Freethought Today · September 2016

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Catherine Fahriger Scholarship winner: By Jorge Banuelos

I remember the day that I told my family that I had doubts about religion. Doubts, not vehement opposition. Not affirmative rejection, not an outright refusal to participate in religious activities, but doubts. Reasonable doubts.

I told my family that I did not find it reasonable to have to accept without question any fact of life. Even before I finished telling them how I felt, I could feel the dynamic shift from one of love and warmth to outright rejection. After I saw what my mere expression of doubt could do, I was not the same.

I grew up in a family of Jehovah's Witnesses, going three generations back to my great-grandmother. It didn't sit easy with me that I had to automatically accept an Earthly hierarchy connected to a mystic, ethereal creator. I didn't like the communal peer pressure to follow a preset life pattern, nor did I appreciate the full devotion to some texts, but lenience toward other beliefs. As I grew, I told myself that I owed it to my well-being and my conscience to not maintain this façade for the emotional comfort of those halfway vested in me. So I didn't.

The thing that affected me the most in my experience was the power of doubt and the importance of human experience. Religions are meant to be pre-ordered courses of life and explanations for real phenomena that better the believer. But when this goal actually materializes, the believer falls by the wayside, leaving an institution that only focuses on surviving. The institution does not care for the long-lasting well-being of the believer. Religion operates like a pharmaceutical company; it creates dependent customers rather than healthy, happy people. And the rejection I faced validates this claim.

For a while, I beat myself up over the emotional distance in the family. But I then realized that it was not my fault. I don't reject the religious mindset altogether, since the human race needs dialogue over experience. But in that same breath we need experience-based dialogue, not ideological ramblings. Civil rights have only progressed so far because we used the rationale "God created us with rights and made us equals" instead of "People are suffering and we must respect their struggles." We reached a legislative equality, which is only equality in theory, and thus felt that the fight was over. Experience says otherwise, and that should be valued more.

Humanism helped me to value myself and my experiences, and that is the only reason I need. It gave me confidence and it helped assuage my anxiety. It can do the same for others when they learn their true power is based on the sole fact that they exist. Humanism builds confidence, it fosters independence and it tells the disenfranchised exactly what they need to hear: that they matter.

Jorge graduated from Wichita High School and now attends Carleton College.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

FFRF privacy statement