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Honorable mention — Ashley Levy: Declaration of nonreligion

By Ashley Levy

I am an unabashed atheist and not afraid of burning in hell because keeping it is a secret is what the religious want. Many religious people have admitted that they have sinful desires, but it is OK as long as it is kept hidden. In the Handmaid’s Tale, the holier-than-thou government has an underground club full of prostitutes, but it is OK because it is a secret. There is no society that is without its faults, but being unwilling to admit to these leads to hypocrisy. I refuse to hide in the shadows. I refuse to feel shame for what I believe.

I am an unabashed atheist and not afraid of burning in hell because the religious in this country want to create a society for the few while oppressing the majority. Attorney General Jeff Sessions hides behind his bible while ripping families apart because that is what God wants. He is irreparably damaging these children in the name of his God. Vice President Mike Pence wants to torture teenagers because of who they love because his God demands that. The bible has been used as justification for slavery for centuries. The GOP speaks against Sharia law, yet fails to have the self-awareness to understand they wish to set up a Christian theocracy in the United States, despite the First Amendment. They wish to restrict the rights of others based on the bible, a book which they believe to be the word of God, just as the leaders in countries with Sharia believe about the Quran. I refuse to accept that people should have their rights restricted based on fairy tales.

I am an unabashed atheist and not afraid of burning in hell because if I do not speak out, who will? History has taught that inaction leads to disaster. If no one ever chooses to speak out against tyranny, then it will be allowed to continue. I am privileged to be able to speak out and not fear for my physical safety. There are people who are still beheaded for being atheist in some countries. It would be a waste not to use my privilege to effect as much change as possible. I feel I have the responsibility to speak out because those who are less fortunate cannot.

I am an unabashed atheist and not afraid of burning in hell because I do not want to live my life in fear. The idea that one should be God-fearing is dangerous and teaches people to be cowardly and unquestioning. Everything must be questioned. Religion teaches the opposite. I refuse to be relegated to

Ashley Levy

dark corners for who I love. I will not control other people’s lives while they harm no one because someone told me a book said so.

Ashley, 20, is from Brookhaven, Ga., and attends Oglethorpe University. She is studying economics and politics. After graduation, she plans get an advanced degree in economics.