Caron Creighton

Michigan State University

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What Do You Believe?

Whenever I embark upon a conversation about religion, I know there are risks going in. Religion is a sensitive topic, and the risk of offending someone with an off-hand comment is possible in pretty much any situation where religion is concerned. So I knew going in, should I do this project the wrong way, that my head (or at the very least, my grade for that semester) could be on the chopping block.

What I find interesting, however, is that I never really worried much about offending people with my video. What I was most concerned about was whether or not they would think it was any good. Throughout the process some of my interview subjects would be interested in finding out what my stance on religion was. I tried to be as open and honest with them as possible, both about where I stood on the subject, as well as what type of project I was trying to create. To my surprise, gaining the trust of the students I was interviewing wasn’t very difficult. I think the most important thing I did was to demonstrate a sincere interest in what they had to say. By the end of the interview, we were just having a conversation.

My questions about religion arose early in my childhood. I remember going to elementary school, feeling as if I were an outcast because of my religious views. This feeling eventually led to a fear that everyone could see my Atheism by simply looking at me. I felt as if I were constantly being judged. As far as I know, being a born and raised Atheist isn’t really a common thing. I’ve met very few people who were raised in a religious environment similar to my own—one lacking any major religious influence. Growing up, my parents always explained their religious views roughly as follows: “Mom and Dad don’t believe in God, but you can believe whatever you want.” That was it. Through working on this project, having multiple, in-depth conversations about religion with other students, I was quick to realize my mistake. My first impression of religion, viewing it as something scary, threatening even, was wrong. All of the people I spoke with and interviewed were open to discussing religion without the slightest idea of where I stood on the issue. They told me what they believed and I just listened, along the way learning more than I ever could have anticipated.

While creating the actual product, I tried to leave my views on religion out of the process as much as possible. As a journalist, I wanted to be objective. I had also learned from experience that this approach would be much more likely to give me the reaction that I wanted. Pushing your own religious views at others never works, no matter which side you’re coming from. I wanted to create something that would make people think, that would make people question themselves. I like to think I accomplished that.

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