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Honorable mention — High school essay contest: Anastazia Rudolph

Anastazia Rudolph

Honorable mention

Beyond thoughts and prayers

FFRF awarded Anastazia $200 for her essay.

By Anastazia Rudolph

Disaster can strike at any moment, with little to no warning. Cities can crumble under the jarring force of an earthquake; a day at school can turn deadly when a single lunatic opens fire on innocent children. In an instant, what at first appeared to be a calm and peaceful day can be so violently interrupted by ensuing death and destruction. I am an atheist because I believe that, in times of crisis, the only “saving grace” that will appear is that of action. The famous line of “sending thoughts and prayers” does nothing to alleviate suffering or to preserve human dignity.

Such situations are not “acts of God,” nor will any higher power step in to take control. Rather, it is the responsibility of the individual to seize power for themselves and to rise above the chaos. Though this perspective may seem grim to those who are devout to their faith, to me it provides not only a sense of confidence, but enables me to better cope with unfortunate events. I maintain a logical perspective of even the most horrific situations, identifying their underlying causes and developing a clear plan of action. I am spared from being forced to develop some sort of reasoning for why a “loving and all-powerful God” would allow for the destruction of cities and the deaths of innocent children. Even in times of grief, I can understand that death is an inevitable occurrence and rest assured that those who have passed on are not suffering in an eternal damnation for any so-called sins they may have committed.

Throughout my career in emergency services, I intend that my actions will serve as an example showing that a lack of faith does not coincide with a lack of compassion or service-mindedness. It is my goal to protect my community from disaster – whether it be from a hurricane or a terror attack – and to comfort others in a way that is not centered upon any particular religion. I hope to become a shining example of patriotism and secularism throughout the course of my life.

Anastazia, 18, is from Dayton, Nev., and will be attending the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, with plans to major in emergency management and homeland security. She would like to work for FEMA upon graduation. In high school, she joined the Civil Air Patrol and is now the cadet commander of her squadron. Anastazia is multilingual, able to communicate proficiently in English, German and Spanish, while also studying Russian and Dutch.