Eighth place — High school essay contest: Anderson Lynch

Anderson Lynch

Rejecting that which oppresses me

FFRF awarded Anderson $500 for his essay.

By Anderson Lynch

“Y’know, you’re, like, actually a nice person. It’s a shame you’re going to hell.”

I nearly choked on my food as the girl across from me continued to eat her lunch, the sounds of the school cafeteria apparently rendering her oblivious to the implications of her statement. I glanced around the table, seeing if anyone would say anything, even more surprised when nobody did. According to her, I was going to hell, to be tortured for all of eternity. Not a hundred years, not a thousand. She expected me to experience unimaginable pain for the rest of time.

Why? What had I done to deserve that, a fate I’d be hesitant to wish on my worst enemy? Was it because I’m transgender? Bisexual? Atheist? Did I wear too many mixed fabrics or eat shellfish one too many times? If any of these things made me worthy of eternal damnation, then I didn’t want any part of it.

As a young man in the Southern United States, however, I didn’t have a choice over whether or not to be a part of it. The discriminatory effects of religion, especially Christianity, weaseled their way into every part of my life. I couldn’t go two feet without hearing hate in the name of “the Lord,” justifications for racist and homophobic beliefs coming from places like Genesis 9:18-27 and Leviticus 18:22.

A religion that I wasn’t even a part of made me ashamed of who I am.

It didn’t end with me, though. I’ve seen the oppressive impact Christianity had on my family and friends, from the consequences of people saying my sister was a Satanist for not believing in God,  to my parents having to lie about their religion in order to secure jobs, to friends hiding their true identities for fear of their radical families rejecting them.

That is why I reject religion. Nobody should be made to feel inferior or inherently flawed for something they can’t control, be it skin color, gender, sexuality or country of origin. I can’t support an infrastructure that does exactly that.

Anderson, 18, is from Loganville, Ga., and will be attending Oglethorpe University. He is an aspiring doctor, author, poet and artist who volunteers at a local food bank. He attended Georgia’s Governor’s Honor Program for Communicative Arts. Someday he would like to join Doctors Without Borders or something similar.