1st place: College essay contest — Asja Misner
Dear Religion, your time is fading fast
FFRF awarded Asja $3,500 for this winning essay.
By Asja Misner
It has always astonished me that some people honestly believe your magnificent fables are nonfiction. They take your words at face value, and never question that maybe your purpose is dual-sided: to offer hope and conviction in a difficult world, and to control and subjugate. They are too fascinated and starstruck by your promises of answers, salvation, divinely defined purpose, and an escape from the harsh reality of death to realize that you’re harmful, as well. Sure, you’ve done a lot of good, and help countless people through tremendous atrocities. I’m not denying that. The capacity to do good and survive our struggles is already within us. You’re just slapping your name on a project you didn’t create. Despite the amount of good attributed to you, the amount of suffering and horrid acts you’ve been used as justification for heavily outweigh it, and that just doesn’t sit right with me.
It has always surprised me that you can cause so much needless harm, guilt, self-loathing and hatred in your followers, yet they continue to love you like gaslighted and brainwashed victims love an abusive partner. When we try to help these people you hurt so much, they say that we need to wake up and open our eyes. They say that we are the ones who are being harmed and need saving. They dig their nails in and fight for fear of being wrong and having to admit that not knowing is OK sometimes.
It amazes me that your followers can quote you and use you as “evidence” to back their claims when they are on opposite sides of debates. It astounds me that they can look at your countless clear contradictions and don’t see the ridiculous mental gymnastics it takes for them to twist their views to compensate. They hold steadfast to what they want so badly to be true, like a toddler clutching their security blanket even after it’s been covered in mud.
It terrifies me that to survive, you depend on impeding free thought and inquiry. It’s sad that when asked a difficult question, your only real response is to have faith and believe in something despite the lack of any logic or real evidence in your favor. You stand so proudly in the way of science, education and the overall advancement of humanity because you know that the more people learn to use their critical thinking skills, the less you matter. The more we learn about the world around us, the smaller the gap you can fill. The more we learn to love ourselves and others and to show kindness and compassion for one another, the better life gets for everyone, and the more your ability to control and restrict freedom is diminished.
It fills me with hope that as the world becomes more socially progressive as a whole, the more your followers are forced to backtrack, rationalize and question you, and the more equality and freedom there will be. If we sit back and do nothing because we think we deserve pain and suffering for making understandable human mistakes, the less yearning we have to fix the injustices we see and improve the human condition, which is the opposite of the love you claim to offer.
Freedom dies in theocracy. That’s why the happiest and healthiest countries are secular democracies. You had your time and place in history, but it’s coming to an end. Like a virus, you need us to survive, but we are better off without you.
Your lifelong questioner
Asja, 20, is from Port St. Lucie, Fla., and attends Indian River State College, where Asja is majoring in organizational management. “I am an avid social and civil justice warrior, putting my full support behind the LGBT+ rights and BLM movements and am a vocal advocate for preserving/building separation of church and state.” Asja hopes for a career in higher education or nonprofit work.