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Honorable mention: People of color essay contest — Claire Hill

Thieves of freedom

By Claire Hill

Institutionalized religion has been one of the main thieves of freedom for the oppressed. The supposed divine word of one man became a weapon used to marginalize people. From teaching slaves specific bible passages based on obeying one’s master, to using inadequately translated language to fight against the equality of sexualities, Western religion has played a large role in systematically oppressing certain groups of people. I first rejected religion when I heard the phrase “God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers.” These words have been continuously used to justify others’ maleficent actions toward me, when they never should have occurred in the first place. It also implies that God allows atrocities to happen specifically to certain people as a way to make them stronger.

In Sunday school, I was taught about a man born in Bethlehem — the Middle East — yet shown pictures of a white Jesus. During my junior year of high school, I learned of the rising church memberships in times of crisis or old age, which implies that this type of religion was one that someone could morph to suit their desires. For example, one might say that abortion is against the word of their God, but fail to spend the time and money needed to promote well-being and provide opportunities to the child. They worship a refugee fleeing a government’s attempt to kill him, yet are hostile toward immigrants coming into this country to escape unjust and inhospitable conditions in their home countries.

My hometown has 45 churches in only 11.5 square miles and is 90 percent white, so being a black, nonreligious female, I had to face many different challenges. It was tough to build relationships as other kids made friends in Sunday school. I also felt behind at many points in my life because fellow classmates received scholarships, job opportunities or internships from networking at their churches. There are a few upsides to being nonreligious, even in an area so heavily occupied by churches. I have not been bound to a social code, wherein people judge you for inconsequential decisions you have made, such as clothing worn or your family’s structure. Another benefit I have is not having existential crises when I learn about conflicting topics in my classes as a science major.

The secular community should create a space for people of color by elevating their voices and educating themselves enough to help fight for equality of races. The community can also support the current civil rights movement, vote to pass laws in favor of protecting people of color, and reach out to their friends to check in. Only then would a comforting and safe place be created for people of color and all minorities. The

Claire Hill

secular community knows the struggles of going against institutionalized religion, so try to imagine Christianity being used as a weapon of white supremacy. I will continue to reject this form of religion, and with the help of the secular community, we can hopefully begin to truly separate church from state, in a fight against these thieves of freedom.

Claire, 19, is a sophomore at Drake University, majoring in health sciences. She earned the Emerging Leader Award from her sorority and holds the Equity & Inclusion position there. Claire hopes to become a doctor.

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