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Honorable mention — BIPOC essay contest: Aerahan Skanthakumar

Aerahan Skanthakumar

By Aerahan Skanthakumar

Dear Ammah (mom)

Before I explain my reasons for believing in what I do, I just want you to know that you have done your job as a parent brilliantly and whatever I choose to believe in has no correlation with it. You have raised me with strong values, from the importance of helping others to the emphasis on academics.

However, one thing that you have tried to instill in me, your religion, hasn’t quite gone the way you planned. I am agnostic. I have no opinion on the existence of a higher power either way. I know that the presence of such a power can never be disproven, but there is no evidence at all for the existence of one. I simply cannot blindly believe in something that I have seen no proof of existing.

An analogy I like to compare it to is that yes, it’s possible that I’d win the lottery tomorrow, but am I going to live my life today like I will? In the time that I would spend going to the temple and praying, there are so many more productive uses of my time. I could volunteer for a charitable organization or just better myself overall. If there really was a god, would God want me to spend my time essentially begging him to do something for me or to go out and improve my life and the lives of others around me?

I know another concern of yours is that religion and morality go hand in hand. While I do understand where you’re coming from, religion can provide a seemingly good moral framework, I have disagreements here. Instead of being motivated by a fear of God/karma to be a good person, I believe it is simply my duty as a human. I am just as motivated as you and other religious people to be a good person. I don’t do it out of fear of retribution in some future life but just trying to make the world a better place.

Secondly, Hinduism itself has questionable priorities. Why is it a major sin to eat a certain type of animal, but it’s not expressly prohibited to spread rumors about/put down other people, something that frequently happens between other religious families that we know? This is not to even mention the shaky attitude toward the LGBT community in many traditional Hindu families. Does a benevolent god really value people not eating a certain type of organism more than valuing everyone treating each other with respect?

Religion is not making these people better humans. Religious people with strong moral principles are good people because of their inherent values, while the religious people that shun LGBT people are just following an arbitrary set of rules dictated by their religion and expressing their true personalities while believing that they’re good people. To your credit, you’ve instilled in me the values of treating everyone with respect and helping others in me, and I will never lose those as long as I live.

Overall, all I want is a chance to express myself and explain to you a little better why I choose to live my life as I do. I have no judgment about what you do with yours, you’re an exemplary person and I aim to emulate you. I simply ask that you at least try to understand my reasons for my divergence from you in terms of religion and allow me to live my life as I choose.

Your son,


Aerahan, 18, is from Bolingbrook, Ill., and attends the University of Illinois. “My main educational goal is to prepare myself for my first job in mechanical engineering,” Aerahan writes. “I also hope to pick up an MBA in order to ease my transition from the engineering to the management side. I desire to utilize both my engineering and business skills, bringing a new perspective that most of the pure business majors in management lack.”