Second place — High school essay contest: Jacob McGee
Humans, like ants, don’t need a god
By Jacob McGee
Recall the last time you set your gaze on any number of ants. If you weren’t compelled to get on all fours and ensure the safety and prosperity of those ants no matter what the price to yourself, there’s no need to feel guilty. However, if you were swiftly overwhelmed with remorse for not investing all your time and energy into an ant colony you perceive as defenseless, perhaps you will be relieved to know that the ants would, at best, be totally indifferent to your presence; assuming they don’t believe you to be a nuisance or threat, in which case you would leave not only feeling useless, but aggressively itchy. No rational person with any remotely urgent obligations to the rest of the world would even consider such a series of actions. Not because they believe the ants would be ungrateful, but because the ants have each other. They don’t need a god.
Who’s to suggest that the same logic does not apply to humans? Admittedly, our needs are more complex than those of ants. However, our minds and bodies are complex enough to meet these needs, both in theory and in practice.
Most people over the course of human history haven’t realized that all tangible progress has been completely godless, objectively speaking. Religion is a massive placebo that convinces a person they possess essential purpose. At a first glance, that doesn’t appear to be an issue, but the fundamental error of this thinking is people’s obliviousness to the subjectivity of their personal beliefs. The insistence that every proper life must abide by these religious rules has led to oceans of blood spilled. There’s a tragic irony to religious conflict: people killing each other because they disagree about what happens after death.
Supreme deities are unnecessary and dangerous intermediary constructs. We have a crippling fear of the possibility of an arbitrary existence. We’re afraid of the dark not because of what may be there, but because nothing is likely there. Faith in gods is freedom from meaninglessness, but the truth is that meaninglessness is freedom. Strict adherence to religious doctrines is imprisonment disguised as escapism. It feels like an incredibly cruel fate for us to become so self-aware, only to discover that no one is aware of us. But, in reality, we should be grateful of consciousness without limitation. If anything, it permits us to be the true pantheon of this world.
That is exactly why we must acknowledge each other. Do away with the narcissistic assumption that the universe is invested in us. Accepting the fact that there’s no heaven for us to ascend to instills us with the urgency to create heaven on Earth. Let us rebel together against the silence of the skies by shouting our presence in a unified chorus of love and respect for each other — a chorus composed of individual voices, with the common goal of living for living’s sake.
Jacob, 18, is from Orlando, Fla., and will be attending Rollins College, where he plans to major in political science. He has volunteered at Second Harvest Food Bank and Guardian Care, an assisted living facility in Orlando. Jacob has participated in marches and protests for gun control, gender equality and police brutality. He also works during the summers hosting national basketball tournaments.