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April 05, 2011 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-04-05

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4 - Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michiganclaily.com 0

4 - Tuesday, April 5, 2011 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom 0

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the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109





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Religion is becoming extipnct



Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Share the wealth
Committee unfairly allocated student funds
recent allocation of student funds toward a community
service trip for a select group of North Quad residents
has many students upset. Members of the North
Quadrangle Committee for International Impact may have
had good intentions, but their decision to set aside $2,000
for a community service trip to Peru - involving mostly
members of their committee - was a misuse of student funds.
Community service in developing countries is an activity that
should be encouraged, but there is a clear conflict of interest
in this situation. Funding service trips for a small group of
students is beyond the purview of a residence hall council.


According to a March 31 Daily article, the
North Quad Committee on International
Impact and the Residence Hall Association
recently voted to spend more than $6,000 on a
trip for 14 students to go to Peru this summer
- to help school children. Of the 14 going on the
trip, nine are onthe International Impact Com-
mittee. Of the 450 North Quad residents, all of
whom contribute to the committee's funds as
a part of their room and board, only 14 will
actively engage in community outreach as a
result of this spending.
It is upsetting that thousands of dollars of
community funds were allocated to help a few
students. Members of the committee must
recognize that their primary duty is to the
residents of North Quad, who could have used
the money for community building events and
activities. A tangible goal could be to foster a
climate of tolerance and diversity within the
residence hall. And an international impact is
possible without a trip to Peru. The commit-
tee could have used the money to jumpstart
fundraising efforts for similar causes which
could have involved more residents and raised
greater awareness about internationally rel-
evant issues.

There was a clear conflict of interest in this
situation. Students on the committee have
argued that it made sense for those organiz-
ing the trip to participate and that they would
share their experiences with the rest of the
residence hall through presentations. But it's
difficult to believe that the trip doesn't benefit
the participants disproportionately, since they
receive the majority of the first hand experi-
ence. Perhaps the allocation would have been
less controversial had nine of the 14 partici-
pants not been members of the council that
voted to fund the trip.
Students should also be more involved in
the activities of their residence hall. Building
a vibrant community takes effort, but being a
member of a thriving one can be an enriching
experience. Residents should be aware of their
hall council representatives' actions and par-
take in discussions to make their voices heard
so wiser decisions are made in the future.-
The North Quadrangle Committee for Inter-
national Impact should act responsibly and
reallocate the money for a more fruitful cause.
There are better activities that will fit the mis-
sion of the committee and allow more North
Quad residents to participate.

As society enters the Infor-
mation Age, more can be
questioned and researched.
Everything is on
the table, even
deeply held per-
sonal beliefs
like religion. .
A recent study
by the Univer-
sity of Arizona
and Northwest-
ern University DAR-WEI
suggests that CHEN
religion, and
Christianity in
particular, "will be driven toward
extinction" in nine countries in the
near future. This trend, while dis-
turbing to people of faith, makes
sense as Internet access becomes
more widespread across the world.
Contact with people of other
faiths can cause people to question
whether they picked the right one:
How do you know you have picked
the right deity to believe in? Liter-
ally millions of gods have existed
over the course of mankind, mak-
ing the chance somewhat slim that
yours is the real one.
The trend also makes sense
because scientific progress can
refute many of the basic tenets in
holy texts. For example, scientists
now know that the Earth is billions
of years old, not several thousand
as implied in the Bible. The sto-
ries about Jonah and the Whale,
as well as Noah's Ark, can also be
safely assumed to be fictional, due
to knowledge of digestive acids and
fossil records, respectively (if you
think the Bible is allegorical, those
are your words, not God's). The new
religions are equally as wacky: Sci-
entologists believe that Xenu, dic-
tator of the Galactic Confederacy,
brought billions of people to Earth
and blew them up with hydrogen

bombs in volcanoes, whose souls
are stuck to the bodies of the living
today. How they decided this story
was more believable than Noah's
Ark is beyond me. But if you say I
cannot prove God doesn't exist, I say
you can't prove Xenu doesn't exist.
Many of my friends, even reli-
gious ones, would admit that their
holy texts have stories that cannot
be taken seriously. They even admit
many of the laws in those books are
draconian (by the way, how can
a deity be omnipotent if he can't
make rules that stand the test of
time?). However, they usually argue
that religion has produced a net
positive effect for the world. Even if
their chosen faith is not believable
and their deity's rules are blatantly
immoral, the spirit of their religion
is a good one, they say. It's amazing
how many people admit to think-
ing this, somehow implying that
they don't believe in their religion
and subscribe to it like they are
supposed to. Some non-believers
defend religion in this way, suggest-
ing that it is beneficial to mankind.
I take issue with the statement
that religion has been good for the
world. Believerssaythatfaith-based
groups perform charitable work to
help those in need and give hope
to those in pain. I do not discount
that - people have indeed been
lifted up through faith. However,
those good deeds come at a price:
keeping the "religion excuse" alive.
Historically, religion has caused
much violence - the Crusades
and theInquisition to name two.
Nowadays, religion causes Middle
East violence, the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks, subjugation of homosexu-
als, abortion clinic bombings and
countless other ghastly events. of
course, many believers will say
their religious beliefs do not imply
the endorsement of those violent

