Religious Studies: Conor Metzger
On the very last day students could apply to be in the Wake Forest Class of 2023, Conor Metzger decided to throw in his application after casually chatting with family friends. He said he had only applied to three schools, so he figured he’d get a fourth school into the ring.
“I honestly knew nothing about Wake Forest,” Metzger said. “I had no idea it was even a prestigious school.”
He applied, intending to major in physics but quickly realized it was not the path for him. He said he was interested but became bored by the black-and-white nature of the field. After taking a class on Islam taught by Dr. Kimberly Wortmann, he became fascinated with the study of religion.
He explains that in religious studies, the focus is primarily on how to define religion and how it affects our daily lives. It’s not as much about specific religious practices per se — it’s more conceptual.
“Studying religions has made me realize how quickly we categorize the world around us and how fast we are to make assumptions,” Metzger said.
He says this became particularly clear when he took Dr. Annalise Glauz-Todrank’s Jewish Identities class, which explored the complicated question of whether Judaism is a religion or race.
“We didn’t come to an answer of course, but it was a totally eye-opening experience,” Metzger said.
Metzger grew up in the small town of Lumberton, N.C., where he says most religious people were Christians. Metzger has grown as a Christian throughout college as his depth of religious understanding has expanded both inside and outside the classroom.
“My faith calls me to share the gospel by talking about it with other people and by understanding where people of other faiths are coming from,” Metzger said. “I realize that most faiths all point to the same ideals.”
Metzger points out that if you’re steadfast and confident enough in your personal beliefs, you should not be worried about your faith being corrupted by having conversations and learning about other’s beliefs. He says the Department of Religious Studies is a place where all faiths are respected and appreciated, which makes it an ideal place to study religion.
“How we define religion is so odd; the difference between faith versus practices, and how they impact case law in the United States is a question I think I’ll always be asking myself,” he said.
Metzger is fascinated with the mindsets behind religion, and how they’re applied to faith. Through conversation, Metzger’s logical, scientific way of thinking through questions was quickly revealed as he discussed definitions and categorizing aspects of faith. Applying his practical system of thinking to abstract concepts, such as divinity, has been the challenge of his academic career at Wake Forest. He is planning to apply to graduate schools for psychology.
However, as for his near future, it’s off-the-grid for Metzger as he’s gearing up to hike the entire Appalachian Trail for five months — alone and without consistent contact with the outside world.
“I’ve always wanted to do it, and after four years in such a monotonous, university lifestyle, I am very happy to not check my email for five months,” he laughed.
Metzger says he’s both excited and scared for his life after college as attending Wake Forest was so transformative to his development as an adult.
“By the end of college, you think you’ve figured yourself out, but in reality we all have a lot more time left on this Earth to discover more about ourselves; which can be scary when you’re already comfortable with who you are now,” he said.