Facebookers worship odd religions

Chronicle Staff

Lauren Gaba ’08 was raised Jewish. She received a Bat Mitzvah and infrequently attends temple. Despite her Jewish heritage, she has adopted a different religion to display on her Facebook profile: “Planet Earth.”

No, she’s not a tree-hugger who worships the ground we walk on. Instead, Gaba has fallen in love with her favorite television show, “Planet Earth.” Like many other students, she has taken up the habit of swapping her actual religion for another, made-up religion. Among Harvard-Westlake students, this practice is particularly prevalent.

Facebook — where almost 60 million people are engaged in online social interaction — displays a profile for every member consisting of interests, activities and random information. Among the various tidbits shown on a person’s profile, several classifications are displayed at the top. Students can post their relationship statuses, their political views, whether they’re looking for “random play,” “friendship” or “networking” and, of course, their religious views.Â

Some students simply write one of their favorite quotations, which often pertain to religion holistically to display as their religious views. Leland Cox ’09, who isn’t very religious, has written a Karl Marx quote as his religious view because he doesn’t “subscribe to a single religion,” he said.

While his Facebook religion is “religion is the opiate of the masses,” he doesn’t follow or believe in Marxian doctrine, instead feeling that, in general terms, “religion was used to pull a blanket over a lot of people’s heads.”

Rather than using their “Religious Views” to make a personal statement or quote their favorite thinker or writer, many students who change their Facebook religion just do it to be funny.

Elliot Rosenberg ’08, always quick to make a joke, has turned his religious views and the rest of his profile into his personalized comedy routine. In the past, Rosenberg had “Jewish,” the true response, filled in as his religion; however, according to his Facebook profile, he has recently joined “The Church of Gary Antonian Sheffield.”

Rosenberg is quick to elucidate his offbeat religious views, explaining that he “chose ‘The Church of Gary Antonian Sheffield’ as the response to the ‘Religious Views’ field on Facebook because it shows my idolization of him as a steroid-free baseball player and superhuman entity.”

The senior admits that he doesn’t take religion seriously in general, only attending temple services occasionally.

 Though students like Rosenberg use their “Religious Views” in jest, the act of publicly discarding one’s religion for a false one “could have to do with ambivalent feelings about religion, theirs or religion in general,” upper school psychologist Sheila Siegel said.

While many religion-swappers are distinctly unserious in their motives, “we often joke about things that are issues with us,” Siegel said.