Honorable mention — Kelvin Martinez: How do you say ‘atheist’ in Spanish?
When I was younger, I used to love reading. I was obsessed with books, especially those that explained the world. Eventually, I became fascinated with Greek mythology and stories. They were epic tales of adventure, loss and explanations of how the world came to be, all things that help capture a child’s mind.
A few years later, when I was 12, I had a crisis with my beliefs. At this time, my mother took me to church a few times a month. I had the stories of the Greeks and stories of Christ with me, the only difference being that Christ was supposedly real and the Greek stories were but epic fantasies. This was the year I was put into a middle school science class. I loved it, I was naturally curious about the world and wanted answers to everything. When we came to questions about evolution, other children asked why this was never mentioned in their bible class. The teacher tried to give a neutral answer about the natural progression of life, but it didn’t go well, and the more zealous children began to ask more questions. It was at this moment I brilliantly decided to raise my hand to speak: “I’m Christian and what you’re saying isn’t true. I’m offended.” As soon as the words left my mouth, I felt a tug. Frankly, I felt like a puppet dancing on its string. I thought to myself, “That wasn’t me speaking. That wasn’t my idea. Why did I say that?” This was when my “faith” began to slip. For the rest of the year after that moment, I read more about the bible and Christianity, trying to reaffirm why what I was taught was right and true. The funny thing was, you could replace God with anyone in Greek mythology, and it would make the same amount of sense. If the beliefs of the Greeks were false, what made Christianity true? The answer — nothing. All I saw were appeals to emotion, circular logic, fallacies and bad arguments. Why should I believe? Why was something told to be a fundamental fact so hard to prove?
I finally ended up telling my mother, and she was decidedly less than pleased. We argued and yelled for many months. In the end, I still don’t believe she accepted me, but we are still family. I went to church with her a few more times because it was important to her. Meanwhile, the words of the priest rang hollow in my ears. Now, I am an unabashed atheist. I am not afraid to speak up or to debate. Being an atheist to me is evidence that I can think critically, that I was able to escape the grip of indoctrination, that I can assess truth from fiction. It means I am intellectually honest. When confronted with a question that I cannot answer, I am unafraid to say “I don’t know” rather than presume to know an answer. Interestingly enough, I ended up going to a Catholic high school right after I became a comfortable atheist.
Being Hispanic and an atheist is honestly an awful situation. I hate to give credit to stereotype, but many Hispanics are very religious. This causes many freethinking Hispanics to be completely alienated from their community,
despite their familial bonds. I encourage all minorities to question their own beliefs and not be afraid of the actions of their community. The freethought movement only needs to have welcoming arms to minority atheists. Giving people a community they feel comfortable in goes a long way. Most importantly, talking to others about how to walk within a religiously dominated world, how to be a good person without religion, and to have pride in freethought.
Kelvin, 18, is from Portland, Ore., and attends Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He hopes to see the world and use it to gain perspective on how others live.