activities. True. But as long as faith
is used as the vehicle for these good
deeds, and religion permeates as
a result, others will always have
the "religion excuse" to do terrible
things. Physicist Steven Weinberg
once said that in a regular society,
you will have "good people doing
good things and evil people doing
evil things ... for good people to do
evil things, that takes religion."
How likely is it
that your God is
the right one?
Mankind has already proven
that it can do secularly all the good
things that faith groups do, but
without the aforementioned com-
plications. If we can eradicate reli-
gion and do charitable works from
the goodness of our hearts, and not
because of a higher power, we not
only show true compassion, but we
also eliminate a few of the good
people doing evil things that Wein-
berg talked about.
Religion does not make much
sense anymore in the 21st century.
The Internet and science are expos-
ing many religious beliefs that have
been accepted for a long time. Fur-
thermore, secularism is showing
it's more than capable of providing
charity and hope to those.in. need
-, and without religiousbaggage.
The only thing secularism can't do
is provide a deity to save you ... but
how likely is it that your deity is the
right one anyway?
-Dar-Wei Chen can be reached
at chendwoumich.edu.

Aida Ali, Will Butler, Ellie Chessen, Michelle DeWitt, Ashley Griesshammer,
Melanie Kruvelis, Patrick Maillet, Erika Mayer, Harsha Nahata, Emily Orley,
Harsha Panduranga, Teddy Papes, Timothy Rabb, Asa Smith, Seth Soderborg, Andrew Weiner
Learning from Karlos Marks

Readers are encouraged to submit letters to the editor. Letters should be fewer than 300
words and must include the writer's full name and University affiliation. We do not print anonymous
letters. Send letters to tothedaily@michigandaily.com
Make first se-mester pass/fail

I hate the Every Three Weekly. I hate that
it's funnier than me. I hate that, unlike other
prestigious newspapers, students actually
read it. I hate that it'll probably ridicule me
for this introduction that seems oddly remi-
niscent of that one Julia Stiles movie that's not
about dancing and crying. And I really hate
that roughly every21 days, I can find my room-
mate collapsed in a bean bag, gushing about
how great it is that we have "real publications"
like the E3W on campus. And Pizza Rolls. Sigh.
But as Socrates once told Euthyphro, every
once in a while you have to give props to those
who get it right, even if they destroy your self-
esteem with consistently better humor writ-
ing. So here it is: E3W - kudos for the Karlos
Marks campaign. You did the damn thing.
The idea, in case you somehow missed the
Michigan Student Assembly elections - I
don't know, maybe you were too busy doing
work, having a social life, perhaps sorting your
button collection or anything really - the con-
cept was simple. Satire magazine on campus
began campaigns for Karlos Marks. Marks got
second in the presidential election - earning
more votes than the Defend Affirmative Action
Party's candidates - won representative seats
in MSA and earned a spot on the Department
of Public Safety Oversight Committee.
Marks, however, won't be taking these seats
next fall. Why not? As MSA members point-
ed out, made-up people cannot hold a public
office. Bravo.
What people are really upset about - wait,
is anyone actuallyupset? Huh. Well, what peo-
ple should be concerned about - ok, ok, what
people should kind of pay attention to is the
fact that a fake person beat out real, live candi-
dates: And rightfully so - it looks like MSA is
calling for another crusade against imaginary
people. Both me and my pal Norton are wor-
ried; who are actuarial math majors going to
talk to now? But my editor wants a sophisti-
cated analysis of student apathy and the lack
of faith in this school's governing bodies, and
apparently a narrative with my imaginary
duck is not the best way to make the point.

