Impact of Religion on Youth

Introduction The impact that religion has exerted on mankind’s history is phenomenal, even in the twenty first century, perceptions are beguiled more by religion than any other factor. Too many policies, political associations, economic stances and military actions are dictated to a large extent by religion for anyone to take it lightly. This holds much greater significance for the people of the subcontinent than other places, save a few exceptions.

Whether this was due to the success of the “Divide and Rule” policy of the British Raj, or the prevalent conflicting nature of the different tenets of the respective sects, the subcontinent was divided on the basis of ideological differences. The vehicle of transformation is the youth, their energy, vigor and enthusiasm have fueled many revolutions in history, in our own we see the contribution of students and student politics.

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But their precarious disposition in society leaves them vulnerable to manipulation. The idea of this text is to investigate the attitudes toward religion and involvement in religion of select youth in Bangladesh. Objectives The central aim is to find out the impact of religion in today’s youth in Bangladesh and compare it with the youth of other countries. Under the heading of youth fall those young men and women between the ages of 18 and 26, among these youth, the project will mainly concentrate on Islam.

The outcome will indicate the directions in which we as a country are heading, and about the ways in which these attributes reflect Bangladesh’s situation and our contribution to the wider global context, keeping in context the recent militant uprisings of South Asia. The paper revolves around 5 questions 1. How much do the adolescents know about their religion? 2. How devoted are they to their religion and what benefits can they derive from it? 3. How does living in a dominantly muslim country affects their lives? 4. Do they want society to be more adherent to Islamic ways or ess? 5. How important is it to the youth to spread their religion and how far are they willing to go for its cause? Methodology The Primary data will be collected by conducting a survey using a structured questionnaire on at least 30 young people. Further investigation will be carried out by interviewing a small sample of young people to find out reasons behind the survey findings and to get feedback. The Secondary data would come from Literature reviews from library books and journals and articles from the internet.

The student participants, in exchange for their time and for their considered reflection on important and also personal aspect of their lives, stand to gain valuable insight into those aspects. There is also potential for a certain amount of empowerment of the participants through the influence that they have on the research process, and through increased awareness of their importance for the future of their communities, their religions, and this country. How much do the adolescents know about their religion?

With the arrival of the internet, information regarding almost any subject can be found in mere seconds. If one was inclined to find out about religion, there are various ways in which the internet alone can come to the rescue. There are forums, FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions), e-zines (electronic magazines), and wide varieties of publications from authors of all accreditations. There are new Islamic channels on the television, and certain Indian channels also have morning prayer sessions for Hindus. Islamic channels like Peace TV and Islamic TV are very popular in Bangladesh.

Translations of the programs on these channels can be found in DVDs in most video stores in Dhaka. With so much information available, it’s hard to assess what is valuable information and what is not. As the American writer Gertrude Stein said “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense. ” When the survey was taken asking young adults about the depth of their knowledge of their religion, only 15% answered that they read the holy text and scriptures and have succeeded in comprehending it.

This is too low a percentage of the muslims taking into account the possibility of distortion as they claim The Holy Quran to be the one true source of their religion. Considering the fact that the proportion of muslims in our vast population is almost 90% (89. 7% according to the Bangladesh Census 2001), this is bad news as Islamic tenets can be portrayed as commands for intolerance and interpreted wrongly this manifests as extremism. 61% of the respondents said that the depth of their learning is limited to what is taught in the school curriculum and portrayed in the media.

This is a good way to learn but not as effective as one pursuing the religion on his or her own and from the authentic base of the religion. Considering something as mind numbingly powerful as religion, it should be pursued from its original source and left to one’s own faculties for deciphering, otherwise the true meaning is never grasped. Second hand information based religion leads to an extrinsic state of belief as opposed to the very beneficial intrinsic sense of belief, which is when one builds a personal relation with God.

