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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Seventh place — High school essay contest: ‘Matt’ Mastrolia

FFRF awarded Madison $750.

Cause and effect

Madison “Matt” Mastrolia

By Madison “Matt” Mastrolia

Here’s the long and short of it: Human actions have observable effects. Divine actions do not.

We cannot attribute any event to a higher power with certainty. But, we, as humans, can take action and know with full certainty that it will have an effect on us, on others, and on the world around us. We must rely on ourselves to solve the world’s problems because we’re the only ones who can.

We cannot wait for God to fix our ailing planet. If our grandchildren are to have a habitable planet to live on, we must take action. We cannot inspire the divine to save us; we must save ourselves. We must be the ones to plant the trees, clean the seas, and dismantle the systems that perpetuate our world’s destruction. The current state of the planet is the result of humankind’s actions. (Alarmingly, it is the result of the actions of a relatively small group of highly wealthy people.)

The floods, storms, droughts and famines are not divine retribution. They are consequences. And just as we have acted and caused this to happen, we can react and prevent it from getting worse. We can build a better world because we have the power to change the world.

Gun violence and school shootings will not be solved by thoughts and prayers. They could be solved by taking a proactive approach to their root problems. They could be solved by background checks, limitation on gun ownership or ammunition. They could be solved by working to build closer communities, fostering love instead of hatred in the hearts of citizens. They could be solved by allowing people to think freely and come to their own conclusions. Thoughts and prayers will not stop the murder of innocent people in schools, nightclubs, concerts or movie theaters because thoughts and prayers are not tangible actions.

The idea of cause and effect permeates the debate about abortion. Paradoxically, people believe the “pro-life” cause is worth the effect of potentially letting pregnant people die of complications, or even putting to death people who have abortions. The justification for the stance of “pro-life” is often fear for the soul of the pregnant person and the developing fetus, and the idea that the termination of a pregnancy is tantamount to murder.

But the cause and effect are simpler: If a pregnant person has an abortion, that person is no longer pregnant. There should not be so much moral weight placed on a medical procedure.

Prayers will not save the lives of people forced to carry pregnancies to term, and they do not deserve to suffer or die as martyrs for a cause that may not be their own. God will not save us, so we must rely on ourselves, because only we have the power to change our world.

Madison, 18, is from Rutherford, N.J., and will attend Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “Matt” is interested in biology, with a particular focus on horseshoe crabs, and would like to study them. “Matt” scored a 4 on the AP biology exam and held highest honors for all four years of high school.