California Catholic Daily reporter, Mary Rose, visits a California college each week and asks students about God, good, and evil. Interview with Arielle, who is studying communications science, near the Portable Village at College of Marin on March 9, 2020. 

Do you consider yourself religious?

Arielle: Not at all. A lot of my family is Mormon. My mom’s kind of the black sheep of the family, she’s atheist. I think it just kind of came from that. My dad and his family, they’re all pretty religious. So I think it was mostly just seeing the people around me and then also seeing my mom’s life path and kind of going, which one do I enjoy more, type of thing. When I was younger, I remember I really enjoyed going to church and stuff. I think I was religious probably until middle school. I think that just had to do with a couple of different things. There were some friends who were really religious who I ended up getting into a big fight with, so that was an off-putting thing. And then there was also just coming to terms with sexuality and the path of self discovery, I guess. 

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Arielle: I wouldn’t say a traditional afterlife, as in your soul goes somewhere. But I think I just like the idea that energy is recycled into the universe. So even if it’s not a rebirth, my energy will still be going elsewhere. I’ll be soil for plants or something.

How do you decide what’s right and wrong?

Arielle: I feel like people inherently want to be good, because human survival depends on it. People have to depend on each other, you can’t survive on your own. So I think it just has to do with wanting other people to like you or wanting other people to accept you. And so it’s just kind of doing what you can to make that happen. It’s just in terms of human nature, it’s less of a moral code and it’s more of a survival code, but as established human beings who realize that, it’s like, hey, I did a good thing and I enjoyed the feeling that it gave me. It’s more of an egotistical self-satisfaction. People don’t do good things so that others feel good. They do good things because making others feel good, makes them feel good. And I think that’s a drive for people. 

Do you think that good and bad are subjective?

Arielle: I think it’s all just subjective, because any person you talk to, most people will have a sense of like, oh yeah, doing this thing is bad or doing this thing is good. But I think that just for every individual person, if you put another variable into a situation, there’s so much moral gray area. I think it is subjective. I just think of the classic case of like, oh,, stealing is bad, but what if this person’s wife is dying? And the only way to get the medicine to save her is by stealing? There’s always these little things that change the meaning of bad or good.

How would you weigh the morality of an adult having sex with a two-year-old?

Arielle: I think you have to judge it in terms of, how is it affecting each party? For one party, that’s their good. But to everyone else it’s like, no, the other party involved is going to have a lifetime of trauma. And that outweighs the momentary satisfaction of some pervert.

So would you say that some things, like my pedophilia example, are objectively wrong?

Arielle: I think that’s probably one of the few examples. It’s like, yeah, this is starkly just wrong because no matter how you weigh the options or all the variables, one person’s always going to be dramatically hurt. I feel like in terms of the variables, if it hurts one person so severely, even if this person has this whole story of why they did it and yada, yada, yada, it still doesn’t outweigh the other side. 

Do you think being religious affects people negatively?

Arielle: Not necessarily. I have my issues with organized religion, just in the sense that I feel like it fuels a lot of anger and hatred and the hierarchies involved in some religions end up hurting more people than I think they end up helping. But I don’t think spirituality and religion in and of itself is a bad thing. I think that’s a way for people to deal with the world around them and find meaning and purpose in their life. 

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