College essay honorable mention: Atheism, deep in the heart of Texas: By Savannah Flusche

By Savannah Flusche

As an atheist and freethinker, life in the trenches of the Bible Belt has been an intimate journey in an abrasive environment.

My first introduction to religion and God was through the Christian day care I began attending at the age of 5. I came to realize that these stories were taken literally by many, and were “not ALL literally true, but mostly” for many others. I’ve come to understand biblical interpretation as the art of cherry picking.

I then attended public schools, yet the teachers were unashamedly religious and the student body mostly aggressively Christian. An experience I still remember clearly was during the fifth grade when my best friend, a rare bird and fellow atheist, was casually talking about how she did not attend church. A classmate was utterly disturbed and began to explain how bad it was that she was absent on Sunday. As this exchange unfolded, I found a disturbing new wrinkle to the loneliness that blanketed me. I did not feel safe or comfortable in my community.

As an atheist, it is important to me that other like-minded atheist, secular, or agnostic thinkers understand that they are not alone. Books, podcasts, public interviews, even the perhaps counterproductive debate format offer those who are unsure of where and how to step next to know that they welcome. We must reduce the stigma and show that a freethinker’s arms are wide open, that you don’t have to be afraid of someone because they do not accept Bronze Age ethics as infallible.

For a time, we are borrowing this planet from those who will come later. Let us make sure we are returning it better than we received. We speak for Earth. I implore that we must be able to think freely.

Savannah, 23, grew up in Dallas and attends Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas. Her interests include science, animals and animal rescue, roller skating, history, podcasts and reading.

Freedom From Religion Foundation