Honorable mention: Innocence lost, acceptance found by Kierra Robertson

Innocence lost, acceptance found

FFRF awarded Kierra $200.

By Kierra Robertson

It all started that fateful day in elementary school when my former best friend asked me, “Do you believe in God?” I innocently answered “no,” not realizing the repercussions. I saw it as the same caliber of question that went with “What’s your favorite color?” That innocent idea was quite wrong.

Immediately I was surrounded by accusations and harsh reactions. Apparently I couldn’t have any morals, even though I felt myself perfectly normal. I was horrified. Why should I be rejected like this? Why should I be told that I am evil?

When I got home, my mother told me what I had already learned by this point, that I shouldn’t ever tell anyone that I was an atheist. I didn’t think it was fair, seeing as all the other children could talk all they wanted about their religions without fear of repercussion. But I was different. I was instructed to hide my absence of belief and keep my head low.

After a while, it became apparent that word had gotten around because soon everyone was asking if I was a believer. Using my mother’s rule as a rock to stand on, I pulled myself from the current by saying, “My mom says I’m not allowed to talk about religion at school.”

After more goading to get me to tell them, they eventually gave up, perhaps thinking of me as a “goody-goody,” but at least not as some evil demon spawn.

People in high school were more accepting. In fact, one of the most popular kids at my school loudly proclaimed allegiance to atheism. It was a relief to tell my friends who I was and how I viewed the world and not be scorned or ridiculed. The only issue that presented itself was in my freshman year when I was left by someone I cared for due to my “immorality” as an atheist.

Then there’s my grandma. I have been instructed to never tell her because she’d completely freak out. She’s a devout Christian who would completely feel that “her beloved granddaughter is succumbing to the devil” and would do her best to rid me of my ideas. I know it’s somewhat minor, but it feels wrong that I can’t even tell my own family members who I am without being accepted.

I know for a fact, through my own experiences, that atheists can be just as moral or more moral than Christians. I have always been one of the more seemingly moral people at school, helping small creatures while other people, often religious, kill them with apparent relish. A person doesn’t require a religion to be a decent human being. We are all in this together, and many atheists, although shunned, continue working for the common good because they know this.

I am an atheist because I don’t see any evidence that there is a deity. Too many terrible things have happened, and there is simply too much horror in the world. Morally, I simply care for everything on my own without needing some sort of divine intervention to keep me in check. Respecting and loving the planet and other people is simply something I do because it feels right to me.

Even though it might seem like an uphill battle, I’m doing my best to show the world how atheists can be moral. While it might seem ridiculous that we have to prove ourselves, every stigmatized group has had to. Why would we be any different? I just believe in doing my best to be good.

Kierra Robertson, 18, graduated from Northwood High School in Pittsboro, N.C., and is attending to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “My goal is to obtain an advanced degree in statistics and minor in environmental science. Since childhood, I have been very interested in mathematics, human rights and the environment.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation