Religion has always been something I have been aware of, and subsequently interested in. One could put this down to the religious diversity in my family. Being the product of a Jewish father and Catholic mother has allowed me to gain an equal insight into two major religions and consequently helped to spark a passion in something I now wish to pursue. I have been able to compare first hand these two Abrahamic faiths, which share many similarities but are ultimately so different, and I have immersed myself in festivals such as Passover and Easter. I believe this is the underlying reason why I have always been fascinated by the study of different religions.
In order to understand the history of Western and Eastern culture, an in-depth study of religion is essential. This became apparent to me when I studied the Crusades. I was fascinated by the extreme religious fervour Pope Urban II managed to create in 1095, yet I struggled with the idea that a religion which preaches, “love your neighbour as yourself”, could also drive thousands of Christians to kill in the name of God. Therefore I feel compelled to gain a more rigorous understanding of religion, in an attempt to understand the contradictions that exist within individual religions.
Not only is the study Religion and Theology crucial to understanding our past but it also has a large influence over welfare and continues to be a subject prominent in today’s society. I first came to realise this through the commentaries of CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, one of the world’s leading broadcasters on the Middle East. I was so inspired by her programmes that I applied and succeeded in obtaining work experience with her in New York. Spending time with the woman who interviewed the extreme Islamist Ayatollah Khamenei, amongst other Middle Eastern dictators, cemented my desire to study Religion and Theology at University. In conversation with Amanpour, I learnt first hand the background to some of today’s religious conflicts and it has determined me to seek a deeper understanding into the intricacies of religious doctrine.
My interest in religion in the modern world led me to read some of John Hick’s writings. On a personal level, I was thoroughly interested by his explanations of exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism due to my mixed faith background. If God was exclusive, that would mean only one side of my family would have the possibility of eternal life. I was always sure this couldn’t be right, since it was unjust in my view, but at the same time I couldn’t understand how two different religions, with conflicting views, could both be paths to salvation. However, after reading Hick, this complex issue, which I have often tangled with, began to make sense. To believe God is exclusive is to deny that he is gracious and merciful. A merciful God would not deny eternal life to billions of people simply because of the faith that they were born into. Hick stresses the point that people are born into a faith; they do not simply choose it and therefore it would be unjust of God to punish them for it.
Hick’s theories are also of interest to me because they are applicable to current crises. He makes the point that so much conflict is intensified by religious feud because each faith has traditionally made its own absolute claim to be the one and only true faith. Through such methodology, alternate religions could perhaps learn to co-exist in harmony. Thus I want to study the works of different scholars more closely because their theories have the potential to have a great effect on current society.
I won the school Theology prize during both my GCSE year and A level year, as well as achieving 100% UMS in both my AS papers. I believe this is illustrative of my commitment to the subject.