College essay honorable mention: Choosing reason over religion: By Camille Kaiser

By Camille Kaiser

As a scientist, my mother served as a definitive figure in my avoidance of the organized religion that so many of my friends fell into.

My mother would often explain things to me in ways I could understand. When I asked about bible stories, she would start off by saying “Well, honey, Christians believe . . .” and then she would go on to tell me some crazy-sounding story. The disclaimer preceding the story didn’t affect the “morals” that some take from these stories, but I recognized evolutionary impossibilities and felt shock at the violence in some of stories.

When I started high school, my mother and I began participating in a community of freethinkers. The crowd was a bit older than at a lot of the churches I’d been to, but I recognized the same sense of community. At the same time, I began volunteering for various service projects, and these situations also promoted a sense of community.

With growing numbers of people who are unaffiliated with religion, the opportunity to participate in secular communities to improve people’s lives could attract people of all ages.

While the religious may suffer through sacrifice or take comfort in imagining untold riches or happiness in their “next life,” I believe we should help others, and take and spread joy in this life — the only one we have. If we make positive influences in bettering the world and those in it, then the world will be a better place even after our lives are over. Indeed, there cannot be a more “heavenly” feeling than being part of a community that is working to make the world a better place.

Camille, 19, grew up in Mesa, Ariz., and attends the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. She enjoys family, baking, her 1970s music collection and speaking Spanish.

Freedom From Religion Foundation