FFRF awarded Truth $400.
By Truth Muller
Thanks to my parents allowing me to grow up as a freethinker and choose my own spiritual path, I am unabashedly nonreligious and have been that way since I was very young. I am spiritual, but I do not believe in God, heaven, or hell. One of my first arguments I ever had against religion was “If there is a god, then why is there so much unhappiness in our world?” If God exists, he’s pretty awful to his creations because he lets them suffer and die needlessly. Some might counter that those people were sinners, but I say this is ridiculous. There are plenty of people who believe in a god who have died from natural disasters, wars and starvation, just the same. My grandmother has been a “good Catholic” for her entire life, but now Alzheimer’s disease is slowly erasing her mind and killing her. What kind of reward for good faith is that? Another person might still counter that those disasters were somehow caused by the devil, another entity I don’t believe in. If God is all-powerful, why couldn’t he stop the devil from doing all those terrible things? In my opinion, someone truly all-powerful would snuff out the devil like a birthday candle.
While I was in my local library, I remember overhearing a so-called “language tutor” use the bible to teach a Spanish woman English. The student asked her tutor what an atheist was. My blood boiled when I heard the answer. “Well, atheists are bad people who do not believe in God. They will go to hell.” The student was confused, and asked why they were bad, but the tutor had no answers beyond that. I left, furious. I do not understand how choosing not to believe in something makes me a bad person, or should condemn me to perdition after I die.
I don’t identify as an atheist. The Webster’s dictionary definition of atheism — ”The belief that there is no god, or denial that God or gods exist” — is worded in such a way as to indicate that there is a god, and I’m simply too blind to see it. So now I’m a bad person, and an idiot, too? Religion isn’t exactly winning me over.
In a world where the planet is rapidly spinning out of control on a climatological and social scale, I see no evidence of a benevolent higher being. Some can say that those who’ve died in earthquakes and genocides, riots and school shootings, floods and bombings have gone to “a better place,” to the afterlife. I ask, where is the right-now life God supposedly gave them to live? Squandered. If everything that happens on this planet has a divine purpose, then give me God’s reason for my aunt, mother of two, dying of brain cancer at 45 after losing her ability to speak and walk. At the wake, the priest said she went to God willingly. Then why were the last words I ever heard her say “I don’t want to die?”
I don’t believe there is an afterlife. Science has no proof to offer me. This I do know: All my friends and I — the gays, the nonbelievers, the questioners, the unwed lovers, the contraceptive users, and the scientists — don’t deserve to burn because we think the status quo is wrong. Religion has become a way of explaining away the unexplainable, denying the undeniable, excusing the inexcusable, and regulating things that are untidy or unpleasant. And I think those values, not me, can go to hell.
If I’m wrong, if this belief I have is not good enough for God, then he can go ahead and send me to hell. Just bury me with a stick and a bag of marshmallows, because it’d be nice to have something to do while I burn for what is right.
Truth, 18, is from Rock Hill, N.Y., and attends the College of the Atlantic. He operates an environmental organization, Buddies for Bats, and is a professional public speaker and environmental writer.