Seventh place (tie) — High school essay contest: Arielle Fentress
True enlightenment comes from atheism
FFRF awarded Arielle $750 for her essay.
By Arielle Fentress
The most beneficial action one can take is to think and research freely, without any bias or judgment. Religion, a system of beliefs based on archaic ideas and stories, continues to claim billions of followers worldwide — many of whom certainly do not think freely. Religion perpetuates ignorance, breeds immoral behavior and limits many minds from true self-discovery.
Religion is the easy way to face the world. God and Lucifer — good and evil, with no in between. The prophets Muhammad and Jesus brought the alleged word of God thousands of years ago, and followers put their faith in every word they said, not once doubting the legitimacy of their tales or questioning their supposed existence.
It is much easier to believe what you are told than to branch out for yourself and discover that we may not know all of the answers to life. But that’s why it’s so important to have space for this questioning to exist, to nurture freethinking. It shapes our identity for the better and expands our mind, so we are not trapped in a self-made shield from the hard-to-swallow truth.
Self-discovery and self-acceptance are often stunted by religion. Within religion itself, there is a lot of nit-picking that simply does not hail from any form of logic and serves only to antagonize certain groups of people, typically minorities. The LGBTQ+ community has been targeted by religion through modern times. In some areas of the Middle East, where Islam is practiced, LGBTQ+ members who are found out can be punished severely, even executed. Additionally, religion can lead to internalized homophobia/transphobia and this, in turn, leads to higher suicide rates. Even those brave enough to accept themselves aren’t always guaranteed a better fate. Many are thrown onto the streets by horrified parents who want nothing to do with their child anymore. In the fight to stanch the blinding ignorance of religion, atheism has bloomed over the past century and continues to make advancements. I have been happier and freer than ever before since I embraced atheism, and I finally truly feel enlightened.
Arielle, 18 is from Oviedo, Fla., and will be attending the Cleveland Institute of Music, majoring in viola performance. Her goal is to become a member of a major professional orchestra. “I would say that music is my religion,” Arielle writes. She toured Europe and America and also immersed herself in music at Boston University Tanglewood Institute for two months.