California Catholic Daily reporter, Mary Rose, visits a California college each week and asks students about God, good, and evil. Interview with José, who is studying sociology, outside the Student Center at Modesto Junior College on March 11, 2020.
Do you consider yourself religious?
José: No. When I was little I was Catholic – well, I was raised Catholic. As I got older, I started having my own views on religion and I stopped going to church. It didn’t feel like it was for me. I just felt uncomfortable the entire time. It felt like such an extreme at the church I used to go to and it just didn’t feel right.
Do you believe in any sort of higher power?
José: No. As of right now, no, I don’t. Things happen because things happen. I don’t think there’s any reason as to it, religiously.
Was there anything with Catholicism in particular that you found problematic?
José: With any religion, because they’re all so similar with the whole idea of a higher power – or higher powers for some people – that I don’t want to sound disrespectful but I don’t see the point to it. So I guess it’s just me. I don’t see a reason as to why people have these beliefs. For them it’s totally fine but I don’t see it for myself.
How did you develop your moral code?
José: It’s just what I believe. It’s how I differentiate good from bad, right from wrong. I don’t think I have to be a good person for good things to happen to me. You can just be a good person to be a good person. You shouldn’t have to reap any benefits for being a good person.
How do you decide what’s good and what’s bad?
José: I don’t know. There’s so many different things. Maybe it could be from the fact that when I was little I went to church, “you can’t do these things because they’re bad.” It’s been ingrained in me that these things are bad so now I follow it still. Or it could just be laws where these things are illegal, so you associate that with being bad. Both of those could play a factor in that. Even though I refuse to believe it, it’s still ingrained in me.
How would you decide whether abortion is good or bad?
José: I think it’s perfectly fine. Obviously a lot of people associate it with late-term abortion, but that doesn’t usually happen unless it’s a really serious case and it will both affect the baby and the mother. But when it’s so early on where nothing’s really formed, like an actual human life, it’s still just developing, then it’s fine. Especially for cases where people aren’t either mentally or financially capable of taking care of a child then it’s totally fine because of the whole foster care system. I’ve had cousins of mine go through the foster care system and it’s a huge mess, so why would you purposely want to bring a child into the world knowing that, if you put them up for adoption, there’s a chance that they won’t be adopted and they’re constantly going to go through foster homes that sometimes don’t care for the child, just the money. Or they’re going to group homes. Because my sister works at a group home and it’s just a mess. The kids are so distraught from all these families that they’ve gone through, it’s going to affect them for the rest of their lives. I wouldn’t want to put a child through that.
What’s a circumstance where a woman shouldn’t have an abortion?
José: There’s people where they just don’t care. They just, “oh yeah, I’m going to get an abortion because I want to get an abortion.” It’s such a difficult thing for people to go through, so by diminishing the emotional aspect of it, I feel like it’s unfair to the people who have to go through it. If you’re going to constantly make the decision to get pregnant then just either have more protective sex, be more careful, or just get your tubes tied. If you don’t want a kid, then stop putting yourself through this. It’s not fair to yourself or to the people around you that have to be like, “okay, you’re pregnant, that’s great, but are you going to keep the child or not?” and it’s just an emotional toll on yourself and everybody else. Why would you constantly put yourself through that?
You say a woman shouldn’t have an abortion if she’s hurting herself, but also that we shouldn’t judge others?
José: That’s a really conflicting thing. On one hand, I don’t want to judge others, but then if I say women shouldn’t hurt themselves by going through that, I’m judging them.
Should we try to help people from hurting themselves even when it comes across as judging?
José: Yeah, I don’t know, that’s a tough one. I feel like that’s all circumstantial. For certain people, it might work. For some people, they don’t want to hear what you have to say because it has nothing to do with them, so why would you bring in your perspective? I feel like that’s a hard one. I don’t have an answer for that.
What do you think about gay marriage?
José: I’m all for it. I’m gay. People should be allowed to marry whoever they want, no matter who that person is. There shouldn’t be an issue with it. Especially for people where it’s like, “I’m opposed to gay people,” but it’s like, “okay you’re not gay, so why should it matter to you what other people are doing?”
Do these issues affect how you view Catholicism?
José: I was little at the time, so I didn’t really discuss any of that with anybody, but now as I’ve gotten older that does push me farther away from it. I know a lot of people where it’s like, “well I’m not like that,” but, in the grand scheme of things, a lot of people are and that tarnishes their name, the religions themselves. So I don’t want to associate myself with people who intentionally put down others because of their sexual orientation or their decision to have an abortion.
If someone asked you who Jesus is, what would you say?
José: I don’t know. My niece has asked me this. I tell her certain religions believe in a godly being who – God, how would I say this? A godly being who they follow and respect and worship and can either benefit you or hurt you depending on what you’re doing. That’s such a hard question.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
José: I feel that’s something I always think about but I have no idea. A lot of the time it’s like, “okay, if we die then there’s just nothing, you’re dead,” but then part of me wants to believe in something even if it has nothing to do with a God. What if there’s something after? There’s the idea of reincarnation, but that’s something that I have to simply decide for myself if I want to believe that or not. But I’m still looking around with my options. What do I want to believe in?
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.