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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Second place — High school essay contest: Ellianna Thayne

Ellianna Thayne

Love in the face of faith

FFRF awarded Ellianna $3,000.

By Ellianna Thayne

When I was a little girl, I spent many nights at my grandparents’ home. I was old enough to kneel at the foot of their bed for prayer, but still too young to decide truth from fiction, belief from instruction. 

I would describe my relationship with the Christian god as short and sweet. Before the age of 10, I had bundled up the courage to stop praying, and when I didn’t fall victim to holy wrath, I moved past religion and developed an interest in science instead.

In the honors program at the University of Washington, I plan on pursu-ing a career in neuroscience. Despite moving forward into my future, I couldn’t help but feel that I’d plunged back in time when I learned that my grandparents, whom I had spent so much of my childhood with, were homophobic. 

I was undeterred, certain that when I told them about my girlfriend they would move past a few outdated verses and accept me. Instead, my grandparents stopped speaking to me. “It’s not like they don’t love you still,” my mom told me. “They just don’t think God does. It’s the church, honey. It’s the church.” 

In the grand view of the world, I received a light punishment for my sexuality. Women like me have been persecuted in the name of the Christian doctrine for hundreds of years, executed for the supposed sin of homosexuality. When the church and state are one, we are victims of the law; when they are not, we are victims still of the church’s culture. While not all who follow Abrahamic religions believe that homosexuality is morally wrong, a significant number base their homophobia in faith. They say it’s not as God intended, that it’s unnatural.

In the eyes of science, however, homosexuality is entirely natural. Studies conducted over the past 50 years have found that human sexuality has many potential neurobiological sources, all of which indicate that sexual orientation, whether gay, straight, or in between, is an innate result of being human. Homosexual relations have been observed in many other species of animals as well. In fact, not so long ago, two male penguins “adopted” an egg and raised it together in a Berlin zoo. 

When it comes to acceptance of our sexual natures, I firmly believe that science should be the determining factor. We should not, cannot, allow religion to dictate the morality of homosexuality when we know it is neurologically natural. If we as a global community wish to truly evolve, we must move past the limitations of religion and realize that love is what binds humanity, no matter the orientation.

Ellianna, 18, is from Seattle and attends the University of Washington.

“I have won three awards for writing, one through the Seattle Public Library and two through my school, and I am a soon-to-be published author,” Ellianna writes. “My dream is to continue on to the neuroscience program and, after graduation, build a career as a trauma psychiatrist working with international organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders.”