For many young adults, the post-secondary years are a time of reflection about their identity, beliefs and values. Religion can play a role in finding your identity, whether or not you decide to follow it.Professor at the University of Toronto for the study of religion and philosophy, Rabbi David Novak, recognizes this can be a difficult time for young students of any faith.
Novak says in his personal experience of growing up in a Jewish household he eventually realized it wasn’t himself who lost faith, but his family.
“They weren’t anti-religious, it just wasn’t something that was terribly important. My parents were not taking something seriously that was meant to be taken seriously and it seemed to me it should be that you take something seriously or just drop it all together,” says Novak.
Novak describes how the relationship between universities and religion has changed.
“You have to realize that in universities today, people of faith are very marginalized, a lot of the people regard religion as a thing of the past,” he says. “In the old days universities had a religious character but now they don’t so to be a person of faith you really have to have some kind of self-confidence and realize you’re going to be challenged by people.”
Novak also explains that one of the biggest challenges in faith is doubt.
He says doubt shows real intellect in a person but advised that when you begin to disagree with more of what is said than agree, it may be time to re-think your faith.
Industrial design student Adam Brown is a member of Humber North’s Christian Church, The Embassy, and admits he had questions at a young age as he tried to decide whether to continue practicing his parents’ religion.
“If they grew up in the church, they become too comfortable and they rely on this support structure that has been there their whole life and once they move out of that they haven’t prepared themselves and they don’t know how to deal with that not being there,” says Brown.
Rabbi Novak has some advice for students looking for answers about faith.
“Number one is there should be a lecture you heard or presentation by a faculty member that absolutely made such an impression on you that years later you remember what was said, you remember what the room looked like, you remember what the person looked like and this really had a tremendous impression on the way your thinking is going to go.”
He also encourages students to read.
“There should be one book that blows your mind, there should be a book that you read that absolutely gives you sleepless nights because it challenges everything you believe in,” Novak says. “It forced me to examine my faith in a renewed light.”
Brown agrees doubt is a normal part of practicing faith and people shouldn’t blindly accept everything.
“If there isn’t something for you to question what your faith is, what is your faith based on?” Brown asks.