Written by Sabrina Ponce
Our Generation has grown up in a society where the majority is right and everyone who doesn’t agree with them are seen as freaks or are wrong. The U.S allows everyone to practice religion freely, but we all know that society does not always comply with this law. There are over 300 religions and denominations practiced in the U.S, Being a country based off the Christian Faith, The majority are of Protestant or Catholic faith. A lot of Teenagers and young adults have faced discrimination and bullying because of their faith, some teenagers deny their faith and avoid all conversation about religion in order to “Fit in” and not face ignorant stereotypical comments. Hailey Spence, Atiyah McKnight, and Jennyfer Echeverria are three girls who practice faiths that are frequently stereotyped, and are sometimes seen as what they are not; here are their answers and thoughts.
What Religion are you?
Hailey- I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint. AKA the Mormon Church.
Jennyfer- I am a Jehovah’s Witness.
What are some practices/rules/beliefs your religion has that are different from the norm?
Atiyah- We don’t eat pork. We pray daily, only praying to Allah, and only celebrating Islamic holidays. We don’t believe Jesus was reborn. Dressing modestly.
Hailey- We don’t drink or smoke. Most don’t drink coffee or tea. We believe in being modest and not showing off our bodies. We believe in a modern day prophet.
Jennyfer- We preach door to door. We don’t partake in Voting, Politics, or Wars. We do not pledge allegiance to a flag or a country, but we do respect the laws and rules of whatever country we live in, as long as they don’t go against our beliefs. We do not celebrate any holiday. We dress modestly. We live our life according to the Bible. And our entire organization is completely based off of voluntary donations.
Have you made the religion your own, or is it more your parents?
Atiyah- I’ve made the religion more of my own decision.
Hailey- It started off my parents, but as I get older the more it’s become mine just because of my personal experiences.
Jennyfer- My parents have introduced me to being a Jehovah’s Witness, but over time I have grown to care for the practice and the people, and have adapted it as my own.
How does it feel when asked, what are your beliefs? What do you answer?
Atiyah- I sometimes hesitate, because I know people view Islam off of stereotypes.
Hailey- Whenever someone asks about my beliefs they usually have been told a bunch of lies/ misconceptions about the Mormon Church so I feel the need to correct those lies. I always reply with something along the lines of “We are Christian and we believe in the Bible and in God and Christ, we just also have another book giving us guidance as well.
Jennyfer When asked what my beliefs are, I feel confident in what they are and I am eager to share them. I usually say I am a Jehovah’s Witness and they most commonly know what it is, but if a person is not familiar with our practices I explain the concept and beliefs, and if they want to know more I explain it a little deeper.
Do you agree with your beliefs?
Atiyah- I do agree with a lot of my beliefs.
Hailey- I do agree with my beliefs, because that is what God has said to do. I may not understand the reasoning for certain guidelines my church has set forth, but the older I get the more I realize those “too strict rules” have blessed my life and turned me into the person I am today
Jennyfer- I agree with my beliefs 100% even though it might put me in uncomfortable and awkward situation with people who do not believe, I still stand by them.
Do people make fun of your religion?
Atiyah- Yeah, people make fun of Islam/ put Islam down all the time. Normally with stereotypes about terrorism and how we’re so violent even though from the Quran, statistically speaking Islam is the most peaceful religion.
Hailey- People are constantly making fun of my religion. There’s a whole play making fun of it on Broadway! They’ve taken some of these lies and misconceptions and create weird fiction about my church. I’ve had many people come up to me and ask if I was allowed to drink kool aid! Yes Mormon’s are btw. On almost a daily basis I hear a Mormon joke and it’s almost always in a negative connotation. Which made growing up Mormon a little difficult, but I’ve been blessed to live in an area with tons of Mormon friends so most people that know us know we aren’t like a lot of the misconceptions they’ve been taught.
Jennyfer- I wouldn’t say make fun of, but sometimes people say a backhanded compliment.
What is it you base your belief around?
Atiyah- I base my beliefs mainly around the Quran.
Hailey- We as Mormons base our beliefs on the Book of Mormon and the Bible; we also believe that there is still a living prophet on earth to help give revelation and teach us what God wants us to know, which most find crazy.
Jennyfer- We base it off of the Bible.
How does your religion impact your attitude and conduct at school, and your way of living?
Atiyah- It doesn’t really affect my attitude. I’m suppose to wear a hijab and fully cover my body, but I have a choice and chose not to.
Hailey- My religion has impacted my attitude and conduct I think for the better. I’ve always been taught to be kind to everyone around me. I’m taught to love people and hate the sins. I feel like I’ve always been a non-judgmental person, and I think that’s why so many people open up to me is because it doesn’t matter how they choose to live, I’ll always be there for them. Most know I don’t support the behavior that is against my religion, but that doesn’t mean they are awful people. Most are great people! I also think my religion has kept me out of trouble. Almost no one that is Mormon drinks or does drugs so my environment growing up never had those and so I’ve never had the need to do them. I think I’ve kept out of a lot of trouble by following my churches standards.
Jennyfer- My religion impacts my attitude, conduct, and how I live greatly, we are encouraged to present ourselves as Jehovah’s Witness would (based on the bible of course)
How do you feel about the phrase “Religion is not an Opinion”?
Atiyah- I’m sort of iffy on if religion is an opinion. Because we will never really know if it’s real or man made I just kind of have the “to each their own” attitude towards it. I feel if you think religion is for you that’s cool if it’s not that’s also cool
Hailey- I think religion is just one big opinion. It’s what you believe to be true. To the person in the religion it’s a fact that they believe in it and its true. But to other someone’s religion is merely there opinion on whether it’s true or not.
Jennyfer- I feel religion is a life style, but I would not act rudely toward someone who feels different about the phrase
How do you deal with Stereotypes?
Atiyah- When someone says stereotypes to me about Islam I just ask them what makes them say/ believe that. Then I just provide facts from the Quran or statistics
Hailey- I don’t think I really deal with them necessarily. I think when people meet me they find out who I am as a person and those stereotypes just go away.
Jennyfer- I don’t agree with stereotypes. If it were a “good” stereotype I would definitely encourage acting like it, but would not judge you based on that stereotype.
For the last question I made them decide whether they would rather adapt their religion to society, or change societies views toward their religion.
Atiyah- I would rather adapt my religion.
Hailey- If I could I wish I could adapt societies views toward my religion. We are judge based off either early practices that are no longer in place, how other churches preach about us (usually negatively even though they don’t know anything about us), or having themselves met a Mormon. Society views Mormons as freaks who can’t conform to how the world is today and I wish more people knew who we really are instead of what the anti- Mormon website they are getting their information from is telling them. Mormons are usually well-respected people once people know them.
Jennyfer- I would definitely rather change society’s views on my religion, and I wish people would see where we are coming from. Instead of judging us right away.
Atiyah, Hailey, and Jennyfer have all been raised in a religion different to the majority of the world. They have gone through stereotypes, ignorance, and have had to sometimes be the first person to explain to someone that they are not the stereotype many perceive them to be. Many times people grow up believing that because you do what everyone else does you are automatically correct and you have the right to make others feel bad for what they do, or believe. This mindset has caused thousands people to hide who they are, and what they believe in order to fit in.
Instead of listening to what others say about certain faiths, you should educate yourself about that faith, talk to someone of that faith, and never judge it before you know it. Many faiths are not what they are said out to be, the only person who can determine a real opinion over something is yourself, but you have to learn before you can make it. For anyone out there suffering because of these things, I hope that after reading this article you feel better knowing that you are not the only one. And for the others who belong in the majority I hope you educate you, and stop stereotypes about others religions.