Interviews on April 4, 2023 with Dakota, who is studying nursing, and Madison, who is studying cosmetology, outside Hayden Library at Citrus College in Glendora.

Do you consider yourself religious?
Dakota: Yes and no. It’s kind of in the middle. I don’t really go to church every Sunday or anything and I don’t know too much about the Bible. But I do believe in God and Easter and all of that.

Were you raised going to church?
Dakota: I grew up going to church but more because my grandma was really religious and because of that my parents would go to church a lot, especially with her because she ended up living with us. But after she passed away we stopped going.

Do you consider yourself a Christian?
Dakota: Yeah, I guess, because I believe in God. I just don’t understand everything. I don’t know as much as someone who goes to church every weekend and has read the Bible would know. I guess I would say that I’m a Christian.

Do you believe in life after death?
Dakota: I believe in going to heaven.

Do you believe in hell, too?
Dakota: That’s hard because I know a lot of people who are gay, a lot of people in my family, and so that’s a hard concept for me to understand just because I don’t want to believe that they would be going into hell. So I would say I’m 50-50 on that. I believe that there’s obviously Satan and everything but I don’t want to believe about people who I love going into hell.

Why do you think there’s a God?
Dakota: It was just something that I grew up with and I didn’t really understand it when I was younger. But then after my grandma passed away it was more like, “Oh, she’s in a better place now,” because my grandpa passed away ten years prior and so it was just like, “Oh, she’s with my grandpa now and they’re up in heaven and they are happy.” I guess that’s the best way I can explain it because I just want to believe that they’re happy. I know that there’s proof of stuff happening in the past, like I believe my aunt has told me that there’s proof of the old Bible somewhere out there, so I know it’s happened and I know it’s true.

Do you consider yourself religious?
Madison: No.

Have you ever been religious or did you grow up going to church?
Madison: I did grow up going to church but it was because my mom grew up religious. Then later on she and my dad decided they could let their kids choose, and I prefer science. So what I do know about it from all the science classes that I’ve taken is that to me it doesn’t make sense.

Why do you think there is no God?
Madison: If God created the universe, then who created Him? I love astronomy so I took a few classes and they say it started off with a big explosion of energy in these little web formations, so thinking that someone or something was like, “Ooh, I’m going to put something there and then something over there,” doesn’t make sense. And if He – or whoever – wanted us to know more and accept Him, why wouldn’t He do stuff for us? Why would He give us diseases, genocide, that type of thing if He was there for our well being? Why wouldn’t he want us to be more knowledgeable? Why did He put planets so far out? It just doesn’t make sense to me that someone created that. I think it was just how it is, matter, energy, whatever.

Have you ever talked to a religious person about your reasons for believing there is no God?
Madison: I never really asked anyone, but my cousin got super religious for her husband and because she was my favorite cousin she would tell me about it. It would just be certain things that she read. At one point she gave me a comic book version of the Bible and obviously I wanted to make her happy, so I read it. And then I realized what it was and I was like, “Girl, what the f***?” It was just the fact that she did it without asking, especially because I was like ten and don’t know any better and I want my family member to love me the way I love them. Then I took all these astronomy classes and then, with her still in my ear about it, I was like, “This doesn’t really make sense to me.” Everyone has their own viewpoint so it’s like I’ll mind my own business if you mind your business.

Do you believe in any sort of life after death?
Madison. Kind of. I think it’s more like soul. Not really like the artsy s***. I think it’s more like you’re just kind of there. That’s what I would like to believe, because it’s a little scary thinking like, “Oh, you’re just going to be in the f***ing ground.

What do you mean by “soul”?
Madison: It’s what makes you, you. We have no idea how we have different personalities, different preferences, and what makes that difference? So it’s our own personalities, something like that lingering. I think ghosts could be real. I don’t think so, too. It’s a 50-50 thing. I would like to believe that it’s true that there’s an afterlife. I don’t think it’s heaven or hell because if I do one bad thing, does that really make me a bad person? I don’t know what sends you to hell, really. I feel like maybe purgatory exists? I did watch a lot of Supernatural.

How do you explain that there is so much order in the world, from perfectly balanced ecological systems in nature to the immaterial eternal truths we’ve discovered in mathematics, like the Pythagorean Theorem?
Madison: There is scientific evidence of evolution, like the earth started off as a clump of rocks coming together and it just so happened that we were so close to the sun but so far away that life could form. Then it started off small, like bacteria and then it was like, “Oh, s***, let’s go to the next stage.” It just kept going until it got to here. Obviously there was an issue with the dinosaurs. That kind of flopped. How do you go from different animals from what they were then to what they are now? Like the saber tooth tiger, we don’t have that now, so how did it go from that long tooth to the tiger? You know what I mean? It had to adapt, so it evolved.

About the other part, I don’t think anyone created it because why would someone in their right f***ing mind create math? It is order, but why would you create it on purpose? Why wouldn’t you just be like, “That’s perfect the way it is,” and not have math involved? I think we figured out formulas to make it perfect.

If we started off with nothing and then slime and a pile of rocks, doesn’t it seem remarkable that there are unchanging perfectly ordered principles we’ve discovered, like the fact that the square on the hypotenuse equals the squares on the two other sides of a right triangle?

Madison: Like the mountains or something? No matter what, there’s still going to be shapes. Even after we’re gone. I don’t think anyone or anything was like, “Oh, shape goes there.” It’s just the way the earth does it because you have stuff like erosion, layering for rocks, and that just creates perfect things.

Watch 1-minute video of Madisonz