Honorable mention Michael Hakeem Memorial College Essay Contest: An incentive for a moral life by Mariesa Dae Robinson

By Mariesa Dae Robinson

I remember in perfect clarity my journey through confusion, dogma, doubt, and finally nonbelief.

I was constantly in trouble in Catholic school and eventually was asked to leave. I fared better in public school, where I learned that science showed religious claims were impossible. When I brought these things up at religious meetings, I was told the secular world would try to lure me away from a life dedicated to God. But I had questions.

I claimed to be a deist, then an agnostic, but after a couple years of amazing teachers, I had a realization: Historically, people used religion to do heinous and terrible things. Belief in God did not make people good, and if God was not good, then he was not God. I finally admitted to myself that I was an atheist, and that I would have to figure out morality myself.

However, the backlash from my family proved to me that it did not make that much sense to everyone. I began having to defend myself almost incessantly. The scientific arguments were easy: Science simply and completely disputed the biblical account of creation because the Earth was too old, and evolution too well documented. Philosophical arguments came relatively easy, too. If there was only one God, why were there thousands of religions? Finally, the concept that everyone should follow arbitrary rules about food and sex and prayer schedules during their time on Earth — in order to earn time in an afterlife that no two religions fully agreed on — seemed like a gamble that would not only waste one’s time on Earth, but also make it all too easy to become hateful, judgmental and so focused on salvation that there would be no time to fix the current woes of our world.

Thus it became clear that atheism is the most moral belief system one can have. If this life is all anyone gets, it becomes morally imperative to live it well, and take full responsibility for the state of the world here. That is why nonbelievers should be respected rather than stigmatized.

Mariesa Dae Robinson was born in Amherst, Ohio, and is a junior at Mercyhurst University. She is a sociology major with minors in gender studies, psychology and public health. She is interested in human rights, specifically issues related to the atrocities committed against women, including ending rape and female genital mutilation.

Freedom From Religion Foundation