5th place (tie): People of color essay contest — Rojina Timsina
Religion is merely the illusion of reassurance
FFRF awarded Rojina $1,500.
By Rojina Timsina
Every morning before sunrise, bells would ring in the temple near my house in Nepal. One gloomy morning, I was accompanied by my parents to go witness the rituals. Rubbing my tired eyes, I marched behind them. In the large crowd, there was pushing and shoving, crying children and screaming moms. My mother yanked my wrist and pulled me toward the front, where all the action was.
I never understood the importance of events like these, why people would try to commune with something they could not see or hear. But, this time, I wasn’t in the position to question.
As a 6-year-old, I constantly had night terrors. It was scary and I didn’t know why it happened. I made the bold choice of telling my overly religious parents, which meant the temple visit was inevitable. For the next three years, I devoted myself to a religious life so God would be happy with me and stop sending demons to scare me at night.
In 2010, we came to America as refugees, seeking a better life. There were many challenges I had to face in getting used to the new culture at an age where I still hadn’t completely figured out my old culture in Nepal. Religion was a big part of our life in refugee camps.
My parents had lived their whole life in uncertainty. Growing up in the brutal environment of Bhutan, they fled to Nepal and then to America. Religion was all they had, the only certainty they had. However, I was fortunate enough to receive an education. My views on religion changed as I experienced life in a diverse school.
The void that religion filled in my parent’s life, education filled in mine. Religion creates barriers among people and makes us inhumane toward those who are different. Education makes us compassionate toward those different from us. Religion gives us the illusion that everything around us is God’s creation and should not be questioned. Education lets us know that we can make a change for ourselves and others. Religion makes us narrow-minded, while education makes us open-minded.
My parents get a sense of assurance from believing they’ll reunite with God after death. I get that sense of assurance from believing this life is all we get and then we’re done. The peace my parents get from listening to prayers and reading religious texts, I get by reading poetry highlighting the beauty of nature and life, books that remind me to appreciate my life. The sense of pride my parents get from donating to temples, I get from donating to those who are in need.
While religion makes us compete with each other to reach God, education reminds us that each other is all we have in life.
Life is uncertain and scary. My parents latched on to religion to help them through this crazy journey. At the moment, that was the only choice they had. I don’t need the reassurance of someone from above watching over me. I like to be in control of my own life, and though that’s not always possible, I’ve realized being nonreligious gives me that control, to some degree. I have control over what I choose to do in my life, how I choose to make my life fulfilling and purposeful.
Now, when night terrors happen, I choose to reassure myself by understanding why it happens instead of praying to God so he would make it stop.
Rojina, 18, is a first-year student at Kalamazoo College and enjoys studying history, philosophy and psychology. “I enjoy social work in refugee centers and hearing inspiring stories of people who had led very different lives than me,” Rojina writes.