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Freethought Today · November 2015

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Honorable mention: Education can lift veil of religious ignorance by Hannah Dolan

Education can lift veil of religious ignorance

FFRF awarded Hannah $200.

By Hannah Dolan

I have sinned. I have no chance of salvation. I am going to hell. Or so I'm told. In the community where I live, there are a few Jewish people, Buddhism is not an uncommon practice, and one of my friends is Muslim. But most people identify as Christian.
I was in elementary school, young and unaware that differences in faith could turn people against me. I was at a fellow student's house and everyone was sitting down to eat dinner. As the food reaches the table, everyone takes their neighbor's hand. I sit, confused, not understanding what everyone is doing. All eyes turn to me as I become the obstacle in completing the holy chain. The eyes are not understanding, the eyes are not comforting. The eyes are watching, judging, daring me. I quickly complete the circle, taking the hands on either side of me, and someone begins a prayer, no one bothering to tell me what we were doing.

It is the unknowing, the inability to understand, that discourages diversity. Followers of faith do not understand how I do not believe there is a god, while I am not certain why they follow the beliefs that they do. If I do not follow a religious code, do I have any morals? How do I understand someone if I think they believe in something that does not exist? I am evil and they are crazy.

My sister, with her godless beliefs, is considered a "bad influence" by her friend's family. The only reason why they are allowed to talk is so her friend can try to "convert my sister to see reason."

How do we fix this problem? How do we share the views of atheism without forcing it onto others? I think education is the answer. From elementary school through high school, whether it be a history class or an English assignment, the different religions are covered. But no one ever talks about the people who do not follow a particular faith. In class discussions on faith or religious figures in literature, one comment, one question or clarification and everyone stares as if no religion is not an option.

I am a girl of science. I do not believe a supreme being created all that lives. I believe that highly dense subatomic particles expanded into the known universe. When the days get hard, when everything feels like it is going wrong, I do not feel like someone has done this to me for the sake of a test. I take no comfort in thinking that I am being watched and judged every hour of every day. But people look at me and two things happen. First, people make assumptions about the way I look, with my genes making them put me into the category of "others." And the second is that people who know me, but don't know the person underneath, judge me on my lack of faith.

To change how beliefs are looked at, atheism needs to be openly discussed.

Hannah Dolan, 18, is from Valencia, Calif. She graduated from William S. Hart High School and is attending the University of Oregon to study computer science with cyber security interest.