By Marissa Cap
"There are no bad people, only bad decisions," my human behavior teacher told our class at the start of the year. I'm not sure where he got that from, but it's certainly the way I've come to understand people. Today, people are unable to act as individuals responsible for their own actions because of the influence they allow religion to impose. The idea of having religion in your life still has the positive labeling of society, yet the entire system itself is failing. Morality has completely broken off from religion, and the two now have very little relationship other than as cultural stereotypes. The idea that you need to be a religious follower to be considered a respectable person with decent morals is simply an incorrect judgment.
Relying on religion to promote good morals shapes people to become submissive and more accepting of others' ideas. The Christian faith embodies the idea that "ignorance is bliss" right from its very first account of humans on earth. God basically says, "Just don't ask questions." This forces people to shun their curiosity and do just as they are told, as they have the fear of punishment hanging over them. People are more willing to accept the ideas presented by authority when they are afraid of the consequences.
People need to realize that they can be independent, freethinking humans while still retaining their sense of what is right and moral. Being a faithful religious "servant" does not guarantee you will make the right choices, as the ideas of morality and religion are not connected whatsoever; it is strictly up to the person to make those kinds of choices.
Religion lost its supposed correlation with morality long ago. The recent accounts of sexual abuse within the church are glaring examples of how inherent morality really is in religion. People who dedicate their lives to religious teachings can't even practice what they're preaching. Whether such abominations are committed outside the church or in, it is always wrong to take advantage of others. We don't need any religious texts instructing us to know that is wrong. For those who do look to their religion to know right form wrong, it obviously isn't working. Morality is something that comes from a person making good decisions, from acting responsibly.
"He seemed like a good person, he was a good Christian." How many times have we heard this? The tragic accounts of the neighbors and family in reference to their son committing murder or some other terrible "sin" or crime all sound the same. Yes, his involvement in the church blindsided his peers and family to assume he was all right. Yes, he "seemed" just fine. People have to stop looking at religion as sufficient evidence of morality and goodness. Going to church doesn't make you have better morals than anyone else; it's our actions that reflect exactly how responsible and moral we are.
Many immoral situations are caused and/or fueled by religion. Religious fundamentalists, hate crimes, the Crusades, discrimination, jihads--all are examples of such religion-fueled activities. People have always killed each other over their religious differences, which is in itself immoral, since "God" is supposed to be the punisher. People have a strange way of arriving at religious decisions and making matters worse. It doesn't make any sense to commit terrible crimes in order to get other people to share your beliefs, which, in most cases, specify that killing is indeed immoral. People have to step back and consider what they're really looking for in their faith and determine whether it's all worth it, and the truth is: it's not.
To me, having morals isn't just about being a "good Christian girl who goes to church everyday." It's about making the right decisions for myself and the people around me. Too many people don't interpret religion this way, and get caught up in promoting their own beliefs when, in fact, they are promoting the causes of immorality itself. People have the capability to govern their own actions, so why is there even a need for religion if we can do it on our own? It's too easy to just follow a certain faith, not ask any questions, and think that you're really such a great person for being religious. Following a certain religion does not mean you are automatically a wonderful person, nor does it mean you're making the right choices. It is up to you and only you to really make the right decisions in your life, and that's what makes you a good person.
So many people make religion an important part of their lives, forgetting that religion often becomes separated from morality, losing its purpose and hindering a person's ability to think for him or herself and make the right decisions. I am proud to be "godless" yet completely capable of distinguishing right from wrong, and I try to do good things not just for myself, but for everyone. I am free from religion, and will continue to be a responsible person who makes the right choices on my own.
Marissa writes: "I am a 17-year-old senior from Randolph, N.J., and have been an atheist all my life. I grew up in California and moved several times before my family settled in the northeast. This fall, I will be attending The School of Visual Arts in New York City, for their excellent advertising major. I thoroughly enjoy creating art with a purpose and see myself being an important figure in the field of visual communication."