6th place (tie): College essay contest — Eli Faymonville

Unabashed atheist, strong-willed scientist

FFRF awarded Eli $1,000.

Eli Faymonville

By Eli Faymonville

As a student looking to shift our agriculture system to more sustainable practices, I must rely on the concreteness of the natural world. In sustainable agriculture, there are many pieces of the puzzle to unlock biodiversity maintenance and high crop-yield support. Whether it be how fungi interact with surrounding plants, or understanding the scope of the soil microbiome, conservation botany is driven by change and progressed through natural means. For these reasons, I find believing in a higher power retrogressive. 

Although raised Methodist, I am an unabashed atheist. While watching nature documentaries, I noticed the complexity and specificity of adaptations to an environment that each animal and organism exhibits. From a single-celled organism to a human brain, evolution carves our biological necessities to our environment. For evolution we have proof, for evolution we see continuity today, and evolution can be explained with the natural world.

Methodism, however, simply ignores this clear-cut evidence to explain how we, as an ecosystem, have arrived at our present state.

As a scientist, this is an ideology carried with Christianity that I cannot avoid; my progress as an intellectual would be inverted, my mind would be closed, and I would be placing my faith outside of the natural world. Extrapolating my hope takes my reliance off of what I know through my studies, and places it in a gullible, vulnerable position of blind faith. Justifying major weather events as from the hand of God blinds populations to how our world functions. Likewise, justifying human-inflicting events like an assassination or polling results with religion allows the individual to excuse the actions done by humankind and place the blame above the clouds. This is simply unacceptable. If we as a population don’t recognize our faults and predations on the natural world, we will not only teach our youth these habits, continuing the preposterous lies, but we will also fall at the hands of our own wrongdoing.

It is our duty, as citizens operating in an environmentally conscious atmosphere, to recognize the effect humanity has on nature, take the blame, and start the change with concrete beliefs. With a belief placed beyond explanation, we are not able to move our communities toward a more aware and accepting atmosphere. We strive for such a society because, here, natural science is encouraged and accepted by all, allowing for bountiful opportunities of medical advancements, more self-awareness, a deeper connection with the environment, and children who would learn to never follow blindly. 

I understand that religion provides hope, happiness, and in some cases, shelter and food. However, we must not forget the hate that is innately placed in the religious human heart because of religious differences. I am truly thankful for the awareness I’ve gained and the man I’ve become. Through arduous academics and copious community outreach, I find my success. I find comfort in knowing my life is not determined by anyone but me, which allows my faith and fear to be placed in what I know — the natural world. It is for these reasons that I am not only confident in my choice as an atheist, but proud to be aware as one. 

Eli, 19, is from Iron Mountain, Mich., and attends Northern Michigan University, where he is majoring in botany and ecology. “I firmly believe in change through volunteerism. I believe change comes through positive relationships and trusted bonds within a community, and I see opportunities to create such an atmosphere through volunteerism,” he writes.