Sorry, Norton.
Anyways, onto the whole doubting MSA
thing. As it turns out, humor magazines on
this campus can do more than make poop
jokes relevant for 20-somethings. Regard-
less of their intentions, staff members of the
Every Three Weekly made student elections
more relevant than they've ever been - which
is to say, almost not entirely pointless. Even if
Karlos Marks was nothing more than a hom-
age to Carlos Mencia by means of a Santa Claus
look-a-like, Marks's popularity made it clear:
Beards are in again. Holla. And also students
don't trust MSA.
Perhaps distrust isn't exactly the right word
- after all, why would anyone distrust an
organization that takes in more than $500,000
of students' money and then spends meetings
passing resolutions on funding for new judi-
cial robes? Which I totally understand, by the
way - I was also disappointed when college
wasn't just like Hogwarts. No, no - frankly,
students just don't give a damn about MSA.
Despite the overwhelming popularity of fun
events like last November's Flu Day, MSA just
can't seem to connect with students. Which is
why every year, candidates have to try to get
people to care that their campaigns are all
about getting people to care. And, of course,
getting Nimbus 2000s.
Maybe MSA should take Marks's win as a
sign. A sign that next semester, maybe they
really should try to connect with more than
just the Quidditch Team. And though I'm pret-
ty indifferent about it, Norton seems to think
students should stop being so apathetic. Yes,
it's painful to log on to the website and vote
- you might not be the first one to re-blog the
latest picture of Paula Deen riding Snooki on
Tumblr - but you are paying MSA more than
seven bucks a semester. Might as well try to get
something out of them.
Anyways, I think I'll end this here - gotta
go burn every copy of E3W on campus. I'm
funny too, dammit.
Melanie Kruvelis is an LSA freshman.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology does it. So
does John Hopkins University. And Brown University.
Maybe we should think about it too. What exactly is it
that these schools do, you ask? They allow first semester
grades to be pass/fail for freshmen, providing a blessed
grade buffer during that stressful time when students
are first adjusting to college life. I'd like to think that in
terms of rigorous course load and caliber of students, the
University of Michigan is no less than the big names on
the East Coast. And perhaps we should consider taking a
leaf out of their books.
Having almost completed my first year and looking
back on the first semester, I can conclude that along with
being a completely new and exciting experience, fresh-
manyear was the biggest blur of my life. Between adjust-
ing to living away from home, keeping up with class
work, meeting dozens of new people and, on top of it
all, maintaining a pretty respectable GPA, there was no
time for anything else. Needless to say, freshman year is
a challenge - with so much to keep track of, it's difficult
to juggle everything without losing your mind.
Taking into account the stress of adjusting to college,
some of the nation's top universities have installed a
grade buffer for incoming freshmen. At these universi-
tiesthe firstsemester for freshmanyearlis pass/fail. This
is something the administration here should seriously
consider. There are regular concerns about the mental
health of college students, especially when they are first
adapting to college life. And let me tell you, the looming
pressure of writing an A grade English 125 paper, while
simultaneously not failing the upcoming orgo, calc and
econ exams, doesn't do much for mental health.
Coming into college, what I found most shocking was
how much grading differed across classes. It isn't just
about managing time skillfully enough to do all the work
(and do it well), but there is also the added burden of
calculating exactly what counts and how much it counts
for. It very quickly becomes a game of figuring out what
percentage of points is necessary to get by, and what is
the easiest way to achieve that.

Not only that, but each professor and GSI has a differ-
ent lecturing and teaching style. It's one thing to have
to adjust to a new schedule and course load, but to also
have to decipher the teaching and grading styles of each
instructor is an added burden. It often takes new stu-
dents a good three to four weeks of classes to get a grasp
of what is demanded and how they will be evaluated.
And, in a 15-week class, there isn't always much time to
catch up.
Not fretting about safeguarding a delicate GPA frees
up time and brainpower for first-year students to delve
into classes. As a freshman, when you're taking classes
to explore potential career paths or reaffirm current
ones, it makes sense to do just that - explore. But, when
you're stressing about getting a 90 percent on the next
exam, there isn't much time or energyleft for exploring.
There are people who will say a pass/fail policy will
just give incoming freshmen an excuse to not take
school seriously. But, the students who genuinely care
about the class will still care. By not being bogged down
by the pressure to get good grades, they will have more
opportunities to creatively explore the subject. They'll
be less worried about making mistakes or getting
penalized for having the wrong answer, which means
students will be more likely to take risks in terms of
how they approach a topic. They'll be inclined to begin
thinking about the topic and field of study itself, as
opposed to the end grade.
Sure, there's a difference in the quality of work
demanded at the college level, and freshman year is
expected to be tough. But we've all heard the disaster
stories from freshman year - the classes that we never
imagined would be so tough, the professors whose lec-
tures were more a cryptic code than lessons and the 0
papers that just didn't get written coherently at 3 a.m.
I'm not saying this should be a free-for-all. I'm saying
we all would have wanted a little bit of a break. Just for
one semester.
Harsha Nahata is an assistant editorial page editor.

f .


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