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Religion on Campus

Standing with his suitcase for a soapbox in Turlington Square on Wednesday, the Rev. Matt Bourgault gripped his bible and screamed his beliefs in the center of a tight circle of protesting students.

There is an abundance of religious organizations on campus. Bourgault is one of the many preachers, men and women, who take to Turlington Square attempting to bring students into their religion. But different groups operate in different ways.

Earlier this year the Rev. Gary Birdsong stood in the midst of a crowd of more than 200 people and declared, “Most of you are going to hell.” Birdsong was not well received. He said despite the taunting of the students, he preaches because he believes God wants him to. The Rev. refused to comment on how much he was being paid to be there.

On the sidelines, Hari Krishna Adi Kaota quietly spoke to sophomore religion student Lauren Baras about the beliefs and rules of Hinduism. Kaota said any person with a bona fide religion that has bona fide scriptures is accepted by Hari Krishnas.

Bourgault, a Pentecostal of “Consuming Fire Campus Ministries,” was especially vehement on Wednesday afternoon.

“The other guys are civil. I can’t really take this guy seriously,” said University of Florida junior Marshawn Griffin of Bourgault.

Bourgault said, “ I hope they’re not looking for my sympathy. We [Pentecostals] don’t come with a soft, effeminate gospel.”

Kevan Sanjana, director of evangelism for the non-denominational Christian group “Victory UF,” said he wasn’t surprised to learn that Bourgault was a Pentecostal. He said the group has taken the idea of condemnation to the extreme.

Also a street preacher, Sanjana said you have to be able to preach both love and condemnation and be able to know who needs to hear what. He said “Victory UF” is very much a social group.

“We’re friends. We love each other and just want to share the love of Jesus,” said Sanjana.

Other religious groups face challenges that are more politically oriented.

Hassan Rasheed, president of Islam on Campus said, “ People don’t have enough information about Islam and what little information they do have is skewed and biased by TV and the media.” He said their main goal is educating both Muslim and non-Muslim on the average way of life of Muslims.”

Islam on Campus has cooperated with Gator Christian Life in the past in conducting a lecture about the life of Jesus Christ.

According to professor Monika Ardelt, there are intrinsic and extrinsic reasons for seeking religious groups. “The psychology of religion: An empirical approach” says that while intrinsic religion holds faith as a final good and of ultimate significance, extrinsic religion is more utilitarian, and is sought in service of personal and social goods.

President of the Atheist and Agnostic Student Association, Ben Galecki said the association is mostly a social club.

“We’re the alternative. We try to provide the same things a religious group does, minus the proselytization,” Galecki said. “If I’m out there trying to convince people then I’m doing the thing I hate the most.”

The mission of the Atheist and Agnostic Student Association is to change the misconception people have of Atheists and Agnostics.

“They don’t understand how someone can have morals without religion,” Galecki said.

Last semester the association participated in “Make a difference day.” They went to the east side of the city and cleaned up the neighborhood and playgrounds. Galecki said this helps to show the public that they are productive members of society.

On April fool’s day the group plans to hold “Preacher parody day” in Turlignton square.

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