According to Hills and Francis (2002), eminent psychologists from Oxford Brookes University, the difference between these two forms of religious practice have implications for future research and for the interpretation of all research on religious practice. There is a substantial difference between what religious people know to be conversion of the spirit or heart and simply conforming external behavior for its own sake, or for benefits derived from religious behavior (p. 3). According to Wiebe and Fleck (1976), the two orientations lead to two very different sets of psychological effects. For instance, “intrinsics” have a greater sense of responsibility and greater internal control, are more self-motivated, and do better in their studies. By contrast, “extrinsics” are more likely to be dogmatic, authoritarian, and less responsible, to have less internal control, to be less self-directed, and to do less well in their studies (p. 4).

Donahue (1985) argued that Intrinsics are more concerned with moral standards, conscientiousness, discipline, responsibility, and consistency than are extrinsically religious people (p. 401). They also are more sensitive to others and more open to their own emotions. By contrast, extrinsics are more self-indulgent, indolent, and likely to lack dependability. In the USA, the studies also showed that church goers who are at the same time extrinsic in their approach to belief are more likely to be racists.

These studies and similar ones have been repeatedly conducted in many forms yielding similar results. Harvard Psychology professor William James was the first one to make this distinction and numerous studies have followed up, we can very simply sum up all of this information into the fact that, religious views obtained using one’s own senses and intellect yield much more positive results than one that is taught and received without any intellectual involvement. How Devoted are the Youth to their Religion?

In the survey, when asked How many times do you pray in a week, 12% answered more than once daily, 38% said that they pray a few times a week versus a 32% that said that they pray on religious occasions only and 18% said that they don’t pray at all. Now although prayer requirements vary from religion to religion, Islam mandates a daily five time prayer. Since the sample was largely composed of muslims, there are a few things to notice from the results. 12% pray more than once daily, even if we assume they fulfill the mandated 5 times a day, they are outnumbered by those who do not pray at all.

People who pray on occasions and Fridays make up 70% of the sample indicating that religious fervor has taken a backseat to convenience of work, school, etc. But when they were asked if they would like to know more and practice more religion later in life, 82% said that yes, they would like to either know more or practice more. Only the remaining 12% based it on the condition of convenience, that they would practice more, if they had time. This goes to show that piety is something young people reserve for an older age.

None of the respondents answered negatively to the prospect of giving religion a place in their life later on. Then they were asked to place career, religion and relations in order of preference and 52% placed relations first versus an 18% who placed religion first. This once again hints that the freedom and desires of the youth dictate their life more than religion at this stage. Only 9% placed career as their first preference. What Benefits can the Youth Derive from Religion? A very important research in psychology is what generally makes people happy.

With happiness in their lives, human beings become more productive and law abiding, they learn well, make good citizens, and are invariably pleasant company. Turns out religion plays a big part in bringing happiness to people, in surveys carried out in the USA, most people accredit their happiness to religion, those associated with religious services experience lower stress and those who feel they have a very good relationship with God have good relationships with other human beings as well as being more in touch with themselves.

In multiple studies carried out across the USA and many other places by renowned psychologists and theologians, detailed below, it was always evident that religion positively affected the lives of people. People who really believed in their religion, and were consistent in attending religious ceremony showed many positive characteristics attributable to religion. The correlation between religious faith and social well being showed up in most studies. Below, many studies are referred which specifically indicate which area of life the practice of religion had an impact on.

The significance this has with the youth is that, these habits are built at a young age, they were picked up by children who are in religious families most of the time. Also, some common youth problems like delinquency, depression, suicide and drug abuse are rare in devout communities, we will also see why these problems persists in a conservative society like ours as well as identify which areas religion builds up in the youth. Religion and Family Stability In a study conducted in Middletown, USA, Howard M. Bahr and Bruce A. Chadwick (1985) inspected the relationship between love and religion.

