Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, in the heart of the Silicon Valley, religion was often downplayed in daily interactions, at least in my own experience. I attended public school, so of course religion would not likely arise in discussion at least in the classroom, but even outside of school, among people I knew or interacted with, religion was not only overlooked, but mocked. While most of the people at my high school did not grow up atheist, most of them ended up becoming so during high school, and even those who were not atheist or agnostic did not do much outside of the mass commercialized Christian holidays like Easter or Christmas, so it was not as deeply embedded in many people’s lives as it could be. There were churches in our city, however, they were frequented mostly by older people or those families with kids specifically attending private religious schools. Those who did practice their faith deeply at school, by being members of “Christian Club” or posting on social media about their work in the church, were often unfairly mocked and ostracized. San Francisco’s liberal politics bled heavily into high schools, both mine and those within my school district, and religions, specifically Christian ones, came to be associated (again, unwarranted and wrongfully so) and targeted for being conservative, specifically after Donald Trump’s election in November of 2016. Just as the few Republicans at my school were bullied and mocked at my school by the student body and several teachers, so were practicing Christians, which is, in my opinion, slightly ironic, since the student body of my high school celebrates diversity and tolerance. The large LGBT community within my school, an overwhelming majority of liberal students, (roughly 95% a survey one year found) and the powerful GSA club, all combined with the lack of open Christians, somehow stereotyped certain religions into being a hateful concept, while other ones, such as Islam, were respected and discussed responsibly.
In this Sociology class, we are learning what types of people choose to practice a certain religion, what characteristics are favored by certain people, and the backgrounds of people, who grow up with certain religious communities or experiences, and grow disenchanted with it, by either quitting religion or converting. Highly religious cities, such as Redlands or San Antonio, do not operate the same as the one that I grew up in, and that means something to the people who live there. Personally, I find religion to be beautiful, and I wish I had grown up around people with more of an appreciation for it than a mentality of “attack.” Chapter 2 of McGuire discusses the meaning of religion, and how it can bring meaning and value into our lives. Obviously more people around the world than I have personally been exposed to can agree with this statement, but I wonder how in my hometown it was more difficult for people to see the value or importance in Christianity in some people’s lives, while at the same time respecting other religions, like Islam, Buddhism, Daoism, or Judaism. The predominance (or lack thereof) of religion, coupled with obvious political influence, is something that hopefully will be addressed more in this semester.