Editor's note: Two Free State High School students offered to talk about their perspectives on religion and searching for faith. Here are some of their comments:
Lauren: Religion's an interesting topic for teenagers to cover.
Dwayne: I have to agree.
Lauren: I, for one, was born and raised Jewish, but over the course of my 17 years I have come to my own conclusions concerning faith.
Dwayne: What conclusions?
Lauren: I came to realize that while I appreciate the Jewish religion and customs, the religion wasn't for me. I think what I believe in now could be considered a form of deism. Deism is the belief that after God created the world he "abandoned" it. "Abandoned" to be used loosely, very loosely. My only conflict with Deism is that I'm really not sure if there is a god or gods or none at all.
Dwayne: Well, I was raised Mennonite.
Dwayne: But when my family and I moved here from Topeka, we settled on a different church -- Unity. Recently I decided I wanted to broaden my horizons, so I tried a few other religions.
Lauren: Which ones?
Dwayne: Well, Buddhism appealed to me somewhat.
Lauren: I thought I might go that way for a while as well.
Dwayne: It's a nice religion.
Lauren: But I just can't find a way to believe in this one deity controlling things.
Lauren: Or deities...
Dwayne: That ties more into paganism, though.
Lauren: Yes, but I don't believe that there can be nothing controlling the world.
Dwayne: Well, yes.
Lauren: So, exactly what do you believe in now?
Dwayne: After searching for a long time, I realize I will be always searching.
Lauren: So ... A Searchist? Ha ha. Sorry, bad joke, but I'm laughing.
Dwayne: Funny, but I have gathered my beliefs and I have come to my own conclusion.
Lauren: Well, I call myself a philosopher, and even then, that's rather spotty since people say that philosophy is a more career-oriented than religious, but since philosophy is used to argue religion, why can there not be a belief called philosophy? It's what I meant by Searchist. You're always questioning, and while your answers are unanswered, you receive satisfaction by theorizing and debating. Forever. Infinitely. So I wasn't totally saying Searchist for kicks.
Lauren: My term pretty much means that I will always be questioning religion, but it's kind of like a mixture with agnosticism as well.
Dwayne: That's a topic we really need to address.
Lauren: Which one?
Dwayne: The importance of teens questioning their religion.
Lauren: I know that our family and friends influence us, but it's necessary for people to learn their own beliefs. Sometimes people are fine with what they are brought up knowing.
Dwayne: Yes, but it's also important for people to find their own beliefs. It's one thing to blindly follow a religion, and another to have found one that suits you.
Dwayne: We have found some (and are still searching for) beliefs that make sense to us.
Lauren: Some ... I'm quite happy just questioning and debating the existence and worth of religion.
Lauren: People call me an atheist occasionally, but I never mention whether I do or do not believe in a higher power. I just think that it cannot be fully proven, and while I'd love to state all of my reasons for that belief, there isn't enough typing space because we have limited word space for this dialogue.
Dwayne: Yes, and that is a religion in itself
Lauren: See, I always thought the point of religious tolerance was to tolerate all points of views and not to ostracize any. I'm saddened to see that in today's world "tolerance" is often in the form of violence. People are like, "You should be open-minded!" And then proceed to make rude signs and send out letters saying why somebody is bad because they think differently.
Dwayne: I personally think that anybody that believes that they are completely right and everybody else is completely wrong is being extremely close-minded.
Lauren: We're all that way sometimes. Some people just don't expand as much as others.
Lauren: I personally think that our generation today is one of the most open-minded generations ever.
Dwayne: With each generation, the world becomes a better place.
Lauren: I think when our generation grows up, we will have a very open-minded country where religious and personal freedoms will be everywhere.
Dwayne: I sure hope so.
Dwayne: Be aware of what you are doing while practicing.
Dwayne: Take it metaphorically.
Lauren: Taking religious interpretations literally are hazardous to your health. Do you realize if we took our religious books entirely by the words in there we'd probably be breaking federal laws?
Dwayne: Yes, and people hurt each other so much "in the name of God."
Lauren: The goal of religion, that I thought, was to love everyone ... even those who don't believe as you do.
Lauren: I thought Christ said something like that.
Dwayne: He did.
Lauren: It seems that there will always be issues in our lives concerning our beliefs, but, thanks to the gradual increase in open-mindedness, we will all get along better.
Lauren: At least in my happy theory. I hope it's a correct happy theory.
Dwayne: So my advice to all the young readers out there is this: Be open-minded, be tolerant and keep searching. Peace out.
Lauren: That was good.
Lauren Bornstein is a senior at Free State High School. Dwayne LaForce is a sophomore at Free State.