Seventh place — Persons of color essay contest: George Olea-Romo
FFRF awarded George $750.
By George Olea-Romo
was born into a Catholic family. I was baptized early on and went through confirmation by age 3 (in Mexico). I remember feeling proud of my religious status. I took pride in being a “Católico Apostólico Romano,” thinking that the title was somehow supposed to impress others. I felt privileged at the thought that I had a reserved seat in heaven. At a much younger age, I was content with my religious beliefs. However, my interest in the divine led to questions, and eventually, I began questioning the divine.
I once thought that everyone believed something for good reason, so logically for me, I thought there must have been some kind of solid indication that the Catholic God exists. At around age 13, I asked my mother for this proof. I was dissatisfied with her answer: “Dios se manifiesta en los campos, las flores,” which means, “God manifests in the fields, the flowers.” I was expecting something less vague. I was hoping for more than simply elaborating on God’s natural abilities. After all, how does this indicate the Catholic god specifically? I expressed my dissatisfaction, implying that her response didn’t constitute as proof. My father got a little defensive and brought up the miraculous Virgen de Guadalupe painting, whose eyes supposedly reflected images of villagers. I felt reassured for some time in my faith until I decided to see these depictions for myself. All I saw were random, purposeless spots, no people.
Disappointed again with my parents’ responses, I figured that they must be wrong about the evidence. They probably don’t know what the real proof is. I checked online and found a page claiming that it had five ways to prove God exists. I would have been satisfied with a single valid point. I found no indication of a divine being from what I read and was disappointed with the website’s use of mental gymnastics and condescension of other views. Further investigation led to similar results. At this point I had to come to terms with my reality, since choosing “God” would go against what I saw as being logical. I became an atheist as a result.
The transition seemed malicious to me, at first. I felt like a traitor toward my Mexican culture that held the miraculous story of Juan Diego in high regard. I felt like I betrayed my parents by leaving Catholicism, especially since they expressed their discontent with my decision. However, these thoughts were eventually dismissed. I thought: Abandoning these stories do not disconnect me from my heritage, so why should I be tied to them despite their lack of credibility? My self-deprecating thoughts were expelled when I considered the soundness of my reasoning and took pride in my skepticism.
I believe many others, including people of color, should become part of the secularist community. However, one must remember that many people are deeply impacted by religion in their life and it’s something sacred to them, so one must tread lightly when making them consider secularist views. In order to engage other communities, we must communicate the message of skepticism, where one could objectively evaluate the validity of claims. We can spread the message of the burden of proof, not believing something until being given a defensible argument or reason. Skepticism doesn’t have to end at just questioning religion. It can be used to observe and criticize the actions of the government. Should a religious monument be built with taxpayer money? Should children be obliged to learn creationism in school? Should consenting adults be denied marriage due to their uncommon sexuality? Bestowing other communities with the word of skepticism gives people a chance to think with individuality and free from bias.
George, 18, is from Victorville, Calif., and attends the University of California-San Diego, where he plans to major in chemistry. He has been playing the flute since sixth grade and has been part of his high school’s full orchestra, chamber orchestra and college band. George received the National Hispanic Recognition Program award, given to the top 2.5 percent of Hispanics who took the PSAT. He would like to be a forensic toxicologist.