Freethought Today · August 2017

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

FFRF Students of Color Essay Contest Third Place: Alone in the universe and that’s all right: By Lauren Greenlee

FFRF awarded Lauren $1,000.

By Lauren Greenlee

For someone I don't know, especially someone who believes in a higher power, to understand my religious beliefs (or lack thereof), they would need to know my background.

I was born into the LDS church and my family has strong ties to the religion. That connection made leaving the church difficult. Eventually, I was able to wean my mother off the idea that I would be at her side at church each week.

But the "how" of that is not as important as the "why," and the "why" was a plethora of frankly abhorrent beliefs and practices that had been conveniently avoided in my Sunday school lessons. Beliefs that no one would have told me about if I had asked. Information that I wasn't supposed to go looking for, because the LDS church specifically instructs its members not to get their information from any non-LDS sources and to "doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith."

I didn't know until my teen years that the church had banned African-Americans from being full members until 1978. Or that it took until 2013 for the Mormon church to renounce statements made both within their holy text and by fellow authorities in the 1960s that black and Native American people who became members of the church had been cursed with their darker skin tone and would gradually become lighter once they became members. Some may say that the men making these statements were merely products of their time, but I refuse to believe that any benevolent and fair god would choose a man like Brigham Young as its mouthpiece.

Once I removed myself from Mormonism, I began to search for other religious avenues to take in life. I avoided other institutionalized religions like the plague. But the idea of a god, any god, someone looking out for us, was always in the back of my mind.

I tried paganism. I had no sacrifices or altars, but I offered fervent prayers to goddesses who I found sufficiently different from Mormon Jesus. Despite my attempts, I never received an answer from Brigid or the Morrighan. I became more insecure, wondering what to do with my desire to believe — until I realized that I didn't have to. For all my wishing that someone would answer my prayers, the fact remained that I had no evidence of a higher power. And so, over time, I walked away from religion altogether.

I figure if a god (capital "G" or otherwise) wants me, it'll come calling. Until then, agnosticism is fine with me. I don't presume to know whether there is or isn't a higher power, but if there is, it doesn't seem interested enough in me to make itself known. After years of fighting for recognition from something bigger than me, I'm finally content to exist on my own, secure in my individuality. I won't be feeding those old insecurities again anytime soon.

Lauren, 18, is from San Luis Obispo, Calif., and will be attending the University of San Francisco. She plays clarinet, alto saxophone, violin and piano (and some guitar and ukulele). She is an active volunteer, serving the homeless, doing beach cleanups, helping with upkeep on plots in memorial gardens and shelving books at the library. Lauren enjoys ceramics and reading in her spare time.

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