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SPP Writer in Residence Lizzie Fewster ruminates on goonbags, Instagram, and where God lives for the yoof of today. Strap yourselves in for part one of an inquisitive, adventurous, and unafraid residency series.

It has become an unspoken rule, it seems, to ask every college student you meet where they go to school, what subjects that do, what ATAR they want, and where they want to go to university. After the first year of college, I had undergone this mandatory interrogation more times that I would have liked. Over the past year and half, I have been posed one particular question more times than I can count:

“Why do you do Religion and Philosophy? Isn’t it learning about God and stuff? I thought you were an atheist anyway…”

Having to explain why I chose religion and philosophy came to be an effort I wasn’t really willing to make.

After a while, I began leaving out the “religion”, telling strangers-but-potential-friends that I take Philosophy. Not only did this tactic mean the topic of conversation could move more swiftly from the banalities of school subjects, I quickly found people’s responses much better when I confessed my favourite class was philosophy, and required much less justification.

So why is it that no one asks chemistry students to explain why they’re taking a subject that involves memorising countless equations and weird abbreviations, if they’re not planning on becoming the next Heisenberg? You don’t even want to make meth – what’s the point?

Is it perhaps because of the torturously dull and compulsory Religion and Philosophy classes many of us were forced to endure during high school, consisting of a disheartened teacher attempting to explain Creationism to a group of twenty five utterly disinterested youths, that people are sceptical of my voluntary decision to continue it into senior years?  Although I was equally dispassionate and resentful towards those compulsory hours of philosophy-less-God-talk as my peers, two years later, a class with the same name but starkly different content became the highlight of my time at school.

People often ask me if my interest stemmed from religious faith, and as an atheist I find this amusing. Why is it assumed that the reason I would voluntarily spend hours battling over theology, metaphysics, ethics and the like, is to further inspire my religious belief? Disregarding the fact my choice was partly motivated my by distaste for the alternative senior electives (the sciences and fine arts), and my ineptitude for mathematics, I was drawn to Religion and Philosophy out of curiosity. The reason for my curiosity can be neatly summed up with the question “what the hell is all this about?”

As a seventeen year-old who had never been able to understand how someone could believe in a God, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the idea that millions of people all over the world lived their entire lives in devotion to something that (in my opinion at the time) could not be proven. But what struck me the most, and still continues to baffle me, was that anything could be so gosh-darn popular that it has existed in every culture since prehistoric times.

So many young people today are either sceptical of, or uninterested in religion, and respond to believers with an attitude of “Well, I guess if that’s what you’re into, go nuts, but count me out”.  It strikes me as bizarre that we’re more interested in goonbags and Instagram than something that has existed in almost every human civilisation in history.

Immanuel Kant once said “two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe… the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me”, and it has become a personal mission of mine to find out why young people today prefer to be filled with cheap wine and social networking fame, than religious belief, and to find out if there’s any room left for a God, whatever type of God that might be.

photoLizzie Fewster is Scissors Paper Pen’s current Writer in Residence. She is a seventeen-year-old year twelve student, who despite being an atheist, is passionate about religion, philosophy, and ethical studies. Book worm by day (and usually night), she spends her free time dreaming of her soon-to-be freedom from her current educational institution, and keenly awaits university life in Melbourne.

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