High school essay honorable mentions: Being atheist in the South By Kristian Harrel

Here in the Bible Belt, it’s virtually impossible to voice a problem or concern without hearing the oh-so-helpful phrases “God will help you” or “It’s all in God’s plan.”

But the most important religious issue is that of the bludgeoning of children into artificial conformity by the church. An appallingly high percentage of children in the South learn the words “god” or “heaven” before they even hear the words “science” or “space.”

What is different in the South compared to the rest of the civilized world is the reminder that we must grovel at the feet of our creator for affection despite his supposed unconditional love. Surely, if there were a celestial and sentient being that created the universe, it would have the mind of a scientist and an artist. It would want us to enjoy its creation and experience as much as possible, as opposed to begging forgiveness all our days for eating pork, or loving the wrong person in the wrong way, or thinking the wrong thoughts.

Kristian Harrell, 18, was born in Fort Smith, Ark., and spent the last eight years in Siloam Springs, Ark. He will be attending Missouri Southern State University and plans to major in physics and minor in mathematics.

Freedom From Religion Foundation