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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Honorable mention — Tatem Rios: The challenge of being a freethinker in this society

I was not raised in a religious household. I never attended church, prayed or worshipped. My parents never mentioned religion, nor did I really know what religion was. I just lived life being a good person and doing what made me happy. Never in my mind did I question my existence or thought I was created by some superior power. As I grew older, I started to notice that I had friends who went to church every week with their families and frequently spoke of God. I wondered, “Who is this notorious God everyone speaks of?” Why do people seek his approval to make decisions? I noticed people were letting this imaginary figure control their lives. I eventually decided to take action to see what all the fuss was about. I then went out of my way to attend church.

I ended up going to church multiple times to try and fit in. I did this because everyone made me feel like an outcast. Well, I absolutely hated it. None of it makes sense! The stuff they preach contradicts scientific discoveries, yet people still continue to believe it. I really don’t understand how people have become so brainwashed. They believe in this fantasy story so they can give their lives meaning. I believe individuals themselves have the power to choose the meaning of their own lives. My biggest question is wondering why a creator who “loves” us all sends nonbelievers to hell. I’m a good person who has done nothing wrong, yet I deserve to be sent to “hell”? The joke is on them because hell is just another non-existent fantasy that only they believe in.

I have taken notice that many who believe in God think they are better than those who don’t. They look down upon us nonbelievers as if we are evil creatures. I have experienced this in my own life. There have been instances where people have treated me differently once they found out I was a nonbeliever. I find this to be incredibly ridiculous. I am the same exact person I was before they knew, yet they still treat me as if I am different. I admit that not all religious believers act in these unacceptable ways. There exist many who are open-minded and understanding of others. However, there are also many who are hypocrites who bash those with opposing beliefs. I’m sure “God” wouldn’t want them to treat others unfairly in the ways that they do.

Nonreligious people tend to be much more accepting and live life in a more logical manner. As a nonbeliever, I don’t need to seek approval from some mysterious higher being. I live my life with a set of good morals. I accept everyone for who they are. I don’t judge people on their gender, race, beliefs nor marriage status.

Tatem Rios

Here is some advice to those who are minorities within this minority, just like me. Don’t let others treat you differently because of your beliefs. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to be in your life. Yes, this world can be a cruel place and we have all experienced it, however, stand up for yourself. There is a whole community of people just like you here to support you. Always remember that you are not alone. We together have what it takes to thrive in prosper in this world.

Tatem, 18, is from Woodbury, Minn., and attends Inver Hills Community College. She was able to take college courses while in high school and will graduate from Inver Hills in the spring of 2019 and then plans to attend the University of Minnesota for her senior year with the plan of getting a degree in chemical engineering and chemistry.