Fourth Place College Essay Contest for Students of Color winner: By Jonathan Azpeitia

Finally making my own choices

FFRF awarded Jonathan $750.

By Jonathan Azpeitia

You did well on a test? God must be with you. You’re in good health? God is looking out for you. About to go to bed? Be thankful for another day of life God has given to you.

The bible simply doesn’t line up with scientific evidence. It states that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, but carbon dating, a tool used in chemistry, helps us decipher the age of radioactive materials to be hundreds of thousands of years old. With viruses evolving in front of our very own eyes, we witness the theory of evolution, adapting to survive against the medicine we use to treat them. The updated flu shot will result in the creation of antibodies, ready to fight off the flu if it ever arises in the host. As science keeps growing, the copious amounts of hard data to disprove religion are ever growing. Believers of God argue that anything good or bad that happens in the world is part of his master plan. Is part of his plan really to allow the genocide of groups across the world? To let nations rot and let their children starve to death? Tell me that I am judgmental of God’s ways, but I am just being a realistic human being. We need action from people to improve the world instead of waiting around for his hand to take action.

I had been raised in a Catholic household. My family is of Mexican descent, thus Catholicism was very ingrained in my culture and lifestyle. One day during my sophomore year of high school, when my best friend told me he was an atheist, I asked him to leave my home. I was in utter disbelief. How could anyone live their life without God?

But then I began to wonder why he chose to live such a life. Who was God? Did I believe in him because I chose myself, or was I just raised to have this mentality by my family? I thought about my relationship with this “God” I so strongly believed in and decided to end it. I realized that the only reason for my beliefs in Catholicism was due to my parents forcing me to go to church. None of the religious experiences were necessarily due to my own will. Baptism? My parents chose for me. First Communion? My parents chose for me.

It was time I began choosing for myself.

It has been four years since I told my parents I’m an atheist. At first, they shunned me the same way I had shunned my friend. My mother wept because her boy had abandoned her Catholic ways. My parents took me to church more often, hoping I would rescind my words. But I didn’t. We had many arguments over religion, as they were still trying to force Catholicism upon me. After many months, my family finally accepted my new beliefs. It was very hard at first. I was defying generations of believers in my family, going against the norm of my heritage. I was scared.

Then I realized that I wasn’t alone. It turned out that many of my friends were also atheists. They had never forced any of their opinions upon me and were very respectful of what used to be my Catholic ways.

Denying religion and becoming an atheist was a life-changing experience. I felt liberated as I no longer feared what this deity thought of me. Millennials have less traditional mindsets, and it is OK for us to think differently. You don’t have to conform to your culture’s ideals because you are your own person. Choose your beliefs because you truly believe in them, not because you’re being told to do so by someone else. The assumption is made that the nonbelieving community is rude and will shove atheism down your throat, but that is simply not true. The community is welcoming because we all are freethinkers and we chose to break the mold. If you choose to do so, too: Welcome.

Jonathan, 19, was born in Kirkland, Wash., and attends Pomona College, majoring in molecular biology. His interests include playing music, representing minority groups on campus and scientific research.

Freedom From Religion Foundation