Honorable mention — High school essay contest: Brina Howell
Questioning religion: Why I’m atheist
FFRF awarded Brina $200 for her essay.
By Brina Howell
Where did we come from, and where will we go? Humanity fears the unknown, the what-ifs, the unresolved questions of life. For most, the thought of ceasing to exist, breathing our last breath, returning to the earth, is so terrifying that we desperately seek out a means to save ourselves — and for some the savior is religion. Why is it that an afterlife comforts us? It is because we finally reunite with our precious loved ones again? Although in theory the prospect is joyous, it does not mask the truth for us nonbelievers.
Religion is simply a way to hide the unpleasant truths behind the circle of life. Life flows, and has a cycle of incubation, growth, deterioration, and death; a natural and graceful way of living. Religious doctrines undermine this cycle, trying to promise an everlasting life full of loved ones who have died, with us joining them as an inevitability.
Individuals may not live their lives to the fullest if they believe they have an afterlife. Some may even choose to follow their loved ones in death by committing suicide. Corrupt religious leaders have sometimes called upon their followers to commit suicide in order to “save” themselves. An infamous case in point was the Jonestown Massacre, which happened in 1978, wherein over 900 people were ordered by the leader, Jim Jones, to commit suicide for their religious cause.
Religion has also been the cause of innumerable wars that have torn apart our world. Millions of human beings have died due to religious beliefs, including during those at the Salem Witch Trials, numerous Islamic wars, Jewish individuals who were targeted for their religion in the Holocaust, Manifest Destiny, wherein British colonists believed they were destined by God to rule over North America, to name a few examples. All in all, our world would be far better off without religion, with less wars, a respect for the life we have, and an appreciation of the time we have on our planet. Our philosophy shouldn’t be looking forward to the afterlife, but instead savoring our ephemeral one.
Brina, 18, is from Kresgeville, Pa., and will attend Kutztown University, with plans to major in art education. She enjoys working outdoors and has a passion for the arts, especially painting. She won more than 20 local awards from art shows held at fairs/festivals, including a “Best of Show” award.