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Holy Academic Perspective, Religious studies club looks to foster campus dialogue

Justin Lee Campbell, News Editor

The Religious Studies Club (RSC) employs a similar level of rigor to an academic course. 

Clemson University’s religious studies program is new to the Department of Philosophy and Religion. Only in its second year, the program aims to study religion and help students gain a greater understanding of the role that religion plays in people’s lives and society at large. 
The Religious Studies Club (RSC) employs a similar level of rigor. Katie Wilson, a junior religious studies major and Spanish minor, is president of the club.
“The Religious Studies Club is an organization that meets … to talk about religion from an academic perspective,” said Wilson. “It’s not for projecting a faith.” Wilson said that the club is for learning and thinking about different issues relating to religion in an educational way.
The club meets once a month at 5 p.m. on Tuesdays or Thursdays in Hardin 
Hall 235. 

“The club is open to anybody, whether they have beliefs or don’t have beliefs,” said Wilson. 
“People can just want to learn about different aspects of religion.”
RSC hosts guest speakers and professors who are experts in their field to lecture and facilitate  discussions. Dr. Laura Olson, a Clemson professor in political science, spoke at the last meeting about religious polarization in politics.
“[The Religious Studies Club] is a forum in which people can engage with a variety of questions about religion without any expectations or pressure to adopt a particular viewpoint,” said Olson, who has taught the class Religion and American Politics. Offering insight into the presidential primaries, Olson said, “The most obvious way religion matters from our vantage point in South Carolina is that the Republican candidates will be engaging in a lot of ‘God talk’ here in the run up to our GOP primary in hopes of [attracting] the support of white evangelical voters.”
Dr. Mashal Saif, an assistant professor of religion, gave a presentation last semester on ISIS. “The Religious Studies Club, in my opinion, is one of the most important clubs on campus,” said Saif. “The club helps our campus community think about some of the most pressing concerns of our time and attests to Clemson students’ intellectual curiosity and initiative.” 
The club begins meetings with small talk and introductions during the first 10 to 15 minutes and usually provides pizza for attendees. Then the guest speaker takes the floor  and either leads a discussion or gives a lecture, followed by a Q-and-A session. However, Wilson said that the club is flexible.
“If we hear expressed interest in a certain area, we’d love to do a meeting on it.”
Wilson acknowledged the importance of maintaining an objective perspective on religion  in recognition of diversity. 
“I think one way we do that is through the people who are presenting, who are often professors and understand that balance,” said Wilson. “The topics are usually not specific to one religion.” Later in the semester, RSC wants to have a dialogue led by a panel of individuals representing various religious faiths to discuss religion. 
Dr. Peter A. Cohen, a senior lecturer in religion, is the club’s advisor. 
“It’s important that the [religious studies] major have a forum in which [students] can discuss current events and other issues in respect to religion,” said Cohen. He also said that RSC is a club in which students can share their views on a variety of topics through open exchange. 
In regards to why she became president of RSC, Wilson said, “Whether or not people adhere to a specific religion … I think it’s something that matters and has implications in so many different parts of life and is important to a lot of different people across the world. She also said that RSC “is a good way to connect with people, learn from people and be able to think about things that are relevant in our world.” 
The religious studies club will have its next meeting on Thursday, Feb. 25 in Hardin Hall 235. Interested parties can contact Katie Wilson for more information at [email protected]

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