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.
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?