Honorable mention — College essay contest: Skylar Pinto
My journey in separating from Judaism
By Skylar Pinto
On an early Sunday morning, I sat in my sixth-grade Hebrew school classroom, learning about the story of Passover and the 10 plagues. I first questioned the Jewish religion in this moment. How could the sky have rained frogs? How could the water in the Nile River have turned into blood? I began to doubt the other aspects of the religion I was raised with, such as creationism, the crossing of the Red Sea, and experiences with God. Nothing similar to these events has occurred in the modern age. After contemplating these thoughts over the next few weeks, I stopped believing in Judaism and God because stories from the religion appeared untrue, and there was a lack of evidence for everything that was preached. This was the first step of my journey in rejecting Judaism, and as I continued to mature and age, my reasons for rejecting religion only grew.
About one year after I declared my atheist beliefs, I realized multiple faiths have hateful ideologies, which further pushed me away from religion. While practicing for his Bar Mitzvah, my friend discovered he had to recite this verse during his Torah portion, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is detestable.” My friend is gay, so reciting this line goes against part of his identity. He asked our rabbi if this verse could be removed from his Torah portion, and the rabbi declined. I was disgusted by this response. I was uneducated on homophobia and LGBT issues at the time, so I researched homosexuality and religion after this incident. I learned some of the most globally followed religions reject the LGBT community, and it is illegal to be gay or participate in gay marriage in many countries. I realized religion is the reason for hatred toward someone’s identity and gay marriage being illegal in my own country at the time. Hypocrisy is clearly present in religions: Many claim to be loving and accepting, yet unaccepting of the LGBT community, and I cannot support any organizations with beliefs remotely similar to this, especially when I have witnessed a religion-induced homophobic incident toward one of my closest friends.
After I had my own Bat Mitzvah due to my mother’s wishes, I removed myself from synagogue by leaving Hebrew school. I continued to identify as a freethinker and atheist and felt unafraid to speak about it. In ninth grade, I experienced my first challenge as a freethinker during a social studies class. The topic of discussion was God’s presence in America’s public space. It seemed obvious God should not be in the public space because not everyone believes in this figure, and our country is built on the principles of separation of state and church. I voiced my opinion, and the next day, a classmate confronted me about what I said. He was highly religious and appalled over my opposition toward God’s presence in the public space. This student gave his argument while simultaneously insulting me. I did not slander religion, so I could not understand why he was so harsh toward me for disagreeing with him. What he said did not cause me to agree with him; instead, I understood that lack of acceptance toward those who do not believe in God must be a common religious teaching, and I did not support that.
Now that I am a college sophomore, I understand not every religious person stands for intolerance, but certain religious principles are the source for many tragedies in the world. A secular globe would result in more peace and acceptance, as many wars and crimes stem from religion, and most social progress related to rights and humane treatment has been accomplished by freethinkers. Freedom from religion is the beginning of a scientific, united, and humane world, so spreading the importance of freethinking is essential for a stronger and more peaceful earth.
Skylar, 18, is from Pipersville, Pa., and Fairleigh Dickinson University, where she is a film major. “I have wanted to be a picture editor for media and work in Los Angeles since ninth grade, and I currently work as an editor on the PBS series “A Taste of History.” Outside of film and academics, I enjoy bowling, chess, and spending time with my family. I started the FDU Ping-Pong Club at my school and serve as vice president of the FDU Billiards Club,” she writes.