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Honorable mention: College essay contest — Kennedy Coates 

Kennedy Coates

Key to discontinuing the religious divide

By Kennedy Coates

My mother, who considers herself a southern Baptist, would always tell me that religion creates a sense of community, and that if you love and believe in God, “He” will guide you to live a prosperous life. On the other hand, I also grew up with a father who considered himself a skeptical intellect, who taught me to question anything and everything, including the purpose of religion.

Having parents with two differing views on religion created a divide. My mother wanted me and my sibling to attend church with her every Sunday, whereas my father believed that we should have the opportunity to make our own decisions on whether to go. These opposing ideas between my parents caused conflict when I was younger, and as a child, I did not understand why. It wasn’t until I became older and confessed to my mother my doubt in religion that I truly got to experience first-hand how religion has the power to divide people.

There are an estimated 10,000 distinct religions around the world. Therefore, there are 10,000 ways to divide humankind. One of the issues with religion is that the people who follow it use it hypocritically to justify their negative actions. For example, many Christians use their religion, specifically their holy text, to support their hatred toward members of the LGBTQ+ community. Christians also used this same text to defend the use of slavery. Another example of how religion divides people can be seen in the conflict happening between Israel and Palestine. This conflict is a dispute over land; however, religion is the main proxy.

Religion does not just separate people who have different beliefs, but it also causes a division between people who may be a part of the same religious community. Take, for instance, the Sunni and Shi’a groups in the Middle East. Although these two groups agree on the fundamentals of Islam and the teachings of their holy text, they are in conflict about which group should lead the Muslim community.

These are just a few examples of how religion creates a divide, and unfortunately, the consequences of this division are people being mistreated and killed every day.

People who may be against secular humanism may not realize that people who practice this have faith. However, unlike religion, our faith is not in a higher power. It is faith in humanity’s ability to be humane, cooperative, sensible and peaceful toward others. Our actions do not have to be justified or inspired because of a higher power. Our actions should reflect our morals and who we are as a people. I am a huge believer in science, and many religious theories go against that. Whether there is or is not a higher power, it does not have any bearing on how I live my life. Practicing secular humanism allows us to embrace and truly understand how the world works without utilizing an unproven source. By not believing that there is a higher power that influences and condones our actions, we could all live a more harmonious life. That is why I believe the key to discontinuing the divide caused by religion is to have faith in secular humanism.

Kennedy Coates, 21, attends Agnes Scott College and is majoring on neuroscience, with plans to eventually earn a Ph.D. and become a teacher. “Although I spend a lot of time focusing on my academics and research, I still take time to give back to my community,” Kennedy writes. “I am currently president of my school’s volunteer organization called Scotties for Change. My team and I reach out to local organizations to find places where we can volunteer.”