Interview on February 22, 2022, with Deena, who is studying human biology and society, in Bruin Plaza at UCLA.

Do you consider yourself religious?

Deena: No.

Were you raised religious?

Deena: Not really. My grandparents were Buddhist, but my parents weren’t. So other than my grandparents being Buddhist and some cousins, no. I grew up without religion and I’m happy with my life, so I wasn’t really looking for anything new. 

Did your grandparents talk to you about Buddhism? 

Deena: Not really. On my mom’s side, they lived in Vietnam and passed away before I really got to know them so I didn’t really have clear communication with them. With my grandparents here, there’s a language barrier, so they don’t really enforce it on us. Sometimes they’ll say they’re doing prayers for the grandkids and their children or remembering our ancestors, especially during lunar new year. And I go to support them, but they never really enforce it on us at all. 

Do you parents believe in Buddhism?

Deena: I think so. I don’t know. I can’t remember a time where they ever really followed religion, but I think they find comfort in it, even though they don’t practice it, because we all go to my grandparents and support them and what they do. Whether they do their prayers for us or remember our ancestors and go to the temple and stuff, I know they did that, but I think when they immigrated to the states, they stopped.

Do you believe there is no God or do you not even think about it?

Deena: Not even think about it. I’d like to think there’s something for us in the afterlife and I think that’s hopeful, but if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t, that type of thinking. I’d like to believe in reincarnation, which is a Buddhist type of thing. That’s the most comforting, that I’ll be alive again in some form. I think that’s nice to think about.

Does it matter if it’s true whether there is an afterlife?

Deena: I think it matters to a person because their choices are based on their beliefs about the afterlife. A lot of controversial politics is tied in with religion and social issues. So you always have to consider religion and a person’s upbringing, and their personal choices and what they believe and how that affects their political beliefs that affect current situations. They act a certain way because they believe in a certain religion, but if you can’t even really prove it and if they’re so strong minded in the way that they think and they think that this is correct, there’s no room to change it in really strong minded people.

I know a lot of people who are religious and they’re like, “God saved me.” I don’t know what that feels like to be saved by an upper entity, so I can’t personally relate to that. And that’s probably why they feel so grounded because they’re like, “Oh, I was saved from something, I was in a bad state now I’m not anymore.” But the same thing could be said for therapy. I could be in a bad state and go to therapy and be like, “Oh, it fixed me. It saved me.” But that doesn’t necessarily affect my moral code how religion affects a moral code. 

Do you have a moral code? 

Deena: I have my own morals, but not necessarily a code. I follow what I think is right. I guess that is a code in itself. If I’m not offending someone else or hurting others, that’s what a lot of my beliefs are grounded in. If I’m not hurting anyone in their ability to live as a human, then I think what I’m doing is okay. 

What do you think about abortion? Is that hurting someone?

Deena: Yeah, you’re hurting a fetus, but then at the same time you’re going to hurt the woman. I’m pro-choice. I think women should be able to do whatever they choose with their bodies, because there are different circumstances. And even if there are no special circumstances, they should still have the free choice to do what they want. That’s what I care more about than a fetus, an embryo.

At what point in pregnancy would you say abortion is not okay? 

Deena: If the baby is born, because that’s alive. I guess it’s alive in the stomach, but there’s so many circumstances, I can’t really pinpoint a time. Even at third trimester, let’s say something happens to the mother and all of a sudden she can’t financially raise the baby or is not mentally prepared to be a mother, what’s to say that’s not going to be harmful for the baby once it’s born? There’s not a clear line until after birth because it’s dependent.