Honorable mention — BIPOC essay contest: Joanna Tapia
My pronouncement of atheism and humanism
By Joanna Tapia
Recently, I informed you that I identify as an atheist. I know this is undesirable to hear and hard to accept. I would like to explain my beliefs further, therefore I hope you will continue to read this letter.
I know the Roman Catholic faith is very important to our culture. I deeply believe I can exist as a proud Mexican while still being atheist. Please let me explain myself and my beliefs. Atheism and humanism align with my beliefs and have helped me grow as a person.
Throughout my childhood, I have had plentiful positive experiences within our church. Our church community is one that I will always value. That being said, it is not a community I fundamentally agree with. While I may disagree with religion, I still respect those who are religious. There is a common stereotype that atheists look down on those who are religious. This stereotype is not applicable to me. I continue to respect the Catholic faith and all other faiths as well. Becoming atheist has enabled me to become more respectful and open to all religions, beliefs and cultures. I believe that religion divides people more than it unites people. This is one of my issues with religion, how it divides people greatly. I personally believe there are many flaws with religion. But, I will continue to respect your beliefs, and I hope you can grow to respect mine.
As I believe I have shown, I care much about my morals. Being friendly, welcoming and accepting to all people is one of my personal values. I do this because I deeply care for humankind. I would also identify myself as a humanist. Humanism places a large emphasis on the human experience. Humanists care about human welfare, human potential, happiness, and more. Humanists, such as myself, believe that it is our responsibility, not “God’s,” to fix issues in our world. (Humanists do not believe there is a god). Even though I do not believe in God or the afterlife, I still aim to be a good person and do good things for our world. Growing up, our church placed a large emphasis on “right and wrong” and how our choices will determine if we go to heaven or hell. One main disagreement of mine with religion is the principle of “be good or you will end up in hell.” I find this a very juvenile way to think. I believe people should want to be good for the sake of humankind, not to avoid punishment (hell). Therefore, straying away from religion has helped me understand humankind’s responsibility and connection to one another.
When you are ready, I would love to speak more with you about my beliefs. I have more to say, but I do not want to overwhelm you in this letter. I want to end this letter by reemphasizing how proud I am of our Mexican culture. I absolutely love my background and culture. I understand that religion is very intertwined within our culture. Nonetheless, I am confident in my ability to engage in, and pass down, Mexican customs without believing in God or religion. Atheism is not a barrier between me and my Mexican culture.
Mom, thank you for reading this letter and letting me better explain myself and my beliefs.
Joanna, 21, is from Peoria, Ill., and attends Bradley University, where she is studying special education with an English as a second language endorsement. “I plan on earning my master’s degree and doctorates degree one day,” Joanna writes. “I have received the President’s Volunteer Service Award for my volunteering efforts.”