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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Ninth place — High school essay contest: Ethan Forde

Ethan Forde

FFRF awarded Ethan $400.

I don’t rely on God or religion as my crutch

By Ethan Forde

I was raised into an Irish Catholic family. I attended Saint Giles Catholic School from kindergarten through eighth grade, and just recently graduated from Fenwick High School, a private Dominican school. Despite my extensive religious education, I strayed from Catholicism when I realized that my religious faith was not my crutch — I was.

At the young age of 13, I was diagnosed with fibrous dysplasia in my right hip. This rare bone disease enables multiple tumors to grow and regrow in my hip and weaken the bone. It cannot be cured, but only temporarily fixed. I have had three hip surgeries since that diagnosis to remove the tumors and fill the hole in my hip that is left behind.

Following this diagnosis, my doubts and hesitations were confirmed: “God” was not going to fix this for me. This god that I had believed in for so long disabled me from doing what I love the most — being active.

Following each surgery, I spend three months in a wheelchair, one month on crutches, and four to six months in physical therapy to regain my strength. The recovery process is nothing short of excruciating each day, but I have come to realize that I am my own crutch. My family is my crutch. My friends are my crutch. Religion was not going to help me get out of the situation if it let me into the situation in the first place. It is the people surrounding me each day, and motivating me each day, who get me through this.

Choosing to rely on myself and my support system over a religious faith is a decision that I am glad I made at a young age. Since doing so, I have gained the responsibility of holding myself accountable for my actions and the outcomes of those actions, as opposed to blaming negative happenings on a god. I am not blindsided by any news, good or bad, because I do not believe that all things in life happen according to “God’s plan.” Relying on myself and others shows that I have trust in myself and the people around me. It has enabled me to form the strongest relationships during the times that I have felt incredibly disabled. Religion is not the crutch – I am.

Ethan, 18, is from Chicago and will attend Marquette University, where he hopes to earn a degree in business. He is both a first-generation American and first-generation college student. Ethan works as a caddie and volunteers weekly at Hephzibah Children’s Association, where he spends time doing activities with the children.