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9th place: High school essay contest 2022 — Adam Tobin-Williams

Adam Tobin-Williams

FFRF awarded Adam $400.

By Adam Tobin-Williams

Hello fellow human,

I am among those deemed an atheist, and I have not a god to worship. However, I am a human, and that makes all the difference. To be human is to be subject to the tumult and psychological capriciousness of human life, so I, as well as you and all others, are subject to our human nature. This is the part of us that proceeds beyond our physical similarities, appendages and organs, to our fundamental dispositions and characteristics. I believe that all of humanity has the same capacity for moral behavior.

Morality is the distinction made between right and wrong, good and bad, and it is baked into us. This is evident in the diverse growth of religions, philosophies and law systems espousing nearly the same ideals despite having no connection to any primal religious organization that could have influenced them all. 

Confucianism, a philosophical system of morality in China originating in the 5th century BCE, singles out the five constants of human virtue which correspond to benevolence, justice, propriety, wisdom and sincerity.

Nearly 900 years and 10,000 miles away was the Incan Empire, which had ama suwa, ama llulla and ama quella, which translates into do not steal, do not lie, do not be lazy. Another ocean, age and language away was the French revolution supporting Liberté, égalité, fraternité, which are liberty, equality and fraternity. One was an ancient philosophical system, another a medieval religion, and the last the slogan of a contemporary revolution, and all three reveal the similarity of human culture across generations and environments. The overarching themes were those of justice and solidarity, where we need to be truthful and equal for justice to occur, and to do so, we must stand together in fraternity through propriety and hard work.

Morality, therefore, is not handed down by the gods for a select few to dole out. Humanity has not fought civil wars over whether there should be justice and truth, but rather how those terms are defined: whether Black slaves deserved to be considered human, whether Jews caused hardship and were punishable by extermination, or whether the solidarity of a working class-based government would have a more or less just compensation than a free market.

There is no moral principle that is shared among all religious people, but not atheists, as divergences within and between religions are as great or greater than the average difference between a believer’s and nonbeliever’s morals. We are all capable of doing great harm to our brethren, whether in war or otherwise, but it is not because some are atheists and some are not.

I wish you a good future and I believe you can rethink your beliefs so as to not rely upon another’s faith, but on another’s humanity.

Adam, 18, is from San Diego and now attends Johns Hopkins University, with plans to major in chemical engineering and economics. “With two white dads, one black brother, and me, a second-generation Chinese-Filipino immigrant, I am not from your typical family,” Adam writes. “In robotics, I learned four coding languages, hosted the yearly Hackathon, and helped construct our data analysis software, robot code, and machine hardware.”