those of other religions we usually just agree to disagree,” Abbott said.

Abbott admits that the process of shaping her spiritual identity has not been easy, and FAU’s philosophy courses have helped a great deal.

“Feminist philosophy and ancient philosophy courses just introduce to me other things to believe in,” Abbott said. “I wouldn’t get along with the person that’s always arguing whether or not there is a God, it's not my focus in life to disprove God, I’m just trying to figure me out and the agnostic religion allows me to do that.”

While religious philosophies abound at FAU, the college is racially diverse, as well.

According to StateUniversity.com, the demographic breakdown of FAU’s population is as follows: African American 1,124, Asian 406, Pacific Islander 27, American Indian/Alaskan Native 69, White (including Hispanic) 15,690, and other 450.

While philosophy and Judaic studies are at the forefront of religious education at FAU, international students and students of various ethnic backgrounds attend FAU and help with their ideas and walks of life shape the religious culture found at this university.

“This is an amazing tribute to the issue of diversity,” President Brogan said.




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