9th place: College essay contest — Parker Randall
FFRF awarded Parker $400 for the essay.
By Parker Randall
I have had a long, twisted journey with religion ever since I was a baby. I grew up in a conservative, Southern Baptist home with a preacher for a grandfather. I learned the books of the bible before I learned the full alphabet. I spent all my free time at the church cleaning, volunteering, being in plays and going to youth group. The church was all I ever knew.
But nobody prepared me for what it meant to go against the church’s teachings. I identified as a lesbian at age 13 when I realized I liked girls the way I was meant to like boys. Of course, I knew this behavior was unacceptable in the Lord’s eyes and that I was a dirty sinner. I kept quiet about it and no one in my school or my family knew about my orientation. I would sneak lesbian-centric books on my Kindle, watch LGBT content creators on YouTube, and quietly watch lesbian movies when my parents were asleep. I was determined to hide until I was 18 and could leave.
However, life had other plans for me. I went to a boarding school my junior year to get some college credit. The school was a college-level preparatory institution that only accepted the top 10 percent of the state’s students. Being the home of highly intelligent individuals, there was a lot of diversity among the student body and it was very inclusive. I was able to come out about my sexuality, meet other LGBT people, and have a place to express who I was. It was here when I realized I was actually a transgender man and became comfortable in my own skin.
I would have visits home where I would go back into the closet for a brief period of time. I would answer to my birth name instead of my preferred one, attend church with my family, lie about my beliefs and stay hidden. Every time I went home, I couldn’t wait to go back to school. But right before my high school graduation, I came out to my mom as a transgender man. I wanted to tell her before graduation because she was not as conservative as my father. I hoped we could stay in contact.
Turns out, she had no intentions of keeping my secret and told my father. He degraded me, insulted me, told me that I was an abomination before God and that he would never support me. I cried almost every night over his words. I was torn between making him happy or making myself happy.
I am an atheist because religion is the reason I lost my family. My parents told me the entire reason they won’t support my transition is because it is against their beliefs. Christianity has torn a hole in my heart and left a gap where my family should be. I reject religion because I know I am not the only one hurt by it. I know there are other people in the world torn from their loved ones over religious beliefs. Religion leaves people emotionally and psychologically scarred for life. I am against organized religion because people who uphold a religion hold that deity above all else.
Religion is a terrifying form of power and authority over others. You can use religion to intimidate people into believing the same way because, if you don’t, you’ll burn in hell for eternity. The leaders of religious organizations have embedded their own beliefs and agendas into the fabric of churches. I choose to be a freethinker because I refuse to be bullied any longer. I refuse to stay silent as religious leaders poison people’s minds in the name of spirituality. I choose atheism because I have the free will to believe what I want without someone making the decision for me.
Parker, 20, is from San Antonio, and attends the University of Texas-San Antonio, majoring in politics and law. “I want to use my education to revamp the American political system and government to better serve the people over the politicians. One day, I hope to be the first openly transgender male senator and president,” Parker writes.