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Freethought Today · October 2013

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Fifth-place (tie) graduate/mature student essay

The Christian ‘nation’ of Kansas

beverlin 5th gradKristina received $300 for her essay.

Growing up in very small-town Kansas, I was constantly bombarded with the idea that Christianity was the one “true” religion, that it was the most fundamentally important aspect of a person’s life and that it was superior to all other forms of decree, even trumping everyday social norms and government laws.

Though Kansas is obviously a part of the United States, it can often feel as if it were not and is instead its own isolated, Christianity-based state. After all, many Kansans have already been living as if our nation centered on religious principles. After witnessing what has taken place in my state, I know that a nation based on Christianity or any other religion would not be a good thing. 

While my father is nonreligious, my mother is a Christian and, therefore, my younger brother and I were regular churchgoers. I have been told many times that I could never be a good person without “God” in my life, that my dreams would never come true without “Him,” and that while other religions can provide good moral guidance, only Christians are truly “safe.”

Many in my state (including my neighbors and relatives) have worked tirelessly to base our laws on biblical ideas. My high school was nearly devoid of science classes (in fact, my freshman science class consisted of watching movies like “Twister,” “Dante’s Peak” and “Volcano,” which was deemed acceptable by our pious principal).

Sex education did not fare much better, in spite of the fact that my graduating class had an almost 10% pregnancy rate. As for gay students, the only teacher who agreed to sponsor an LGBT school group was quickly fired.  

Nearly all of my classmates were married by their early 20s (if not as teens), as they were told by their churches that their life’s purpose did not lie in their own aspirations but in fulfilling traditional family duties and producing offspring as quickly as possible. I even know several book-smart, highly motivated young people who were convinced by religious leaders to skip college out of fear that it would cause them to lose their religious ideals. 

Sam Brownback, our current governor, has devoted a lot of time in office to what he calls a “pro-life” agenda, though it has a greater resemblance to an “anti-woman” agenda. Many Kansas legislators have made nationwide news for making jokes about rape. They also routinely refer to calamities or tragic events as being a part of “God’s plan.”

These same politicians issue public outcries when the word “God” is left out of the Pledge of Allegiance, yet don’t blink an eye when racial, sexually oriented or female-related injustices occur. 

None of this is surprising, of course. The bible consistently endorses slavery and discrimination. Rape is considered a minor offense at best, especially if the rapist marries his victim afterward. Other than as seductresses or sorcerers, women are mostly ignored by or left out of the bible. Women who questioned such ideas were either stoned to death, or hanged or burned alive. Even as a modern woman, I feel that my ultimate fate and my quality of life is entirely dependent on the nation in which I live remaining 100% secular. 

One of the most astonishing arguments that I have heard religious fundamentalists make is that our founding fathers wanted the U.S. to be a Christian nation. This never fails to shock me, as the word “God” or “Christianity” does not appear in the Constitution at all. The Bill of Rights ensures “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” It wasn’t until the 1950s when President Eisenhower wanted to combat domestic communism that the phrase “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance. Two years later, “In God We Trust” was added to our currency.

In spite of the boisterous fundamentalism that surrounds me, I remain hopeful about a more intellectually based future. According to the latest Pew research, the “nonreligious” now make up nearly one-fifth of all Americans. While I am sure that Kansas will remain a mostly “Christian state” for quite some time, I will continue to put my faith in my own education, will work to encourage those around me to look at the world with an open mind and not allow it to be clouded by words that were written more than two millennia ago.

Kristina Beverlin, 26, Hillsdale, Kansas, earned a degree at the University of Kansas with a triple major in linguistics, environmental studies and economics with a minor in film and media studies. She’s enrolled in KU’s economics master’s program.

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