California Catholic Daily reporter, Mary Rose, visits a California college each week and asks students about God, good, and evil. Interview with Aris, who is studying auto body paint, near Building B at the College of the Alameda on March 10, 2020.

Do you consider yourself religious?

Aris: Not in the old sense where you go to church every Sunday, but I believe there’s something out there, something watching over me. 

Does that belief affect how you live?

Aris: Not really. I feel like it’s not really on religion, it’s just on your circumstances and how you carry on through your life. Religion can help though, especially if you’re going through a tough time. 

Were you ever religious?

Aris: My family is Catholic. I did all my confirmation and stuff in the church. We used to go to church every Sunday, but then when you get older, you got things to do. Your parents got things to do. So that’s not the first thing on your mind to go over there. But every now and then you can talk to whoever up there, see what’s going on, but I don’t really go there. I try to go, but it doesn’t really fit in sometimes. 

If someone asked you why you believe in a higher power, what would you say?

Aris: When bad things happen to you, and you come out on the other side of it, there’s something to help you. I’m not saying it’s all you or it’s all something else, but there’s something in the atmosphere that’s helping you through a hard time. People have it really rough, but sometimes they’re able to get over it, sometimes they don’t, but eventually, throughout their life they get over it. 

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Aris: I don’t know. That’s a hard one. I do, but I don’t. I believe that you can, hopefully if you’re a good person and I’m not even saying you got to be a good person all the way, but you did enough good than bad that something good happens to you after you’re done. But we really don’t know. I can’t say you’re going to go to hell off of one thing that you’ve done bad. I think it’s like an accumulation of things. If you’ve just always been a bitter, bad person, you’ve never tried to do anything right and never try to make things right, do I think you’re going to go the same place as somebody that’s tried the hardest? Probably not, but I really don’t know.

If someone asked you who Jesus is, what would you say?

Aris: Who’s Jesus? I think they just like a name. They try to put a name to it. I mean, we don’t really know if He was there or not. He could have been there. He could have done what they say, but we don’t know. Because we weren’t there. But it’s not a bad thing to look up to Him. It does help people when they’re going through really rough things.

How do you decide what’s right and wrong?

Aris: Honestly, I’ve done a lot of bad. It’s really on you. It’s really how you were raised. And even though you say you were raised to know when something is bad and you do it, it’s just something that happens. It sucks when it happens because you can’t take it back. So you got to just deal with it. That’s when that would come into play, like you do something you know is wrong. And you ask him, why did you put me in that situation? Or why did you let me do it? But it’s kind of all on you, but not really, you know? It comes from where you’re raised, how you go to school. They say stealing is bad, but sometimes you don’t have food. So you got to go steal something. So things are bad, but sometimes you don’t really have another choice. 

If someone was not taught right from wrong, do you think there’s still right and wrong for them?

Aris: But what’s crazy is that they do know what’s right and wrong because even though they don’t have parents, they know they’re not supposed to take anything that’s not theirs. I’m not saying everything comes from the parent, but it does come from how you interact with other people. Say I never had parents looking over me, I’m in a foster home, all that, but I have a best friend. I would never want to do anything wrong to my best friend and nobody had to teach me that. I just know, because I wouldn’t want to hurt that person. So it is kind of how you’re raised because your parents will tell you what they think is bad and good. But when you’re out on your own, you don’t have your parents with you all the time. So you got to figure it out yourself, what’s good and what’s bad for you. 

The Catholic Church had a scandal a couple years ago, with news coming out about priests sexually abusing minors. What would you say to someone who asked how you could identify yourself with a church where something like that happened?

Aris: I mean, when it comes to religion, you shouldn’t identify yourself with the priest. Let me tell you a little story. There’s this guy, he’s a priest. He’s in charge of his own church. His dad was a priest. I was at a barbershop and this guy came in for a haircut and he’s talking to the barber and he’s like, “Oh yeah, I’m five months clean.” I think he was on heroin. Then you hear the priest, he’s waiting to get his hair cut, he starts talking to the guy and he’s just like, “well, why would you not want to come to the church so we can help you to get over the addiction?” Kind of trying to manipulate him into coming into a church. That’s what priests do, though. They want you to come into their family, believe with them, in them. But there’s no telling what that person has done their whole life. Just because you’re a priest doesn’t mean that every bad thing you’ve done is scrubbed clean. And then you have things where a priest will get charged with child sexual abuse, drugs, but no one’s looking at them like that because they’re supposed to be good. But a human’s a human. I feel like a priest should be there to kind of give guidance, but not enforce their beliefs on somebody because not everybody’s going to believe the same. Not everybody needs that. Some people do, though. Some people need somebody to look up to.

If you enjoyed this story, consider making a donation to support Mary Rose and the Inquiring Minds column, so that we can continue to provide this insight into the religious beliefs of California college students. You can do so by visiting our Donation Page.