I, like many people, had abused religion to excuse my immoral behavior and inaction in the face of injustice. When I did things that were unjust, I convinced myself that God had forgiven me. When I turned a blind eye to all the wrong in our world and sat by idly, I convinced myself that if I simply prayed or waited patiently enough that God would fix it, even if I did nothing.
But there came a day when I got tired of waiting for a god to fix the world for me. I realized that I had the ability to set my own standards for the kind of person I wanted to be, and that I had the responsibility for upholding those standards.
As I entered high school, I embraced humanism wholeheartedly, and began fighting for justice for all people on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, and the like.
I started the first high school Black Student Union in my city, through which I organize numerous vigils, protests and forums. I started a mentoring program between my school and the Boys & Girls Club.
I also have been chairperson of the Mayor's We Day/Give A Day Board, through which I raised over $30,000, collected more than 60,000 personal care items for refugees, and organized a Compassion Walk with over 3,000 in attendance. I have done multiple speeches about the way that poor sex education disproportionately harms people of color, queer people, and people of lower incomes. Furthermore, I started a club devoted to the inclusion and empowerment of people with disabilities, and hosted a fundraiser for that club which raised over $40,000. Lastly, I started the first Girl Up chapter (a United Nations Organization dedicated to empowering women and girls globally) in my state and raised thousands of dollars for girls seeking education and healthcare in Guatemala.
If I had not chosen to embrace humanism and take responsibility for my morality rather than leaving it up to religion, I likely never would have become the activist I am today.
Lydia graduated from duPont Manual High School in Louisville, Ky. She is attending New York University and plans to major in politics and economics She was the first-place winner in FFRF's 2017 Essay Contest for Students of Color, announced in the August issue of Freethought Today.