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Adam Loverro: AN ATHEIST

Sheila Flynn | Thursday, February 19, 2004

When Adam Loverro’s friends and family visit Notre Dame, he brings them to Mass at the Basilica. He takes them on the usual campus tour, highlighting the University’s trademark spots, such as the Grotto. But to him, personally, the religious locations hold no special meaning. At one of the most vocally religious institutions in the country, Loverro is an atheist.”I know it means something to them, and so if they’re visiting or if they’d like to go, then I have no problem going,” Loverro said of Basilica Mass.”The Grotto’s a really nice place, and it’s one of the places people come to see,” he said. “If I’m giving someone a tour, I’ll bring them down there if there’s time. I won’t avoid it.”But the senior has only been to the Grotto on about four or five occasions, mostly when giving such tours. He feels no need to go there and pray, because, after he began high school, he decided there was no need for God in his life.”After taking a history course and learning all about the Protestant Reformation … all of that stuff, the history of the Catholic Church, the history of every church … I was no longer enticed by the whole idea,” Loverro said, also explaining that he believes “the Bible is wrought with inconsistencies.””I no longer needed a god or needed the faith in my life, so it just kind of fell out of its traditional place.”Loverro was baptized a Roman Catholic, and he attended church regularly until about fifth grade, when his family moved and their routine became disrupted. “I didn’t go for the next three or four years,” Loverro said.And then he entered high school and rethought his religion, and his entire Catholic identity fell by the wayside. He expressed no interest in being confirmed, and his family did not pressure him.”I don’t think that my belief is a reaction to the Church’s failure, but more of a [view that] there’s nothing in God, himself or herself or itself, that is strictly what I need to determine my own set of moral values and ethics,” Loverro said. “I didn’t see the purpose of devoting myself to one or any of the faiths.”I took what I agreed with and what I believe in morally and ethically from the teachings, but … I don’t use God as a basis for those practices.”Despite his disregard for faith and religion, however, Loverro chose to attend college at Notre Dame. After visiting campus during his senior year of high school, Loverro said he was struck by “the way I was welcomed and the beauty of the campus.””I just really liked the feeling of the place,” he said. “It’s the community here and not the faith … that I was attracted to.”And it is that same “community aspect” which occasionally draws him to Sunday Mass in his dorm, Zahm Hall, Loverro said.”I really enjoy Mass at Zahm,” he said.”During the homily, I’d say I always listen to what the priest says, and usually it’s a message that can be taken without the context of faith,” Loverro said.He said while the priest “usually refers to examples of Jesus, I can associate the examples without needing to believe that Jesus is God’s son.”And Loverro said that, regardless of Notre Dame’s strong commitment to religion and the overwhelmingly Catholic identity of the student body, he has never encountered hostility or negative responses to his atheistic principles.”I haven’t gotten any negative response at all,” Loverro said. “I’ve gotten curious looks, but nothing more than that.”He and his friends – most of whom do have faith in a higher power, Loverro said – will tease each other about believing or not believing, but none of the banter is ever mean-spirited or derogatory, he said.”With my closest of friends, when it just happens to come up, they’re like, ‘Oh,'” Loverro said, or, “Wow, I didn’t know that – that’s interesting.”The typical questions follow,” he said, but the subject of his atheism has always been dropped or accepted “once those questions were answered.”Loverro attributed that acceptance and tolerance to learning and knowledge, citing a friend in high school who, uneducated about her own faith and the beliefs of others, had difficulties discussing his atheism.”She had more of a problem talking about it, not dealing with it,” he said.At Notre Dame, though, where students are living and studying in a highly exploratory University environment, he has found everyone more open to discussion and acceptance.”Some people are less apt to accept others; if you happen to be less educated that’s what it is,” he said.