Letters From the Creators
I decided to pursue this project because I’ve always been fascinated by the things in life that we can’t see. My favorite subjects to learn about are anything intangible and human-centered, which leads me toward the subjects of philosophy, psychology, spirituality and religion. Throughout this project, I was consistently fueled by a passionate curiosity. I couldn’t wait to see what societal, religious and spiritual truths we would uncover.
As we progressed through the project, something started to change within me. I realized the project was not just one of a) pure enjoyment and b) significance in my academic life. It was also sending me on my very own religious and spiritual journey.
Before we started FoF, I would have considered myself a cultural Jew with a close personal relationship with God. God was my #1, but I did not necessarily practice Judaism, and I did not feel a connection to it beyond the fact that it was the culture I was born into. I felt real doubt and guilt that I was not connecting to something that was such a big part of my heritage. I realized how many questions I had weighing heavily on my heart, and at a certain point in the project, I actually found myself questioning my faith altogether. I wondered if Christianity was more aligned with my beliefs. And I must say, my family was not thrilled by this! But they trusted me, and I trusted the process.
Midway through our project research, I decided to express myself to a rabbi and see what he thought I should do. Our two-hour talk brought me to tears, and we found that a deep connection to Judaism was inside me all along – I just didn’t know enough about my faith to see that it was there. He sent me home with a Siddur (Jewish prayer book), and I plunged into practicing and learning more about Judaism every single day. This project brought to the surface deep spiritual and religious questions that I had buried inside, and the journey in connecting deeply with my faith has brought more fulfillment than I could have imagined.
I hope that perusing this project will also make you feel something. I hope it is something that starts a little stirring within you. Maybe it will cause you to think about your own beliefs. Maybe it will elicit a higher tolerance for the beliefs of others. Or maybe it will cause you simply to feel humbled to be a human being, full of questions and awe and wonder, about what it means to live a human life.
Like most of the people we interviewed for this project, I was raised religious. In my case, that religion was Roman Catholicism; and my childhood went just about how you’d probably imagine it would. CCD, Communion, Confirmation, you name it — between masses, school and masses at school, I was brought up in the traditions of my parents’ faith.
And I was totally fine with it. I fidgeted in pews, breezed through theology courses and forged friendships that have stood the test of time. However, as I grew older, that initial faith — that blind adherence to religious custom — faded. I never really questioned my belief in God, but I began to wonder: Did I really need to go to Confession? Does sacrificing sleep to attend mass really make me a better person? Did asking these questions of myself contradict my faith in God?
Here’s a confession: Prior to this project, I rarely thought about religion. Save for the rare philosophical chat with friends, the topic never crossed my mind. Sure, I still crossed myself before meals, prayed before bed (most nights) and tried to live by the moral code I was taught as a child; but I never sat on it. For lack of better phrasing, I thought God and I were pretty tight.
Then, we started talking to people. People our age, who asked the same questions I did, but reacted in far different ways. We talked to people whose job it was to answer those questions. And after nearly different 20 conversations, I can safely say that I found answers to questions I didn’t know I wanted to ask.
Speaking with all these individuals — the millennials, the religious leaders — proved to me that faith isn’t a relic from a bygone era. Contrary to popular belief, it’s alive and well; just updated to fulfill today’s needs. I was re-introduced to the concepts of faith and religion and, to my surprise, learned that they aren’t one in the same. Priests, rabbis and imams aren’t all stuffy, old-fashioned types — more often than not, they’re as interested in modernizing the practice of their faiths as we are.
To me, this knowledge was worth losing sleep over. The insights I gained were worth the hours I spent clicking away at a keyboard. What started as a massive school project became one of the more revelatory moments of my college career.
Maybe God isn’t quite yet dead. And maybe, just maybe, my faith isn’t as lost as I thought it was.
Data & Research Analyst
Social Media Manager
Working on this project has been extremely rewarding, both as a professional and someone with a very confusing relationship with religion. When we first began working on FoF, I was excited for the academic and professional challenge, confident in our creative abilities and a compelling project focus for a very timely topic. I was prepared for the workload ahead of me, but I wasn’t prepared for how this project made me confront my own relationship with spirituality and opinion of religion.
I grew up in a divided family with very different views of religion — when I was with my mom, between church service, youth service, bible study and volunteering with the kiddie church, I was at church three-to-four times a week. When I was with my dad, Christianity meant Christmas and Christmas meant emailing Santa our wish lists. With this back-and-forth, Christianity became more of a social activity than a doctrine of values and beliefs. As I grew up, I began to understand how some of the teachings of Christianity conflicted with my personal beliefs; this led me further away from the religion, and closer to resentment for having spent so much of my life following something I didn’t think my beliefs fit within.
However, this project helped me realize that religion does not have to be so cut-and-dried, but rather whatever you need it be. I am still figuring out entirely what I believe in, but I’m a bit more okay with that now. Getting to see how differently people experience religion and spirituality makes me more confident that I’ll figure it out one day. In the meantime, I’m happy to be a driving force in getting people to think more critically about religion and encourage tolerance for the multitude of beliefs out there.