College essay honorable mention: Living by the Golden Rule: By Elizabeth Turovsky

By Elizabeth Turovsky

I have been a nonbeliever for as long as I can remember, as I was raised by parents who are also nonbelievers. From a very young age, my father, who is an avid reader, took me to the library on weekends to pick out books to borrow.

My mother often joked that instead of going to church or temple on weekends, like many of our friends, our weekly pilgrimage to the library served as a place of spiritual renewal. Instead of worshipping a supernatural being, knowledge for the sake of knowledge was the essence of what was revered in our home.

Similarly, the idea that one should live a good and moral life, not because God commanded it, but because it’s the right thing to do, was very much espoused. I was brought up on the Golden Rule, as paraphrased by Hillel the Elder: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.”

But it is not so with religion. Throughout the history of humankind, religion was often a catalyst of much strife. From the Crusades to the Spanish Inquisition, to more modern conflicts in the Middle East, religious differences often led to death and destruction.

If God were an omnipotent and a just being concerned about the fate of individual humans, it’s unfathomable to me how God could allow such evils as the Holocaust to occur. If God is not concerned with the trials and tribulations of individual human beings, then organized religion is irrelevant.

I believe that as long as people behave in an ethical and moral fashion they fulfill their social contract with fellow humans, and don’t need to seek approval of the supernatural, as their reward is self-fulfillment and inner peace here on Earth.
Elizabeth, 19, grew up in Scarsdale, N.Y., and attends Barnard College. She is interested in books, politics and women’s rights.

Freedom From Religion Foundation