humans of religion
Religion has been around for hundreds of thousands of years. Neanderthals practiced burial rites in 98000 B.C. and today there are over 4000 religions being practiced around the world. During those thousands of years, people have been persecuted for their religion too.
But it seems that in more recent years being part of a certain religion can harm or benefit you as a person. With the political climate the way it is at the moment in a group of countries, including the U.S. religion can be a scary topic – in the recent election, Muslims have come to fear for their safety. In Iran, Baha’is practitioners fear for their rights and in Saudi Arabia it is illegal to practice any faith that is not Sunni Islam.
How is it that something so fundamental to who we are is such a debated topic? Why is religion something you agree on or you hate someone for? Is religion so bad that we need to hurt people who do not believe in the same things we do?
In order to answer some of these questions and to find out more about the people who have risen to the highest of offices in their religion, we asked a simple question: what made you want to do this? Here are responses from three of the major religions:
Rabbi Moshe Trepp, Texas Hillel
Rabbi Moshe Trepp: “I never decided at any point in my life what I am going to become. Of course I had my passions and interests, but I feel wherever I went in life my hand was held and taken in that direction and nothing was really planned. And me ending up in Texas or the job I am doing or the person I married or whatever I am doing in life none of it was actually planned or that was what I decided I was going to do from a young age. One thing just led to another and that’s where I am at now. My whole life growing up, my father is actually a Rabbi, religious, traditional, observant, everything I did was just because it’s what we do. I can eat this and I can’t eat that, you work for six days, the seventh you rest. Everything was just natural, just like you get up in the morning, you get dressed it’s like this is the way we are. Once I started working myself as a Rabbi, coming out here, working with students, doing outreach on campus and giving classes, learning, doing trips. That’s when I actually becoming so passionate and in touch with who I am. Because or once I had to start thinking about it myself – why do I do these things? What is religion all about? Why are we traditional? Why are we observant? And these things never really mattered to me, I didn’t think about it much, it’s just what we do. But now that students are asking me these questions and people want to know why I do what I do all of the sudden you have to have good answers, you have to passionate and connected with it yourself. And that, I think, was really a whole new beginning for me.”
(Rev) Charles Kullmann, CSP, St. Austin’s Catholic Parish
Father Kullmann: “Well I grew up as a Catholic, went to Catholic grade school, Catholic high school, the idea started coming to me about priesthood, I kind of pushed it away went to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, was a history major planning on pre-law. My intention was to become an attorney and the idea of priesthood started coming back to me about junior/senior year of college and so I kind of fought it for a while and then I thought well I’ve gone to grade school, high school, university never had a break. I’ll take a year off go to the Novicia (which is the first kind of exploratory year for religious life in the Catholic church), get that out of my system and then go to law school. Well, it didn’t work out that way. So here I am. And so I got ordained in 1978, I spent four years as a priest at a deacon in St. Nicholas Church, North Pole Alaska, I was then four years at Old St. Mary’s downtown Chicago in the south end of the loop, half a year in Toronto, Canada at St. Peter’s Church, seven and a half years at St. Andrew’s Parish in Clemson, SC, 8.5 years at St. Paul the Apostle Church on the west side of Manhattan in NYC I was there through 9/11. I was then on Sabbatical for half a year mostly studying in Belgium. I was then eight years pastor of Old St. Mary’s Church in San Francisco, and now I’ve been here almost seven years in Austin. I love preaching. I like being up in front of the people, connecting with them and proclaiming god’s word.”
Imam Mohamed-Umer Esmail (Shaikh Umer), Nueces Mosque
Imam Esmail: “I guess the pivotal point, I don’t really have a pivotal point, I guess it was just friends that I had. A couple of friends of mine who were older than me but I used to look up to them. They adopted this path, so it motivated me. I guess it peaked interest in me and then I just thought to myself ‘let me give it a try.’ And then when I did I liked it so then I just continued all the way to the end. I guess it’s meeting people and getting to know people and just helping people [that make me like being an Imam].”