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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Honorable mention — High school essay contest: Alvaro Ortiz

Alvaro Ortiz

Honorable mention

Abandon religion to gain autonomy

FFRF awarded Alvaro $200 for his essay.

By Alvaro Ortiz

As an atheist in a Mexican Catholic household, I’m always hearing phrases such as “Si Dios nos da licencia” and “Gracias a Dios” which translate to “If God permits” and “Thank God,” respectively. To this day, I am baffled by the dependency on religion.​​ Some depend heavily on religion to feel as though their lives are under control, but religion makes me feel as though I have no power over my life. The reason why I am an unabashed atheist is that I realized​  that religion undermines me as a person.

In religious environments, people’s actions are often attributed to religious ideologies. Misconduct and tragedy are attributed to evil forces outside of our control meanwhile fortunate events are linked to a god. I would rather be held accountable for my mistakes and wrongdoings and learn how to grow as an individual than use religion to escape guilt. Likewise, I would rather be given credit for my achievements and have my strengths acknowledged than have any trace of my autonomy eliminated by a god being thanked for them. Rejecting religion is not an easy task; however, it incites a sense of accountability for your life decisions that many are afraid to have.

Ridding my life of religion allowed me to reclaim my self-worth and helped me realize that I must take responsibility for what occurs in my life. I don’t ponder about hell or heaven, rather I choose to do what fulfills my life, and regardless of the outcome, I use it as a learning experience.  I have learned to come to terms with reality—whether good or bad— and choose not to blame or credit religion for what occurs in my life. It is ignorant to use religion as a scapegoat for your problems, and it is disrespectful to discredit your accomplishments by thanking a deity.

My life has taken more meaning after having abandoned religious ideologies. I feel more empowered to fight through adversities, strive towards success and be a better person because it is my decision, not because it is forced upon me.

Alvaro, 18, is from Oakley, Calif., and will be attending UC-Berkeley as a first-generation college student. He intends to study computer science. Alvaro has been an avid volunteer in his community by participating in service events with philanthropic clubs and local organizations such as Key Club, Interact Club, Rotary Club, and Clean Pittsburg.