High school essay honorable mentions: Being an atheist in a Catholic house By Alexandra Lauria-Daley

My atheism became an increasing source of family strife, which was exacerbated by my relationship with my first boyfriend in high school. Naturally, the chasm in my household only deepened when I requested a prescription for birth control pills. My grandmother even accused her daughter of raising an “immoral demon.”

After years of lowering my eyes during family prayers, skipping church and failing to accept my religious teachings, it was time for my confirmation in the Catholic Church. I considered participating in what I considered a silly dogmatic ritual, in order to appease my relentless mother and grandparents, who I feared were on the verge of disowning me entirely in response to my deviance. I lost sleep grappling with the decision until I was finally hit with an epiphany: To live my life successfully means to live it honestly and remain true to myself. I refused to lie to myself and to the world about my freethinking.

One religious sacrament might not carry much weight, but officially rejecting Christianity gave me a sense of agency in my life that strengthened my will to maintain integrity, not only with regard to my atheism but in all facets of my identity.

Alexandra Lauria-Daley, 17, graduated from Kent High School in Connecticut. Originally from Manhattan, N.Y., she will be attending Northeastern University in Boston, where she plans to major in economics and mathematics.

Freedom From Religion Foundation