Honorable mention – High school essay contest: Gavin Ruby
Religion: Salvation or weapon?
By Gavin Ruby
My mom’s family is all first-generation Irish-American and very Catholic. She promised her parents to raise her children as Catholics and to see them become adults in the church. As promised, I was subjected to eight grueling years of church and Sunday school. At a young age, church was just a boring event I had to attend every Sunday. I groveled and moaned, but there were donuts at the end, so I played along.
As I got older, I learned more about the far-reaching effects religion has had on history. The farther you zoomed out, the more destructive they became. The religion I was told to worship for eight years was also responsible for the Crusades, the Dark Ages, the Inquisition, and so many more atrocities. For every good person acting in the name of their god, there are the bodies of hundreds of dissidents slain in the same name.
In a vacuum, religion is not a harmful entity. More often than not, the core values preached by one religion are more or less the same as the principles society tries to encourage, such as ones of compassion and selflessness, but religion is not some private, benign practice. It is a weapon wielded by the powerful. It is used to secure their position at the top of the hierarchy, legitimize harmful beliefs and actions, and oppress those they deem inferior. As a result, what religions teach and what their followers do are usually diametrically opposed; entire populations are slain, lands are stolen, and people are enslaved in the name of the religions that preach equality, charity, and compassion.
Science, by contrast, is an objective study. Science has, and continues to be, the foremost expression of our understanding of our environment. It is through scientific analysis and the application of our findings that we continue to improve our standards of living and technological capabilities. The application of science put us on the moon and gave us electricity. The application of religion has given us seemingly endless conflicts. It is clear to me which is the more fruitful endeavor.
Religion encourages the extreme tribalism we see through most of human history. Science teaches us that we are all equally human. Who knows what happens when we die? Until then, let us strive toward egalitarianism and the pursuit of scientific innovation. Let us bring about positive change for everyone, regardless of what they believe.
Gavin, 18, is from Aldie, Va., and attends the University of Colorado-Boulder. “I’m going to be an aerospace engineering student and I hope to pursue a master’s in the same field, and then work at NASA’s JPL facility in California,” Gavin writes. “I participated in NASA programs at Wallops Flight Facility and Langley Research Center in high school.”