[THROUGH THEIR EYES] Ep. 1: Do you believe God exists?

McKoy: Hi, I’m Clara McKoy and you’re listening to Through Their Eyes, a podcast sharing the stories that shape perspective. Today, I will be interviewing three students to unpack whether or not they believe that God exists.

McKoy: So to start, can you introduce yourself a little bit? What is your name, pronouns and grade?

Switzer: Yeah, I’m Savannah Switzer. My pronouns are she her and I’m in 11th grade.

Jameel: I’m Humza Jameel, I’m in 10th grade, and I use he him pronouns.

Hanf: I’m Kate Hanf, 11th grade, and she her.

McKoy: So just to start, what are your religious affiliations?

Switzer: I am Christian, specifically Lutheran or like ELCA Lutheran which is the church I’m going to currently.

Jameel: I am a Muslim.

Hanf: I would consider myself an atheist or an, what’s the word? It’s another like word that starts with an A, it’s like, not agnostic, maybe agnostic, yeah. Where like, there’s no way to really know if like, someone’s up there, so I don’t really believe in it. And I don’t know I just I don’t believe that like there’s just one person that I should be like, worshipping to or I just, I like to think of more of like kind of the universe or something more broad that’s guiding me or protecting me or something. Because I don’t know, otherwise, life is like pretty scary. Without like any comfort from like, something that isn’t in your control.

McKoy: Can you describe your relationship with this religion?

Switzer: It’s been a big part of my life ever since I was little. I’ve went to religious schools my whole life, minus this one. So it’s just been kind of like intertwined. Most people in my family are very religious. And so I guess it’s just been in my view of life, like my lens of how I see the world.

Jameel: Well, my family is all from Pakistan. My mom and dad were raised there and they moved over here. And in Pakistan like the main religion is Islam. And my mom and dad both practice Islam and they’re both Muslims. And me and my sister were mostly just like raised with the community. So we just classify as Muslims too. We do pray, and read the Quran.

McKoy: Were you raised without, like atheist slash without religous affiliations, and how did that affect your childhood?

Hanf: My parents never wanted to, like force me into something. So if I had had like a really strong interest in a certain religion they would have been supportive of it, but they wanted to give me the freedom to believe what I believe and they’re also atheist.
McKoy: What role did religion play in your childhood and just how you were raised?

Switzer: Yeah, so I went to like Sunday school, when I was really little. And all my schooling was with that. So we would always have like, religion time during the day, we would read a Bible story or act it out; Veggie Tales was a big part of that—a really fun show about vegetables telling Bible stories.

Jameel: So, the Quran is in Arabic. So I think just a big thing to like, be reading, be able to read the Quran as a child so you’re just learning a new language, reading. Not that much for like understanding but just being able to read the Quran was some thing that we did when we were growing up, as well as just also the language in Pakistan is Urdu, and learning how to speak that too and also praying as much as you can just like our parents did.

McKoy: So was there a moment in your life when you realize that God existed or was it always kind of something that you believe to be true?

Switzer: I think I’ve just always kind of believed it’s true. There definitely was ups and downs of just like, how belief fluctuates within everyone. It’s just kind of that journey on which people go—any religion. But I think there’s definitely times when I felt it more or I was more anry with God. Like when my grandma died, I was very angry. So just kind of different points where it like, fluctuated but for me, I think it was always there. And I think that helped me not feel lonely either, because there was always someone there for me.

Jameel: Yeah, it’s mostly just been a strong belief in my life. I haven’t really had a realization moment because it was just something that I think was just assumed throughout childhood.

Hanf: I don’t know there just have been like, really hard times in my life where I’m like, if someone is really looking out for me and making sure that I don’t go into trouble, like clearly that’s not being shown in this situation. And I mean, lessons learned, and I don’t have any regrets and I don’t wish my life were different.

McKoy: And then what about times when you maybe doubted—not doubted your belief—but your belief faltered a little bit or, or it wasn’t as strong. Do you have specific times?

Switzer: I think when my grandma passed away, she had a very rare liver cancer. And so she passed away like six years ago. Or some. She was very, very like faith oriented too, so she was probably my closest grandparent at the time. And I think the reason it, my religion, faltered a little bit was just because I was so … I guess angry is an okay way to describe it, because I didn’t understand why it had to happen to her. Because I’m like, ‘Oh, you can hope for a miracle. You can pray, and you do anything.’ She had it for multiple years. And there was a point where she got better for a little bit. So that was, I was a fifth grader, so for me, it was really much a struggle. But I mean, I think it’s just kind of realizing that like, it’s not in your control and things do happen for a reason, but not necessarily when you might like.

Jameel: Well obviously during like the month of Ramadan that’s probably when it’s strongest every year because you’re praying five times a day, you’re fasting, everything like that. And sometimes in like the months like between Ramadan, like the December winter, it gets a little like tough like praying all the time. Because it takes like a lot of juggling school everything. But I think yeah, you just need to persevere sometimes.

McKoy: Have there ever been times when you doubted your belief that—like after you decided ‘Okay, God doesn’t exist’—then were there ever times after that when you doubted that realization? Or has it kind of just been stable?

Hanf: I’d say it’s been stable. I think sometimes the idea of like, learning about certain other religions I’m like, oh, okay, like maybe I could be down to learn more about this or, I don’t know. Maybe there’s a lot, a lot of opportunity there but I’ve never doubted it.

McKoy: Do you believe that God has helped you or your family member through a certain situation or time of life that stands out as significant?

Switzer: I mean I think kind of just always, I suppose. I know too, this time of COVID has been really hard my parents because they’re both physicians. So I think just kind of like, for me it’s more someone always been there. To like, you can talk to or you can just like, sit there and just like observe what’s happening around you and just be thankful for it. I think that’s more of just kind of throughout my life, it’s been a big part.

Jameel: I think after the year that one of my grandparents died, that was an especially tough time for my family, and just believing in God and praying every day, I think that did help cope.

McKoy Yeah. What ways did you see God in your life then?

Jameel: Someone who’s watching over everybody, and keeping everyone safe.

Hanf: Yeah. There’s been a lot of like health things related to hearts in my family. And through those times, it’s like, I trust the doctors and I trust that my family members have the strength to get through it. But like, it’s like to know that there is something out there that’s like, looking out for my family and like knows that, you know, they’re gonna help guide it to the best situation possible. That’s a time when I’m like, okay, yeah, we got through this, maybe with the help of something.

McKoy: Once again, this is Clara McKoy and that was Through Their Eyes.