Interview on February 22, 2022, with Azul, who is studying psychology and sound engineering, on the Central Quad at Cal State Long Beach.
Do you believe in God?
Azul: Not singularly. I’m polytheistic and Hindu. My parents joined an ashram when I was born. They didn’t join it as Hindus, but through growing up there, I’ve taken it for myself. It wasn’t until recently that I decided, “Okay, this is how I identify religiously.” I was raised spiritually with no religious tendency. My dad wanted me to have a lot of perspective and experience a few different religions and leave it completely open for me to decide for myself. So we were always very spiritual, but he never limited me to one religion or anything. We never practiced a religion specifically while I was growing up. Recently I was like, “I identify as Hindu and that’s the religion that most fits for me.”
Do you believe Hinduism is true?
Azul: Yeah, I don’t have the typical strict faith in the religion where I disregard a lot of other things, not to say that most people have that, but I have a balance. I’m very much a realist and oftentimes a pessimist so there’s a lot that I don’t subscribe to a hundred percent. Having grown up without a religion, I’ve never felt confined to one or to all the ideas within one. But I would say there’s a lot that I do believe in and that I implement within my life and including with the gods and the pantheon system.
Who’s in charge of saying, this is what Hinduism is? How do you know if a teaching is Hindu or not?
Azul: My view of religion is that they’re all the same and we each find whatever matches us, whatever we need. If you’re atheist, then that’s to me also the same thing, as long as it’s whatever path you have decided is best for you to be secure in yourself. We’re all going to the same place just in different ways. Every religion, no matter how strictly defined it’s supposed to be, or it is for some people, there’s going to be a million different little factions, a million different ways of interpreting it and of living it. Hinduism is generally already a fairly open religion in terms of just practice. There aren’t really guidelines as to how you practice it. There are just different philosophies and ways to become closer to the defined entities and ideals within it. But there’s no real way to practice it. That’s definitely different from a lot of other religions.
Do you believe it is true that there are multiple gods? If so, doesn’t that mean that not all religions are the same because an atheist would be believing something wrong and the polytheist would be believing something true?
Azul: Defining religion is a ridiculous game to play. Or I guess it’s not ridiculous, but if you’re going to do it, you have to be prepared for no one else to share your definition, in the same way that any of us have opinions about anything. None of us have facts when it comes to religion. It really comes back to you. Yes, there’s the having faith and the “Do you believe it’s true?” and everything, but it’s just another way to be secure in yourself and to find yourself and who you are and how you want to live in this world. For me, God or higher power or whatever is whatever you decide that it is. I’m not in the business of telling people what’s true and what isn’t, when it comes to religion and what they should believe in. I think it’s insane to say to someone “Believe in this, because I believe in it, that’s the only reason.” I’ll never say that for me, what’s true is the overall truth. I don’t even know that. None of us have that kind of scope anyway. It’s one of those things that’s unprovable, like a conspiracy theory. There’s no way to prove that religion doesn’t exist and there’s no way to prove that it does. It’s a tool that humans have created and it’s a beautiful thing. It can be a beautiful thing. It can be used in terrible ways too. For me, the gods and the system of Hinduism is true, but that’s just for me. Say someone’s an atheist. Maybe there aren’t any gods, that’s okay. I believe this and maybe I’m wrong. This is just what I believe.
Do you think there’s anything that’s true for everybody?
Azul: I don’t. The thing that I live by is that nuance is the greatest truth of this world. There is no black and white. There’s no yes or no. There’s a lot of yes and nos within things, but I never believe that there’s an always or an never, or an everybody or a nobody. I don’t feel like we all have to change our speech about that. That’s one thing my dad does, “You always say ‘always’,” and I’m like, “I don’t care if people use general phrases that we all use and exaggerate.” But in terms of my actual belief, I don’t believe that there’s anything that we all universally share. That’s a good question, though. I really like to think about it, because I’m not sure that I wouldn’t be able to find something. But even the fact that we’re all alive, there’s someone out there who would dispute that, I just know for sure.
If someone disputes it, does that make it not true?
Azul: Okay, yeah, on the basis of fact, maybe being alive is one that I would say is universal in terms of conscious people now.
If there’s nothing that’s actually true, nobody’s wrong. Can people be wrong?
Azul: That’s a tough one. I don’t think being wrong is a social construct in the same ways as some of the other things I was talking about. We all are wrong a lot of the time and that definitely does not change the factual value of something. If you’re wrong, you’re wrong. I think it’s just hard to know when you’re talking about universal things. Anything, really.
Does that mean that some people are wrong in their beliefs about God’s existence?
Azul: It’s true. Yeah. There could be the trick answer: none of them is necessarily wrong or all of them are right. But there’s also the possibility that there’s just one thing, if not probability that there’s just one thing. So there’s a bunch of people that are wrong. The thing about it though, is that none of us know. If one person knew for sure that would be a place to start in terms of either accepting or rebelling against that truth, or being factual and being wrong. But none of us will ever know if we’re wrong or if we’re right, whether we think we are or not. It would be definitely interesting if someone actually knew. I totally agree that there is a truth. There is a correct answer and the majority of us are probably not right or don’t fall in line with whatever that is. I just don’t know. And even if people think they know, they don’t know.