That study from Journal of Marriage and Family came to the conclusions that young people view love as the central aspect of the meaning of life, but they believe that religion plays a vital part in helping them form judgments and attitudes (p. 410-413). Professors Nick Stinnet of the University of Alabama and John DeFrain of the University of Nebraska carried out nationwide surveys of strong families (2007), they found that 84 percent identified religion as an important contributor to the strength of their families (p. 2). Marital Satisfaction and Divorce Long lasting marriages and greater marital happiness have a lot to do with eligion. Although contemporary American culture may seem to suggest otherwise, study has shown greater bond between spouses and children as well. Christian Smith Professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina describes in his paper “Religious Participation and Network Closure Amongst American Adolescents” (2004) that regular church attendance is largely responsible for building parent-offspring relations (pp. 260-262). A 1993 national survey of 3,300 men aged 20-39 found that those who switch partners most are those with no religious convictions. Dr.

Gregory Price and Maury Granger from the Jackson State University (2005) stated that since sexual behavior is considered sinful in religion, premarital sexual activity is minimal amongst religious youth and this prevents many bad things like sexually transmitted diseases, illegitimate child birth and this also has an after effect on the married life of that individual (p. 6) Religion and Physical Health From Johns Hopkins, D. M. Zuckerman and A. M. Osterfield (1984) published a paper in which they attending church from a young age reduced the chances of cardiovascular diseases (p. 10). The health benefits of religious commitment goes beyond the cardiovascular system. In 1988, Randolph Byrd published a paper which examined the relationship between health and religion and measured such additional outcomes as colitis, cancers of many different types, and longevity measures — concluded that, in general, religious commitment improves health (p. 827-829). Although the youth may not be too worried about health, the health benefits of religion do not show up after a day of prayer, it takes a lifetime of commitment to bring about these changes.

Crime and Delinquency Since religion emphasizes on the punishments for the sinful activities of this life, more religious populations tend to have fewer homicides and fewer suicides. Byron Johnson of Vanderbilt University (2000) demonstrated that religious involvement significantly decreased drug use, delinquency and also increased self-control (p. 44-45). What is true for youth is also true for adults. Intrinsic religious behavior is associated with reduced crime, religion does not advocate any form of crime or delinquent behavior. Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Alcohol is strictly prohibited in Islam. Alcohol is illegal in Bangladesh. Persons who abuse alcohol rarely have a strong religious commitment. An observation made at Department of Psychiatry at the Veterans Administration in Johnson City, Tennessee, is that, “Addicts are less religiously involved than their normal peers, and during adolescence, they less frequently make decisions either to become more interested in religion or to commit themselves to a religious philosophy to live by. ” Suicide The practice of religion reduces the rate of suicide, regardless of any specific culture.

In fact, the rate of church attendance in the USA predicts the suicide rate better than any other factor (including unemployment, traditionally regarded as the most powerful variable). Those who attend church frequently are four times less likely to commit suicide than those who never attend. Conversely, the national decline in church attendance is associated with a heightened suicide rate Is religion all good? There is a practical proof that religion can go wrong and the cause has been expressed as an opinion as well.

It was mentioned earlier the differences between extrinsic and intrinsic forms of belief, certain bad attributes have already been identified with those following an extrinsic sense of belief, dogmatism, irresponsibility, authoritarian etc. How does extrinsic behaviors prevail on a societal level? Consider this line from The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (2006) “When children are too young to know where they stand on issues of religion, their parents take advantage of this tabula rasa to instill religious beliefs” (p. 406). Without comprehending the meaning with its significance, outward worship leads to extrinsic beliefs.

When children are taught to just believe without reason, they stop questioning, they stop using their own though processes to come up with answers, and it results in blind faith. There is a tension between practitioners of social science and religious belief. Darwin L. Thomas and Gwendolyn C. Henry (1990), professors of sociology at Brigham Young University, write: “From the work of Freud and others, much of the early history of the social sciences is characterized by the expectation that involvement in and reliance upon the religious institution will be associated with people who have a low sense of ersonal well-being. ” According to Stephen L. Carter of Yale University (1994), there is repeated evidence that much the same hostility to religion, a hostility at variance with the attitude of the vast majority of Americans, persists among members of America’s professional elites. “One sees a trend in our political and legal cultures toward treating religious beliefs as arbitrary and unimportant, a trend supported by rhetoric that implies that there is something wrong with religious devotion.

