Saturday, June 16, 2012

FFRF College Essay Contest Entry

This is the entry I submitted to The Freedom From Religion Foundation's 2012 college essay contest. The topic was essentially "Why I am An Out of the Closet Atheist" and why others should be, too. A full description can be found here.

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"Gladly Godless"

Follower of Christ- that’s what my name, Christiana, means. Contrary to the definition, the path I choose to follow is my own.  Admitting my atheism to the world opened my eyes to the possibilities. Many people still fail to understand how my life can possess meaning and happiness without believing in a higher power. Religion instills its own meaning into a person, not allowing her to think for herself. Atheism is the cure for that poisonous indoctrination. I’m an out atheist because I want to serve as a living example that a humanistic worldview makes for a more fulfilling life. I strive to show nonbelievers in the closet that coming out unifies us, telling believers that reason prevails.                                                                                                                       
 The coming out process always begins with a seed of doubt. I ignored mine at first. I thought attending various churches during my preteen years would somehow convince me of a god’s existence.  It occurred to me at fifteen that I didn’t need religion to guide my life. I refrained from telling the world until I turned sixteen in fear of my small North Carolina community’s hostility. Coming out as bisexual soon afterward made this a very delicate time in my life, helping me learn the type of friends worth keeping. The disparaging comments I heard then mirror the comments I still hear today: my heart’s a black hole, I worship Satan, and I possess no sense of right and wrong. I refuse to let anyone tell me who I am. I waste no time trying to convince ignorant people of their misguided opinions about atheists and let my actions speak for themselves. Some of my so-called “evil” atheist activities include regularly donating blood, campaigning for better treatment of animals and LGBT people, and practicing martial arts (which I hope to never use on anyone). The religious right’s monopoly on morality needs to end.                       

Religion planted in my head that my bisexuality made me worthy of death. I believed I was a defective product of God that deserved punishment. I owe my recovery to discovering the horrors of religious texts while perusing them for advice. Although my realization that religion oppresses the mind was unintentional, I can’t apologize where that knowledge led me. No prayer ever gave me answers, but taking action in searching for them opened my mind.                            

  My actions as an out atheist demonstrate to this religiously oversaturated society that nonbelievers can (and often do) live moral lives. A deity need not tell me suffering is bad or murder is wrong; common sense equips me with all the tools I need to make good choices. The more nonbelievers that out themselves, the more ground religious zealots lose with their ridiculous claims of atheist immorality. Too many religious people claim they’ve never met a nonbeliever and nothing would challenge their ideologies quicker than seeing us helping others. We nonbelievers use our two hands to help heal the world’s ills while the believers waste time praying with theirs. The nonreligious community’s biggest issue is working alone; coming out brings us closer to unity.                                                                                                                        

 Attacks from the religious right frequently entail nonsense about the erosion of America’s religious freedoms. Banding together to fight back against these claims shows that we refuse to shut up, like believers want us to. By increasing the amount of nonbelievers who come out, we’ll decrease the isolation we experience. Atheist groups continue to sprout up everywhere, from national organizations to high school and college clubs. The choice to tell others remains a deeply personal one because of potentially hostile reactions from those around us. Living in a Bible-belt state, I know the struggle of weighing the pros and cons of such a decision. Declaring to the world that you’re religion-free brings an intensely liberating feeling. You no longer have to hide or lie about what you believe (or don’t believe)!  Too often, people of a religion can’t even agree on what THEY believe.                                                                                                                    

  Religion only results in division; just look at the countless Christian denominations. No religion avoids the schisms that result in differing factions, schools, and denominations. Religions thrive on forcing followers to obey their version of morality. It’s capable of turning good-hearted people into rabid simpletons that defend even the most abhorrent dogmas. Atheism demands nothing and commands no one. Atheists look to make progress, not hinder it based on outdated beliefs. Theists who assert that no good deed means a thing without believing in their deity probably won’t disappear anytime soon. Thankfully, a humanist’s life isn’t centered on pleasing anyone (especially invisible friends in the sky). Even non-theistic religions pose a threat to one’s mind because they still reinforce rules and restrictions. The tools humans need to succeed in life require no supernatural assistance. Our innate curiosity of the world and ability to reason serves us more than well. We help others because it brings us great satisfaction to do so and not because we want to earn brownie points toward a favorable afterlife. Common sense is sufficient to tell us that acts such as murder and rape are wrong. Asking questions and taking action changes the world; prayer and accepting beliefs on nothing except blind faith get us nowhere.                                                                                                                                                       
 I am an atheist, therefore I am free. Religion sentences the greatest human treasure, the mind, to prison. Secular humanism enables us to use our minds to better ourselves and the world as a whole. Humanism encourages the pursuit of knowledge instead of squandering it. With my confidence in humanity’s potential to better the world without religious influence, I proudly say that I’m an out atheist. What about you?

8 comments:

  1. I suppressed my childhood doubt until I was about 30. My father gave me a mental innoculation against a lot of choices, including atheism.

    I am glad for you that you were able to process your doubt sooner, and understand how to arrive at rational conclusions.

    I predict that religious belief will decline.

    This is a good time for us to associate, discuss the philosophy that can help us make our life decisions, and co-ordinate those decisions for efficiency and effectiveness.

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    1. Better late than never. I would've had a harder time if I'd been forced to go to church by my parents, but thankfully they weren't big on it.

      No matter what path we ended up freethinkers, it's my hope that we can unite as a positive force for the world.

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  2. I believed till I was in my 30's, it embarrasses me to think back to that time and I can't believe that it took so long to wake up. Thankfully here in the UK atheism doesn't carry the stigma that you see in the US

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    1. It carries a bigger stigma in the area of the US I live in. It's notorious for intolerance. I'm glad you live in a place that being an atheist isn't seen as a horrible thing. It's great that you, too, have found reason.

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  3. Well written. My realization cam around the age of 10-11. I was great at memorizing Bible verses and stories. I found the learning aspect of church fascinating until I started doing some of my own thinking and realized that there were so many people condemned by religion for doing things that my heart said weren't wrong.

    It took me about a decade to tell anyone that I doubted and that I didn't consider myself Christian. There was so much fear built up around the idea of not being Christian that I was afraid to really think about it and just considered myself a non-practicing Christian.

    I think it's getting around that fear of imminent doom that makes it so hard for doubters to declare themselves atheists. I think it took finally realizing that religion is all about instilling that fear in order to break free from it. I'm so glad that I did. It was one of the best things to happen in my life.

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    1. Thank you.

      At 11, I became "saved" at a friend's Baptist church. The sermon had me sobbing in fear. It took me a few months before discovering nothing had changed. I tried going to church again a couple years later and found nothing appealing. I too kept quiet for years after until I saved up the courage to come out.

      I wasn't well-liked in high school anyway, so that gave my peers one more thing to bully me about. A few times I considered lying to say I was Christian, but decided against it because I knew lying to myself would be worse in the long run.

      The sooner we stop people from scaring us off, the sooner we can make progress. Good job on coming out. Happy to hear it's made a positive impact on your life :)

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  4. Well written. I wish that I wouldn't have waited so long to come out.
    Thanks for sharing

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    1. Thank you. Don't dwell too much on when you came out; you're out now and can only move forward. :)

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