Secularism and Religion at Beloit

By Carolyn Stransky

By definition, to be secular is to be not subject or bound by religious rule. Although many Beloiters take this stance, they fail to recognize the repercussions of having a secular campus because it has become the norm.

In his upcoming film, “Secularism and Religion at Beloit,” honors term student Jesse Lopez-Cepero ’11 investigates the normative culture of secularism at Beloit and how it affects students’ experience, both from religious and non-religious backgrounds, in the classroom.

The film has two primary theses, the first one being that secularity at Beloit changes the beliefs or assumptions people have about the world. “Our campus as a secular campus in a sense marks us, both in our culture in the United States and globally,” said Lopez-Cepero. “It’s something we can investigate because it affects how we as students produce knowledge at the college.”

The second thesis is that secularity is a privileged normativity. “People who are secular operate at a position of privilege that can be understood like how being white gives you privilege,” said Lopez-Cepero. “Since it’s become ‘normal’, people who are secular or white don’t have to reflect upon it and that is a problem when creating a community based on welcoming different people’s experiences and viewpoints of the world.”

Lopez-Cepero knows much about this Beloit experience because he has been living within it for the past four years. “I came to Beloit as a person of a religious background. Although I loved Beloit’s progressive culture, I felt alienated because of certain beliefs that were said in the classroom,” he said. “There’s a casual contempt for Christianity that you can hear in the classroom… and there are a lot of assumptions people make about religious people not having progressive views. This kind of stuff happens all the time here.”

According to Lopez-Cepero, this film is important to all students of Beloit, religiously affiliated or not. “It’s important for students at Beloit to recognize their positionality and how it changes their views of the world, and recognize their own privilege so they can confront the ethical ramifications of that.”

Lopez-Cepero’s film will be shown next Monday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium.



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