More and more, our culture seems to take the position that believing deeply in the tenets of one’s faith represents a kind of mystical irrationality, something that thoughtful, public-spirited American citizens would do better to avoid” (p. 6-7). How does living in a dominantly muslim country affects their lives? In the survey when the sample was asked how the existing level of society’s religiosity affected their lives, 15% responded that they face religious barriers in doing what they want to do.

Certain common practices abroad are not permissible here according to religion, that would include wearing certain western clothes, public displays of affection, the use of alcohol and many others. Some people say these are cultural constraints, but as Bangladeshis, we share the same cultural roots with people of West Bengal, and no such boundaries exist in their culture. The predominant Hindu populace of Calcutta have much of the same cultural traditions as us sans the Islamic ones. 2% of the sample responded that religion should be more relaxed, they explained that devout muslims are very stringent in enforcing their norms over muslims and society as a whole. This adds to a total of 47% of the sample who are negatively affected by society’s current state of religiosity. 41% responded that they enjoy religious practices and 12% said they are indifferent. Do they want society to adhere more to Islamic ways or less? So as they stand almost equally divided on this matter, 0% said they feel society should be even more conservative than it is now when we asked how they felt about the conservativeness of their religion. 4% said they would like it to be less conservative, 50% are happy with the status quo and 6% felt that practice of religion on a societal level is detrimental to progress itself. These data are open to a wide array of interpretations. Not all areas and sects in Bangladesh practice religion the same way. It seems to be more fundamentalist-bent in the rural areas and poorer areas where madrasas provide education to children more than other forms of schooling. Girls going to school is discouraged and women’s rights have not developed in those areas. This has impact on people’s perception of Islam.

In this way, it is detrimental to progress. This could have contributed to our low literacy rate and the fact that we lack skilled labor. The following excerpt is from an article in the The New York Times (2008) by Sabrina Tavernise. It shows how the youth have been mislead in the name of religion, and what they have to say about it now. “After almost five years of war, many young Iraqis, exhausted by constant firsthand exposure to the violence of religious extremism, say they have grown disillusioned with religious leaders and skeptical of the faith that they preach.

In two months of interviews with 40 young people in five Iraqi cities, a pattern of disenchantment emerged, in which young Iraqis, both poor and middle class, blamed clerics for the violence and the restrictions that have narrowed their lives. “I hate Islam and all the clerics because they limit our freedom every day and their instruction became heavy over us,” said Sara Sami, a high-school student in the Shiite-dominated southern city of Basra. “Most of the girls in my high school hate that Islamic people control the authority, because they don’t deserve to be rulers.  Atheer, a 19-year-old from a poor, heavily Shiite neighborhood in southern Baghdad, said: “The religion men are liars. Young people don’t believe them. Guys my age are not interested in religion anymore. ” While religious extremists are admired by a number of young people in other parts of the Arab world, Iraq offers a test case of what could happen when extremist theories are applied. Fingers caught smoking were broken. Long hair was cut and force fed to its wearer. But a shift seems to be registering, at least anecdotally, in the choices some young Iraqis are making.

Professors reported difficulty in recruiting graduate students for religion classes. Attendance at weekly prayers appears to be down, even in areas where violence has largely subsided, according to worshippers and imams in Baghdad and Fallujah. In two visits to the weekly prayer session in Baghdad of the followers of the militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr this fall, vastly smaller crowds attended than had in 2004 or 2005. “In the beginning, they gave their eyes and minds to the clerics; they trusted them,” said Abu Mahmoud, a moderate Sunni cleric in Baghdad, who works deprogramming religious extremists in U. S. detention. It’s painful to admit, but it’s changed. People have lost too much. They say to the clerics and the parties: You cost us this. “” The above example shows the angst and frustration of the young people in Iraq against the clerics who put them in such dire straits. How important is it to the youth to spread their religion? In the survey, a few questions were placed to measure if extremist overtones existed in the sample. The first one was how do you think your religion sums up to others, 56% responded with “My religion is the only true religion”. 38% responded with an answer that says all religions play their part, none are bad.

