Sixth place: High school essay contest – Being good without God is being human by Jonathan Ortiz

FFRF awarded Jonathan $400.

By Jonathan Ortiz

A world without religion would be a wholly better one: Homosexuals and nonbelievers would not be considered the spawn of Satan; discrimination and bigotry could not be justified by 2,000-year-old texts; violence and terrorism in the name of God would not exist; liberal and free democracy would be omnipresent; scientific discoveries would not be halted because of some fairy tale; and we would do everything in our power to enjoy the only life we have and leave the world a better place than when we were born into it.

I am an agnostic atheist because there is no evidence of a God, only evidence of regression, suffering and blood at the hands of those willing to do anything to prove their god is the one and only.

I am good without God because I follow no petty absolute moralities and do not believe in eternal damnation. I am good and do good for the betterment of humankind, nothing else. I have been called “unpatriotic,” “un-American” and even a “traitor” by some of my peers for sitting politely during the Pledge of Allegiance or for suggesting “In God We Trust” be removed from our currency. I am told I disrespect our servicemen and have no moral compass.

I am told all these things, and yet it is their religious texts they so revere that demonize gay servicemen and women, call for the stoning of adulterers and apostates and death for those who work on the Sabbath. If any secular text contained such vitriol, its author would be harshly criticized and looked down upon, quite rightly.

The way to be moral is to adopt a relative morality in which issues are discussed and debated with others, and reason, evidence and philosophy are considered. One must be moral simply to be moral, nothing else. No promise or threat of what comes in an afterlife should motivate one not to murder or steal. This is ultimately why theists cannot claim they are moral, for they have an ulterior motive. To be truly moral is to do so willingly.

I believe the single best thing that can be done to counter these negative stereotypes is to better inform the public about what atheism is. Many believe that being an atheist constitutes eating babies or holding secret meetings to plan how best to destroy religion, when in reality it means only that one does not believe in a deity. We need to teach the importance of the scientific method and how crucial it is to make decisions based on facts and reason rather than superstition. We need to teach that it is very possible, and quite frankly only possible, to be moral without God. If it were not possible, many of our modern day democracies would be stuck in the 7th century.

Many of us atheists do not talk about the hypocrisies of religion every day as Richard Dawkins does or the late Christopher Hitchens did: We are on the whole a friendly bunch and believe in freedom of religion. It is when we are demonized for thinking critically that we stand up and call theists out. One day we will not have to come out as atheist to everyone we meet for it would be as though we are telling them something as innocuous as our favorite color. On that day we will have achieved a great victory: Making others see how natural it is to be good without God.

Jonathan Ortiz, 17, was born in Germany and attended Vilseck High School on an American military base known as the Rose Barracks near Vilseck, Germany. “I will attend the University of Florida in the fall and intend to study law. I am extremely interested in politics and hope to run for public office one day.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation