California Catholic Daily reporter, Mary Rose, visits a California college each week and asks students about God, good, and evil. Interview with Rain, who is studying journalism, outside the Garrison Honors Center at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on September 4, 2019.

California Catholic Daily/Mary Rose: Do you consider yourself religious?

Rain: No. I don’t have any particular dogma that I ascribe to. My family is Catholic mostly. My mom kind of did her own thing. I didn’t really get much from her, in terms of guidance. My grandma did have me go to church and do a Sunday school for a while and that actually pushed me away from it. I was told, “if you don’t like the Sunday School, you can quit whenever.” I was like, “okay, cool,” so I went to it and I was the only kid who was actually engaged. Everyone else was just there because their parents wanted them to be there. And I was like, “okay this is boring, I don’t want to be here” and then she took it all back and was like, “if you leave this, you won’t get baptized and you’ll end up going to hell.” I was like, “I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works, so no, I’m good.” I’ve spoken to other people about this, like other people who are Christian, and they all say the same thing, “I’ve been in Sunday school classes where I was the only one engaged and it sucked.” It’s not a rare experience. It’s a weird thing where parents really want you to explore but the reality is that it has to be an individualized thing, so forcing it has the opposite effect.

It’s like, “we’ve gone over the story of David and Goliath a few times now, I get it, can we either extrapolate more from the story other than and God helps the little people kill big people or can we make it more interesting than that.” I know it can be so much more than that. C.S. Lewis for example, he’s a famous thinker, it wasn’t just his fiction that he wrote. He also wrote about religion. There’s more than what I experienced, I know that. It was so forced, that’s what really got me to back off. It seems a little bit hypocritical to try and force something that’s supposed to be your personal experience. It’s not that the religion is the problem, it’s just the way that I experienced it was the problem, definitely.

I’ve heard C.S. Lewis described as a Christian apologist before, but he was personal friends with friggin J.R.R. Tolkien so it’s like, okay these people were clearly on the same intellectual level and I already know I respect Tolkien. And if Tolkien respected C.S. Lewis, then there you go. Definitely people smarter than myself, kind of deal.

What do you respect about J.R.R. Tolkien?

Rain: The sheer amount of work that he actually put into the background of his stories. It wasn’t a matter of just, “I wrote a tale.” It was literally like, “no, I wrote a society, multiple societies, and a mythology and languages that actually evolved in this world.”  He wrote multiple languages for Lord of the Rings. That’s absolutely insane. I think he kind of has an understanding of the relationship between the way people think and language, just seeing the way he presents language in the stories. Elvin is more than just a language. The words have special weight that are culturally relevant to the elves. This word friend is the password. There’s this context where the Elvin word for friend is literally the way to get through a thing because when the elves say friend they mean it, because it’s the elves saying it. It’s almost a magic language because of the sheer weight with which the elves speak it. The work that he put into it created something that’s actually unique and kind of awe-inspiring.

Are you still curious about religion?

Rain: Well now I’ve got other crap in my life to worry about. I’m trying to get my electronics engineering certificate. I want to get my career started. I look like a hippie now but I’m former Navy. I’m on the post 9/11 GI Bill. That’s what I’ve been living on for the past couple years so I need to make sure I’m actually moving into something. I’ve explored other things. I’ve also explored Taoism and Buddhism and stuff like that and I also read a bit of the Koran. When I was in the Navy there were reasons for that, but I don’t have time to really dedicate myself to religion right now.

Do you believe in a creator?

Rain: The closest concept that I believe in is the Tao which kind of gets into a gray area. Put me 50/50 if we’re doing a poll. Taoism is one of those things people like to talk about a lot, like yin and yang, there’s good and bad, but that is such a gross oversimplification of the concepts. The Tao Te Ching is not a hard book. It sounds way more mysterious than it actually is. It’s this concept of a greater overarching pattern in nature. Not necessarily a will or consciousness, but a way that things go. The way that they say that is that the laws of man are dependent on the laws of the Earth, the laws of Earth are dependent on the laws of Heaven, and the laws of Heaven are dependent on the laws of the Tao. Yeah, I understand that there are greater forces in this world and that’s cool. That’s kind of where I’m at.

How did you develop your moral code?

Rain: It’s more like I abandoned it. I’ve kind of gotten rid of it because the more I explored the way that I had morality, the more I realized that I tended to end up using it as a bludgeon. By having a strict rule set that actually needs to be followed, it implies that others need to follow it, and that always creates friction. Now I’m just like, don’t hurt people. That’s pretty much my only rule. If someone’s hurting you, then obviously there’s a certain degree of common sense that says, you can hurt them back to get them to stop hurting you. It’s more animalistic. I don’t really worry about laws so much as context and who is doing what and is someone being hurt. That’s the only thing I really worry about.

California Catholic Daily exclusive by Mary Rose.

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