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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

10th place (tie) — High school essay contest: Asia Felton

Asia Felton

Religion offers justification for oppression

FFRF awarded Asia $300 for her essay.

By Asia Felton

Have you ever wondered how American slaveholders justified their wrongdoings toward enslaved African-Americans? How did they justify slavery as righteous when it was clearly the opposite? They used the bible. Slaveholders quoted scripture to keep the enslaved under control.

As an African-American woman, it’s hard for me to ignore this. 

Growing up, I was primarily raised in a Christian household, living with my mom. But on the weekends, I spent time with my dad, who raised me to be a Hebrew Israelite. Christianity and Hebrew Israelite are very different. One is strict in a way that is very political, while the other is strict in a way where it denounces its own people. I was always caught at a crossroads with my parents because of this strictness. One day I’d have my dad telling me women shouldn’t teach religion, while my mom is a proclaimed minister at church. Both religions addressed everything in the book, from what foods its followers should eat, to sex. But they never addressed the bible being used to oppress us as a people. And that never sat right with me. 

I reject religion for this very reason. It has been used for years to oppress. It’s one of the reasons why my people suffered and continue to suffer in this country. It’s the reason why people turn a blind eye to this suffering, as well, because “God wants it to be this way.” Religion creates boundaries that are used to abuse freedom, not only in regard to African-Americans, but in general as well. 

When it comes to my advice for other people, I would tell them to avoid being bound by labels. Always know that whatever religion they decide to conform to, it may have history stacked against them. Religion is supposed to give you hope, a reason to keep going, but from my experience, it suppresses the freedom to think for oneself. So, none should need the label of religion to help them feel motivated about their futures and their lives. That comes from within. 

Asia, 18, is from Chicago and will attend Loyola Marymount University, where she plans to pursue a degree in computer science and economics. She would like to own a private equity company someday, as well as become a performer in the music industry. In high school, she was the leader of student relations, a peer counselor, a track and field athlete and the captain of the Lane Tech Majorette Team. She also volunteered for the homeless, serving at food pantries in Chicago.