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2nd place: College essay contest — Maia Willis-Reddick

Maia Willis-Reddick

FFRF awarded Maia $3,000.

By Maia Willis-Reddick

I’d be underestimating the power of the Church in Northern Ireland if I were to say we were a God-fearing society. We are not just God-fearing — we are God-living, God-obeying, God-submitting. It’s a hateful place to be when your mother, a New Yorker now living in Belfast, puts you through the societal humiliation of walking out of your assembly hall before the required prayer begins.

I am an unbaptized woman who grew up in the Bible Belt of Western Europe. My little corner of the island of Ireland is a backward, oppressive, misogynistic place. There, women belong in the kitchen, without access to abortion, obeying their husbands and praying to the Free Presbyterian Church. Because, God forbid, you were a Catholic who aligned yourself with the others, the South, those who had the balls to stand up to colonialism and won. Everything there revolves around religion, whether it be if your high school was named Coláiste Bríde or Methodist College, your street, your after-school sports activity, your name. 

So, for someone like me, someone who rejected religion as the controller of my life, more like the oppressor, I was outcast by those who deemed me too “weird” or “unsanitary” for inclusion into their personal circles. It’s no surprise I went abroad to school in Arizona then, where church and state are separated more than at home and I could just exist without someone asking me if I was Catholic or Protestant. Now, when people ask me what I am, I can proudly say I am a research assistant at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and a geology undergraduate. That’s actually interesting, instead of just blankly responding “Lutheran” and leaving it at that.

God is not real. Everything I believe in, understand and research is or can be explained by scientific principles and application. There is nothing in this universe that was made and created by a higher being, generated by ancient consciousness to soothe and pacify real fears instilled by the world around them. I understand where they were coming from, but to dispute the entire geological record that explains that the Earth is far more than 6,000 years old? Come on! Get out of the church! Pick up a rock, look at it, and conclude it’s sandstone made by the wind and Earth 45 million years ago instead of by a floating bearded man in the sky!

Those who ignore the scientific record and conclude that Adam and Eve are the original humans are ignorant of the fact that their idea may be challenged at any time by any sort of outside entity who isn’t their pastor. Relying on ancient texts to drive your worldview in an age where we know so much about the planet we inhabit is ignoring the existence of outside opinion.

Speaking of outside opinion, this brings me to the topic of abortion. I am incredibly angry over the recent opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, especially as a woman who lived in a country without access to abortion until 2019 (and there are still barriers). 

When asked about the true origin of their anti-abortion (and, frankly, anti-woman) opinion, I can make a very educated guess that most of those Republican senators opposing abortion will quote the bible. What is this? An outside opinion trying to determine what I can do with a parasitic clump of cells in my uterus? It’s mine! I can do what I want with it! And I can, if I choose, nurture it within those confines into a whole human.

If they want to ban abortion, they must also ban other things, like Viagra. If abortion is not God’s will, neither is a sustained erection for an old rich man from Kentucky.

Christianity does nothing but want to impose restrictions on us, and it’s far from the only one. Religion, when picked up willingly, can be a wonderful source of spirituality when appropriated correctly. When forced upon a 7-year-old Irish girl, however, it’s dictatorship. 

I hope we come to a point in society where we accept the fact that religious opinion should be kept to ourselves and not forced upon others. Until then, I’m going to keep fighting against those who deem it appropriate to oppress me in the name of their lord and savior Jesus Christ. I’m sure that’s not what he would have wanted.

Maia, 20, attends the University of Arizona, where she is majoring in geology. 

“I am from Belfast, and pride myself in identifying as Irish,” Maia writes. “I work as a research assistant at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the university, working on mapping and characterizing a number of subsurface icy deposits in the north polar regions of Mars, using ground-penetrating radar onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.”