Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Activity 2: What Is Religion For?

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Handout 1, Religious Affiliation in the U.S., 2007
  • Newsprint sheets from Activity 1
  • Multiple pairs of scissors (including left-handed scissors) and multiple glue sticks or rolls of clear tape

Preparation for Activity

  • Write each phrase as the heading on a sheet of newsprint. Set the sheets aside:
    • Connect with something bigger than ourselves
    • A sense of belonging
    • Finding meaning and purpose in life
    • Answering big questions
    • Knowing right from wrong
  • Read the Description of Activity and plan how you will arrange the room and place the materials. The youth will move back and forth between the posted sheets from Activity 1 and the five new sheets. You might attach the new sheets to table tops, or to the floor (with plenty of space around each sheet). Teams will need a scissors when they are at the posted sheets from Activity 1. They will need markers and clear tape (or glue sticks) at the new sheets.

Description of Activity

Youth revisit the concept that the world's religions offer diverse ways to address common human needs. They sharpen their awareness of local, national, and global religious pluralism.

Distribute Handout 1, Religious Affiliation in the U.S., 2007. Explain that it shows the number of adherents of different faiths in the U.S. today based on more than 35,000 adults' self-descriptions. Spend five minutes on discussion:

  • What faiths do you see here that we have learned about?
  • What faiths are not here? Why? (For example, Sikhs are not listed. Too few in number in the U.S. to have been captured by this survey? Part of a larger faith group on the list?)
  • Which of these are present in our local community? Do the national numbers match the relative size of these religions where we live?
  • What surprises you about the numbers? Why?

Now set out the five sheets you have prepared, reading them aloud as you go. Remind youth these are at least five basic human needs that religions try to address, which the group discussed in the first workshop. If needed, have volunteers explain what each phrase means.

Have the youth re-form teams from the previous activity. Invite them to look on the posted sheets about the religions and the Fact Sheets for beliefs or practices that, for adherents, help meet one of these basic needs. Prompt: "What practice gives a Muslim a sense of belonging? (For example, gathering in a mosque, praying five times a day at the same time as other Muslims around the world.) What belief helps a Christian know right from wrong? (For example, the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus to love one another and to take care of the poor.) What do Buddhists believe that help them find the meaning of life? (For example, that this life is an illusion, it may be one of many lives; that our purpose is to achieve enlightenment.)" Be sure to include Unitarian Universalism in this activity, giving participants the opportunity to articulate how their religion addresses human needs.

Tell participants they may write directly on a "human needs" sheet. Or, they may cut a fact from a Fact Sheet, or from one of the newsprint sheets for different religions that are posted around the room from the previous activity; then, they can glue or tape the cut-out fact to a "human needs" sheet. Challenge the group to make sure each of the five "human needs" sheets has several beliefs or practices on it.

Re-gather the group. Have volunteers read aloud the items they put on the "human needs" lists and identify the religions. If helpful, add examples. Conclude by saying, in these words or your own:

This activity gives us a flavor for how diverse religions have diverse ways of meeting people's basic needs for meaning, belonging, answers, and knowing right from wrong. No matter how different from your faith someone else's may seem, you can be sure it is meeting important needs for them, as yours does for you.

Including All Participants

As with all movement-based activities, find a way to fully include participants with mobility limitations. For example, post newsprint sheets where a youth who uses a wheelchair can reach them. You might have teams sit together to work, then send someone to the newsprint sheets, rather than have all the youth moving around the room. Or, create an orderly pattern of movement. For example, assign teams to begin at particular newsprint sheets and have teams rotate clockwise.