That is good considering that it’s a peaceful and tolerant answer, not jumping to any quick conclusions. 6% went on to say religion is unnecessary in today’s world. Then the question was asked regarding the religious diversity of one’s friend circles. 21% responded very diverse, 55% responded somewhat diverse and 21% responded that there is not much diversity in the first place. This accounts for a total of 97% of the sample who make no distinction in friends based on religion. Not only does the youth in Bangladesh gracefully tolerate followers of other religion, they also respect them enough to make no distinction.

Then came the question, would you marry someone from another religion. This one sealed the deal as 91% said yes, love can cross all boundaries. Added to the previous 2 majority answers, it can be summed up that, to the youth, love and relationships are the epicenter of their lives. In the survey there was this exact same question, how important is it to you to spread your religion, 12% showed an extremist overtone by responding with a very strong yes, by any means necessary. 50% said through logic and understanding and discussions, and the rest were more or less indifferent about it.

In contemporary society, we do not usually see hate crimes or any sorts of slogans belittling people of other religions. The youth have respect for other religions and have learned to live in harmony. Conclusions Religion should be sought after earnestly using one’s own intellect and understanding, adopting second hand beliefs is not only harmful on a macro level, it also narrows self improvement in many ways. The benefits of properly practiced religion encompass many areas of life positively, studies show that it reduces delinquent behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce rates and suicide rates.

At the same time it improves family bonds, self confidence, marital satisfaction and health. Religion practiced on the outside, or on the social level without building a personal relationship with God stands as the only negative side of religion as it can lead people to become authoritarian, irresponsible and intolerant. Youth in Dhaka are mainly focused on relationships and love, they are religious but they have conserved their full devotion for a later age, most are very tolerant and respectful of other religions. References:

Bahr H. M. , & Chadwick, B. A. (May 1985) “Religion and Family in Middletown, USA,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 47, pp. 410-413. Byrd R. B. (1982) “Positive Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer in a Coronary Care Unit Population,” Southern Medical Journal, Vol. 75 (1982), pp. 827-829. San Francisco, California. Carter, S. L. (1994). The Culture of Disbelief. Yale University. pp. 6-7. New York: Anchor Books, Dawkins. R. (2006). The God Delusion. Houghton Mifflin. p. 406 . Donahue, M. J. (1985). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Religiousness: Review and Meta-Analysis,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 48 (1985), pp. 401-405. Brigham Young University. Hills, P. , & Francis, L. J. , & Argyle, M. , & Jackson, C. J. , (June 2002). Primary Personality Trait Correlates of Religious Practice and Orientation, p. 63 School of Psychology, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK. Johnson, B. R. , & Deli, S. (February 2000). A Systematic Review of the Religiosity and Delinquency Literature. A Research Note. pp. 44-45. Vanderbilt University. Price, G. N. & Granger, M. (2005) “Does Religion Constrain Risky Sexual Behavior Associated with AIDS? ” pp. 3-7. Mississippi Research Center, Jackson State University, Mississippi. Smith, C. (2004). Religious Participation and Network Closure Among American Adolescents, pp. 260-262. University of North Carolina. Stinnet, N. , & Saunders, G. , & DeFrain, J. , & Parkhurst, A. (1982) “A Nationwide Study of Families Who Perceive Themselves as Strong,” Family Perspectives, Vol. 16, p. 22 Tavernise, S. (2008, March 18). Youth in Iraq. The New York Times. Wiebe, K. F. , & Fleck, J. R. 1980) “Personality Correlates of Intrinsic, Extrinsic and Non-Religious Orientations,” Journal of Psychology, Vol. 105, pp. 111-117. Rosemead Graduate School of Professional Psychology Zuckerman, D. M. , & Kasl, S. V. , & Osterfield, A. M. (1984) “Psychosocial Predictors of Mortality Among the Elderly Poor,” American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 119, pp. 410-423. Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland. Bibliography Religion and Spirituality on the Path through Adolescence, a research report on the national study of youth and religion, University of North Carolina (2005)

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