<< I believe again

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Friends and family are my support

Even though I was raised a Catholic and have attended Catholic school, I don’t practice. I believe in God but rarely attend church and don’t pray. I don’t believe that prayer will answer my wishes and questions. It’s so much easier to talk with someone about my problems rather than some god I can’t see.
     I respect those who look to God for support and answers, but I have my family and friends to help me with my problems, so I don’t need God. When I was 13 my grandmother died. She was 100. That was really hard on me. I was really close to her and I wasn’t sure what to do. After the funeral my uncle played videos he’d recorded of her talking about her life and what she’d been through. It made us feel like she was there. That helped me get over her death. I loved watching those videos. I was grateful my uncle did that for us.
Brett Hicks, 18, Loyola HS

Islam is peaceful

It’s hard to be a Muslim when you live in America. You’re not allowed to drink alcohol. You’re not allowed to eat pork because pigs are dirty. It was hard in elementary school because pepperoni pizza was everywhere. I have to wake up at dawn and pray. Sometimes my mom has to drag me out of bed! But I like my religion because it’s peaceful. You pray and read the Qur’an to learn about the past. I like that there is no discrimination of people of different cultures. We respect everybody even if you’re not Muslim.
Hani Mokhammad, 15, Pacific Coast HS

Prayer got me through hard times

I turn to Jesus when I need someone to help me. At those moments, I like to talk to him so that he will make things better.
     When I was in second grade my mom left my dad, and she took me and my brother to a shelter to live for a month. After leaving the shelter, life got complicated because we moved around a lot. I wanted to cry, and I wanted someone to know what was going on. So I prayed to Jesus seeking hope and strength to deal with my problems.
Gradually, Jesus answered my prayers by stabilizing my life. My parents eventually divorced and I no longer had to live with constant fighting and I worried less, too.
     I feel that in every moment of my life, God is showering me with his love. Knowing this, I work hard, feel happy and enjoy life.
Jessica Kwon, 15, Bravo Medical Magnet HS

Religion guides me

Faith plays a huge role in my life. As a Catholic, I go to church twice a week. My faith helps me make decisions. Something like cussing might not seem like much to most people, but it’s serious to me. Because of my faith, I have cut back on my cussing. I follow the morals the Catholic faith has given me, because I know I am a better person when I follow them and that makes me proud of who I am. Catholicism also gives me something to look forward to when I die. If I am able to live my life for God and Jesus Christ, I will go to heaven. Even if heaven is not real, which is totally against my beliefs, I will die knowing that I was humble enough to not live my life as a self-centered person.
Kevin Ko, 15, Wilson HS (Hacienda Heights)

It’s hard for me to believe without proof

I’ve never practiced a religion. My parents aren’t religious and have never talked to me about their spirituality. So I have been free to decide what I believe. I think some religious services can be moving. My parents sent me to a Catholic middle school because they thought it was strong academically. I enjoyed listening to the hymns at prayer services, but I never felt a connection to a higher power and didn’t want to practice Catholicism. I also don’t like to believe things without scientific proof. I think it’s more rational to believe things that are grounded in logic and observation rather than rely on faith alone, so I don’t believe in God. Still, if any scientific evidence proves there is a God or if circumstances in my life lead me to spirituality, I’m open to changing my mind.
Lia Dun, 17, Marshall HS

Right and wrong should come naturally

Religion plays no part in my life. My mom has taught me what’s right and wrong without quoting the Bible or using religion as a reason. When I need guidance, I analyze the situation I am in. I have friends who do drugs and I find it easier to say no when I think about how it would affect me. If I got caught I’d get in trouble with my mom and it’s illegal so if I got stopped by the police I’d get arrested.
     I think the message of religion is good—how to live morally and that things will turn out OK if you have the right attitude and faith. But I choose not to be a part of it because it causes a lot of conflict. Many religions are opposed to technological advances like stem cell research, which could help people with terminal illnesses. Religion is also a cause of some hate crimes. Even though the message is good I don’t think you need religion to know how to live morally; it should come naturally.
Stanton Ellison, 17, West L.A. College

I appreciate that others need religion

I am not religious. Yet, I am not anti-religion. Until the second grade, I attended religious private schools because my parents thought I’d get a better early education there. On Mondays we would report whether we went to church. I felt out of place since unlike my Lutheran peers, I was at piano lessons on Sunday mornings instead of Sunday school so I attempted to be religious, praying and memorizing Bible verses just to feel like I belonged. But after I started attending public schools, I no longer had to try to fit in with religious classmates. I became an agnostic, someone who believes there is not enough evidence to prove or disprove the existence of a god. My parents don’t see religion as necessary; hard work and confidence in yourself will help you overcome obstacles, not praying.
     Now, I appreciate the importance of religion. Most of my friends are Christians and go to church every Sunday. They’ve told me that Sunday school was forced upon them when they were younger but now they voluntarily go to church, even on Fridays. Their faith has helped them through complications more than talking to a friend could. I respect religion’s role in other people’s lives. It has enriched the lives of people I care about, so in an indirect way religion has made an impact on me.
Stephany Yong, 15, Walnut HS

Faith in myself is more important

Being a Jewish girl in the valley I always wondered why I didn’t go to Hebrew school on Wednesday nights like the rest of my friends or why I wasn’t bat mitzvahed. My dad said, “I raised you to be a good person, unrelated to religion.” My parents taught me how to be kind, generous and compassionate all while accepting others for what they might be. They raised me to have faith in the human race, but unfortunately not everyone is reliable and honest, so they also taught me to have faith in myself. To me, it doesn’t matter what the Bible, the Torah or the Qu’ran says; faith is something that will help you get through life’s challenges and twists.

Sammie Richards, 18, Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies

I rely on my the people in my life

I have a hard time believing in God or higher powers because I never saw a connection between my parents and God. Since they didn’t believe in Him, neither did I. My mom has always told me that organized religion is a human creation. She tells me that people don’t need it to live a good life. My grandma has always followed the Buddhist faith. When I was 13, she gave me a small Buddha charm to wear as a necklace, but I didn’t feel the strong connection my grandma felt toward the religion. I wore it for a few weeks out of respect, but in the end, I thought it was wrong to wear a symbol for a certain faith if I didn’t feel passionate about it.
     My friends tell me that I have to have faith in something. I struggled with finding out what I have faith in until I realized that I was content with having faith in the people in my life. I can always count on the people who care about me to be there for me. They strengthen and comfort me. I remember a couple of days when I was depressed and I lost a lot of sleep. One night, I called my best friend at 3 in the morning and she stayed up to talk about everything that was on my mind. I will never forget that because that’s when I realized I could always count on her no matter what.
Jean Park, 16, Harvard-Westlake School (North Hollywood