Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

Honorable mention — High school essay contest: Sofie Iwamasa

Vol. 36 No. 06 August 2019
Sofie Iwamasa                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Intentional compassion

By Sofie Iwamasa

Many people lead lives governed by the pretense of fate, God or some other higher power. Some truly use the concept of higher power to drive their pursuit of goodness and morality. What is troubling is that many believers allow these constructs to become excuses for bad actions or chances to confess and simply be forgiven. In a world where poor choices have no consequences, we live hypocritically.

We show our children that actions have consequences. We teach our children to raise their hands, to listen to others. We emphasize the utmost importance of empathy. And we preach the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

But when we grow up, there is no one to deal out consequences for acting rashly. There is no one to hold our hands and tell us what is right and wrong. To reconnect with communal expectation of decency and manners, religion seems the perfect unifier. However, religion often works to create the Other. In the United States, the Other often comes in the form of someone gay, black, Jewish, Muslim or otherwise viewed as a threat to the vision of a white, Christian, middle-class nuclear family. Outside of childhood, we are made independent and allowed to govern our own lives.

Combine this with God belief and it is easy to see how hate can thicken the air. The desire to believe in God is one that is there to comfort us into believing we are doing the right thing. Confronting mistakes and hatred head on reveals what a god might hide.

We need to acknowledge and own our faults to see them through. For instance, America is still racist. America is struggling to accept the spectrum of sexuality and gender. America is not and never was perfect. This is nothing God nor a confessional can fix. Real human connection is the only way we can escape out of the social hole, which we have personally dug and promptly fallen right into. We can listen and empathize with others. The ability exists, but it is something we must intentionally practice. There is trial and error in understanding where people’s stubborn beliefs come from, but it is worth it. With a new, honest community, real change can be made. We cannot wait around for a god to deliver change, we must act and reclaim our lives.

In a satire on 1969 American ideals, Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “How nice — to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.” This quote is still applicable today. We must stand true to ourselves and acknowledge the importance that every single person has. To give a country, a person, anything its potential, an active force is required. Passivity is not an option. God cannot save us.

Sofie, 18, is from University Heights, Ohio, and will be attending Case Western Reserve University, where she plans to study chemical engineering. She has participated in lacrosse and band for eight years and has been an active volunteer, tutoring in math and French, helping the Honors Music Society, earning a Key Club scholarship and participating in clean-ups with environmental club.