Fifth place (tie): High school essay contest – This is my life, not God’s by Alaina Hoover

FFRF awarded Alaina $500.

By Alaina Hoover

When I was a young girl looking at a wide variety of religions to choose from, I could definitely see the temptations: a group of welcoming believers, some guidance and a feeling of connection to a supposed “holy being.” But I decided that I first wanted to step back and assess all religions before picking the “destiny that guides me.”
I found that failing to follow others, waiting to decide my life’s religious viewpoint at a more mature age and attempting to think for myself was frowned upon. When I was asked what church I attended by classmates, their eyes bugged out of their heads when I said I did not attend one.

When learning about world history, I didn’t know all of the “holiness” of Jerusalem that was assumed was common knowledge. Friends would offer to let me attend church with them. It seemed as if they thought I was missing out on something. Eventually, this led me to try a day of church with my grandmother.

Sitting there with the sounds of the preacher lulling in the background, I looked around and listened for anything “divine.” But all I could hear were babies crying, people standing and sitting in some sort of Morse code and teenagers on their phones, obviously bored with the service. How was this “enlightening” at all? How does this show me the right path?

Troubled by these questions, I brought them to my mother, another nonbeliever. She had attended church as a child yet was happy in having no religion at all after taking college mythology classes. She pointed out that worshipers today believe that their religion is better than mythological past religions, which they laugh at, calling them “stories.”

Yet to the Greeks who created them, those stories were as meaningful as the bible, Quran or Torah are today. My mother made me realize that religions often scoff at each other, yet they are all one and the same when looked at through a nonbeliever’s eyes. I’ll admit this made me angry. How can others tell me that I have no morals by following my own? The morals that are “taught by God” were written by men. Who is to say that one person’s morals from 3,500 years ago are better than mine today? I just could not see any sense in it.

Another fault I find in the argument of religious followers is the idea of prayer. Faced with high cholesterol? Pray for it to get lower. Upset by uproars in Ferguson? Pray for peace. Family members going through tough times? Pray for God to provide them a job. Religious followers are so eager to pray for everyone and have God fix it for them, yet many are not willing to put in the work themselves.

If you have an unhealthy lifestyle, then fix your diet and exercise. If you are upset with society, then work to help fix it. If your family member cannot afford rent, then send a little bit of money their way. Instead of taking time to kneel on a floor, believers should take the time to get out and do something about it.

So how do we open their eyes? Well, we don’t. In trying to tell people that their religion is wrong, we would be hypocritical in the sense that we are trying to force our viewpoints on someone else (as they have done to us). But we can show them that there are more important values than what “God tells us.”

We can create our own morality and act on it. We can make a difference in our community. We won’t do nice things because “we’re Christians.” We’ll do nice things because we want to. Maybe when seeing that, as nonbelievers, we have the freedom to be happier and live as we want to, they will open their eyes and join us.

Hopefully, in the end, they will realize life is about finding and defining your own path, not one that someone (or something) decides for you.

Alaina Hoover, 17, graduated from Triad High School, Troy, Ill., and will be attending Drury University in Springfield, Mo. “I plan on going into premedicine with a major in biopsychology. I am going to minor in Spanish and take classes in philosophy as well.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation