Honorable mention — Samantha Jones: Corruption, coexistence and compassion
By Samantha Jones
I am an unabashed agnostic not afraid of burning in hell because I have never been one for unjustified ultimatums. I have always lived by the phrase, “I believe what I can see.” A holistically perfect being in the sky that will send me to a mythical realm of fire and suffering for having sex or refusing to believe that a jaded historical figure is my personal savior isn’t something that can be proven, or to be frank, even adequately justified. I don’t believe that putting blind optimism and faith into a figure in hopes of arriving at a promised land is a valuable use of my time.
Just as cult leaders David Koresh and Marshall Applewhite promised their counterparts lives of bliss and safety in return fo
r social obedience, religion is a social movement organized to ensure civil obedience and control by those deemed holy and powerful. I understand that my peers have not come to this realization and that religion is not going to disappear out of thin air any time soon. But I find my devotion much more valuable if directed toward other humans through connection, service, charity and open-minded dialogue, rather than getting down on my knees and praying for happiness.
Our youths are ridden with depression, anxiety and suicide contemplations, and society has political tensions, war and, ultimately, a lack of compassion toward other people. Now is the time for spreading love and freethought, not a time for a bunch of old white guys manipulating a text to fit their hateful agenda against homosexuality or abortion. Institutions that are guilty of denying and covering up countless acts of explicit discrimination, sexism, racism, murder, pedophilia and probably every other crime imaginable in the name of God do not deserve my undying commitment.
While I understand that many churches are now taking progressive stances as our society becomes liberalized, this itself is undermining their integrity: If there really is this undeniable figure that is constructed in this undeniable text, why do we get to “change” the meaning as we see fit? Instead of throwing myself in front of an altar and some stained glass because society pressures me to, the best way to celebrate this life is to improve others’ through education, compassion and acceptance.
Samantha, 19, is from Rochester, Minn., and attends the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is an editor for the student newspaper the Daily Cardinal. She hopes to attend law school after graduation or writing as an environmental journalist.