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Honorable mention: College essay contest — Eveliina Niva 

Eveliina Niva

In God I don’t trust

By Eveliina Niva

One cold Finnish winter day, at about 6 or 7 years old, I asked my mother why my uncle wasn’t getting married in a church. We were standing outside the building where the wedding was about to take place. She looked at me with a concerned gaze in her eyes. But the concern wasn’t for me, it was concern that someone had heard me.

Kneeling down, she grabbed my hands and told me that his future wife was different from us. I didn’t understand back then, but now I do. Finland, where I was born and lived until the age of 8, is a Lutheran country. There is a tradition that grants you entry into the church. The summer of the year children turn 15, they attend a week-long camp where they and their friends learn about Jesus and the bible. If this camp is not attended, that child is not a member of the church, and therefore cannot get married in one. My uncle is a member, but his wife is not, and so they were married in an old building with the help of a non-religious officiant.

When I lived in Brazil from the ages of 8 to 12, the cruel nickname given to me was “monkey.” This was not due to my skin color or hair — I am Caucasian and blonde. This was the result of my expression of my belief in evolution. My classmates decided that since I believed in this, I was a monkey, whereas they were God’s children. I remember the first time I was called that, all I felt was pure anger. Not at the boy who called me this name, but at the system which allowed him to ignore scientific facts.

In the summer of 2013, I moved to the Bay Area in California. Finally, I was in a place that did not constantly shove religion down my throat, or tell me that I am useless because of my beliefs. Yet, all throughout high school, I saw the claws of religion grip into the government.

As Donald Trump became president my sophomore year, all I could think about was the fact that my rights as a woman were about to be dismissed. The rights of non-binary, transgender, homosexual people were about to be dismissed, and not because of a president, but because of a 2,000-year-old book. A book which taught humanity that women are inferior to men. A book that evolved into an entire religion against the basic human rights of every person on this planet, a religion that hangs over our heads every day. A separation of church and state is supposed to be in order, yet in some places it is deemed un-Christian-like to use contraception or get an abortion when you cannot afford to have a child. What happened to the freedom of choice? What happened to liberty?

“God” is still everywhere. We say his name in the Pledge of Allegiance. Money declares “In God We Trust.” Almost every state constitution somehow references God. Religion and government are intertwined with each other, even though so many of us, including myself, have feared for our lives and rights because of religion. Personally, I respect everyone’s right to their beliefs, but the moment someone’s beliefs begin to negatively impact my life is the moment I lose respect.


Eveliina Niva, 20, attends the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“I was born in Finland, moved to Brazil at the age of 8, and then to California at the age of 12,” Eveliina writes. “I love to travel and have visited over 15 countries with my family. In the future, I want to earn a Ph.D. in an anthropological field, and teach anthropology and/or archaeology at a college or university.”