Honorable mention — Persons of color essay contest: Kathy Ho
The true power of freethought
By Kathy Ho
Through hard times and dark chapters, many people look outward, toward a supreme being, for guidance and reassurance, rather than inward, toward themselves, to take action and create change. While a divine being can divert pain, it can also hinder and delay solutions and strip you of your own power to facilitate reformation.
Religion can make you feel dependent and powerless whereas freedom from religion can equip you with the strength to overcome the adversities in your life.
Freedom from religion has granted me a strong sense of self-reliance and certainty in my ability to take control of my own life. It has allowed me to think freely without fear of judgment, act according to my own values, and live my life as if there is nothing afterward — to live my life in a way that honors my identity while reflecting a changing world. I am a nonbeliever because I can respond to injustice with confrontation, corruption with alteration, and hatred with goodwill — without a guiding figure. I can decide for myself what is just and unjust and make decisions based on these beliefs.
Living a life without the influence of religion is freeing; being able to think from a secular viewpoint and not granting faith the power to influence my opinion helps me become more rational, compassionate, and progressive. Because religion was founded thousands of years ago by people tied to ancient civilizations and outdated lifestyles, practicing these same religions today can hold us back — from becoming stronger and more accepting individuals, communities, and nations.
My identity and outlook on life strengthened when I made the commitment to reject religion and to self-govern. Instead of relying on a god to sustain me during difficult moments and nurture me through change, I’m learning how to draw power and strength from within. The absence of religion allows me to take pride in my accomplishments instead of relating it back to a divine figure. It allows me to accept responsibility for my wrongdoings and grow from them without the jurisdiction of a god. It authorizes me to have the supreme power to mess up, learn, and prosper on my own account and with my own rulebook.
The secular community can better engage students of color through offering them assistance, advice and support. Assistance can be shown through service trips to improve the domestic lives and education of minority societies without the pretense of religious conversion. Advice and support can be shown when nonreligious communities standing with students of color and open communications between the two groups.
Like all revolutions of self and breakthroughs in history, progress begins with the concept of freethought — an enlightened viewpoint that the most evident and powerful of truths are discovered through logic and criticism rather than tradition and authority.
Freedom from religion has granted me this all-powerful and all-knowing truth that thinking for yourself, free from the bounds of religion and social bias, leads to self-discovery, independence and an overwhelming sense of control over my own life.
Kathy, 18, is from Van Buren, Ariz., and attends the University of Tulsa, with plans to major in biochemistry. She would like to become a pharmacist and work with an organization like Doctors Without Borders and practice in developing countries and in crisis situations.