10th place: College essay contest — Samantha Gregory
Funniest, smartest and friendliest
FFRF awarded Samantha $300.
By Samantha Gregory
We are all born screaming, crying and completely unaware of the world that exists outside of our mothers. As we grow, we get our knees scraped up, learn how to ride bikes, start to get crushes on classmates, and undergo so many universal experiences.
If these life events and how we learned from them were the only things that shaped us into the people we are today, we would know to accept, love and make efforts to understand all others. Instead, religion tries to teach us why a person is considered good or bad.
Over time, we no longer see Aliya as the funniest person in class, but instead as the girl who does not believe Jesus is the son of God. We no longer see Caleb as the smart boy who brings that cool spinning toy for everyone to play with during winter, but as a boy who is wrong because he doesn’t celebrate Christmas. We no longer see Ben as the friendliest kid in school, but as the boy who sometimes holds his best friend’s hand, which makes him a sinner.
We start out to only knowing people as being the smartest or the nicest or the funniest, but gradually we discount all of the traits and features that make people unique and put them in a box with their difference, like “Jew,” “Muslim” or “gay” as the only label that matters. Over time, people associate more and more with people who follow their religion and reject anyone that strays from that.
A divide is created between children and potential loving parents because adoption agencies use their religion to justify refusing same-sex couples. Middle Eastern and Muslim-appearing men and women also tend to be stopped more often at U.S. airports for random searches than all other races.This shows the biases put on Muslim Americans because of their religion. Additionally, states that implement laws that limit abortions and abortion access, using religion as their justification, harms women who hope for a better life.
With true secularism, not only would the government not be influenced by religion when implementing laws or judging cases, but people wouldn’t use religion in their considerations of people at all. People would no longer see others as the labels that made them different from their personal religion, but instead just as people. We would go back to seeing others not as Muslim, Jewish or gay, but as the funniest, smartest and friendliest. We would stop pointing out the ways people are dif-ferent and we would start remembering how they scraped their knees up and how they fell off their bike a few times, too.
Samantha, 19, attends Florida State University, studying insurance. “I work as a part-time cashier and my interests are making Tik Toks, learning about current events/activism, and playing with my dog,” Samantha writes. “I hope to be a financial adviser or risk manager one day.”