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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Fourth place — High school essay contest: Katherine Gerhardt

Katherine Gerhardt

Nonreligious perspective has been freeing

FFRF awarded Katherine $2,000 for her essay.

By Katherine Gerhardt

Growing up Christian, I was always bothered by a kernel of doubt about religion. As I matured, that kernel grew until it exploded and I became an atheist. Now, I view the world from a completely different perspective. My sense of morality comes from my ability to empathize with other people, contemplating life in general and observing the world around me. I live my life as if it’s the only one.

I first began doubting my Christianity when the bible was read to me. Numerous questions flew through my mind. Why were dinosaurs not mentioned in the bible? If Santa is not real, how did I know God was? As elementary as these questions were, the answers never satisfied me. I was told that the bible was metaphorical. However, it all seemed to be a sloppy cover-up story to me. 

As the years progressed, I developed an interest in science. It was then that I discovered that there was no objective evidence at all that the supernatural realm even exists. After all, in our experience as a species, we have found the natural explanation for almost anything we previously thought was supernatural. And if we haven’t — it’s only a matter of time. 

When I entered middle school, my parents divorced, and this threw my mother in an unstable financial state. I placed my religious doubts aside and prayed every night, searching for answers and relief, but support was never granted. It got me thinking: Why would God let his innocent children suffer? If it were merely a test, why were immoral people rewarded? It all seemed counterintuitive. When I asked myself, “Do you really believe God exists?”, the answer was no. From that point on, I knew I was an atheist. 

Now, when people ask me, “Why are you an atheist?”, I answer with “Why aren’t you?” Think about it. Why should you believe in something without any objective proof? A belief that relies on blind faith? Personally, since becoming an atheist, my life has become clearer, simpler and more enjoyable. I finally feel free. 

Katherine, 17, is from Fairfield, Calif., and plans to attend the University of California-Berkley with hopes of becoming a bioengineering major. She would like to become an anesthesiologist. Katherine is a competitive figure skater and has won multiple awards on the state and semi-national level. She was valedictorian at her school and was a member of the Key Club, Photography Club and the National Honor Society.