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

Honorable mention — High school essay contest: Hailey Cheng

Vol. 37 No. 07 September 2020
Hailey Cheng                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Honorable mention

Agnosticism is the responsible choice

FFRF awarded Hailey $200 for her essay.

By Hailey Cheng

The weaponization of scripture has manifested itself throughout all of American history, from Christian European invaders that denounced Native Americans as heathen pagans, to the Ku Klux Klan who terrorized Catholic immigrants and Blacks, to the Americans who​    labeled all Muslims as terrorists post-9/11. America’s quest for religious freedom is a long and bloody tale, and throughout its history, distorting religion has always been a means to advance harmful political agenda. And unfortunately, history has begun to repeat itself.

Since Donald Trump became president in 2016, the emboldened alt-right has exploited Christianity and the bible, using it as a weapon to turn the political landscape into a battlefield against human rights. I watched with shock as Alabama lawmakers tried to pass death penalty bills to punish women for having abortions. I watched with fear as a man who endorsed gay conversion therapy was inaugurated into the second-highest office of the land. And I’m terrified that more and more people have started to identify with the cultish following that believes they are preserving traditional Christian views by promoting their violent ideologies. There is nothing holy about​ turning away refugees at the border. There is nothing holy about putting children in cages. There is nothing holy about hating people for who they love.

Establishing what is right and wrong purely from religious beliefs often proves itself very problematic. There is no way to know whose God is “right,” so it is baseless to

form our standards of morality purely upon religious grounds. So rather than wage wars​ on whose beliefs are right, we should accept the fact that there is no way for us to prove the existence or nonexistence of a higher power. That’s why I believe agnosticism is the responsible choice. It’s not only logical, but it allows one to be considerate of others. Being agnostic means being tolerant, open-minded, and willing to consider conflicting​ perspectives. As the world’s philosophical diversity expands, agnosticism is the way for​ us to coexist in peace.

Hailey, 18, from Arcadia, Calif., will be attending Columbia University, with plans to earn a degree in political science. She is a passionate advocate for Asian-American issues, climate change and equality. Hailey created a climate change petition that was published on the White House website and has spoken on NPR about climate change solutions. She also enjoys theater and acting, and has won multiple regional 1st-place awards for acting.