Ninth place: College essay contest — Angelique Robinson
Religion, government separate, not equal
FFRF awarded Angelique $400.
By Angelique Robinson
Religion forces people to shape their beliefs to a system created long before their birth. Religions seldom change as their holy texts are seen as sacred. Secularism is more adaptive; beliefs change over time as human thought evolves. Many religions reject individuals, even those of the same faith, for holding differing beliefs, while secularism is meant to accept people’s beliefs as they are.
I did not reject religion until I read Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. The satirical piece shows that religion does not help reveal the truths about the world because it takes on so many forms, none of which can be proved correct. Reading the novel made me realize that I only said I was religious, when deep down I knew I didn’t believe in Christianity, I never had. I went to church often as a child, but never because I believed in religion.
Religions have a lot of hypocrisy and inconsistencies, and the benefits do not outweigh these problems, so I rejected religion. Once this occurred, I was able to see the world in a much different light.
Religion divided me and my best friend Adrien. I realized that I was living the way Christianity wanted me to live and not according to my own beliefs. During our sophomore year of high school, Adrien told me they are pansexual and non-binary. Because of my years of bible study, my brain would not let me accept that something other than man and woman existed. I rejected one of my closest friend’s identity for two years because of the religion I had been raised with. I had never been given the opportunity to create my own beliefs about the idea of being LGBTQ+ until I let go of religion because it had already been painted wrong for me.
Nations with strong religious ties are trying to create laws that limit how LGBTQ+ members get to live their lives. In early April, the Florida Senate tried passing a bill that would prevent trans girls from playing in women’s sports. The only reason the bill died was because the NCAA released a statement stating that it would pull events from any state that barred athletes from playing sports aligned with their gender identity. Even in a “secular” government system, religion was only outweighed by economics. In addition to several states passing anti LGBTQ+ legislation, many religious beliefs are bleeding into legislation, pitting citizens against each other.
In countries like the United States and France, whose constitutions both claim to be secular and to protect their people, religion is bleeding into government actions and reactions and creating division. France’s Senate recently just passed a ban on minors wearing hijabs in public, which is a direct attack on Muslim young women. This sparked protest around the world as it is violation of the freedom of religion guaranteed to French citizens in their constitution.
Secular policies would not be causing these divides within nations. If the policies had benefits beyond religion, then the protests would not be as strong. Both these nations have strayed from the secular systems their constitutions created.
Secularism is not a judgment-based system like religion, so it is better for unifying people. Throughout history, people have used religion to divide and pass judgment on others, while secularism has been geared toward letting diverse groups of people live together in harmony. While secularism will not guarantee that people will agree, it does mean that one religion’s beliefs will not dictate the lifestyles of everyone.
Angelique, 18, attends Florida State University. “I have had a passion for writing since I was 12,” writes Angelique. “I was a member of my high school newspaper staff for three years. I won two Florida Scholastic Press Association awards during that time. I also volunteered with Hillsborough County’s Family and Parent Association during high school.”