Honorable mention — College essay contest: Sharay Rapozo

A mother’s blessing

By Sharay Rapozo

Sharay Rapozo

As I have gotten older, I began to notice the differences between my friends and me. Unlike them I was not brought up attending church regularly, I was not baptized, I could not cite a passage from the bible. Whenever bringing these differences up to my mother, she would assure me it was all intentional. My mother emphasized choice and self-autonomy as key principles for her daughter to abide by. She intentionally did not make her daughter conform to a set of beliefs without giving her the option to decide.

Now, as an adult, I am grateful my mother chose the route she did. Albeit, there are some advantages to following a certain religion — a sense of community and belonging, a perceived understanding of the world, supposed morality. However, I challenge these pros by asking others to consider the costs of them. Many of those who describe themselves as religious follow the religion of their parents or other family members. While there appears to be no harm in subscribing to the beliefs of those who raised you, it inhibits a young person’s decision-making abilities. Those who follow a certain religion often follow it blindly, believing that the words of the religious text and authority figures are true. Yet, there is harm in this mindset. I have found that religion acts as blinders for people, allowing them to only see and believe what is told to them.

I reject religion for a number of reasons. For one, I am not equipped to know what is true about this world beyond what I have experienced and the hypotheses of credible scientists. My very mention of science alone contradicts what many religions believe. Besides that, who am I to even suggest that I know what is out there? Who am I to say with my chest that my beliefs are the only valid and correct beliefs? I refuse to follow a religion because I have accepted the fact that, at times, I am wrong. I am able to identify when I am wrong by allowing myself to have an open mind. Developing an open mind is easier said than done; yet, I have found that the best way to do so is by questioning what I am told with reasonable suspicion and listening intently to what others have to say. I have found that most religions reject this openness, opting for a more constrictive outlook.

Additionally, I reject religion on the basis of its harms outweighing its benefits. Religions, especially the Abrahamic religions, have manifested a culture that exacerbates the in- and the outgroups. Those who do not believe in the Judeo-Christian beliefs are often ostracized, even to this day. Not to mention the fact that many Judeo-Christian believers cherry-pick what their own religion says to satisfy their personal beliefs, especially concerning LGBTQ+ matters. Major religions have created systemic violence globally that continues to rage on. The violent acts of “reclaiming the holy land” and mission trips to “save and educate the less fortunate” just barely scrape the top of heinous acts that are allowed under religious thinking. Religions often create a normalized violent environment that I cannot bring myself to abide by.

When I was younger, I nearly resented the fact that I was not religious. I questioned why I did not have the same experiences as my friends — I was left out of conversations, I was left behind. As I have matured, I have come to realize that my mother’s decision to not bring me up religious was, ironically, a blessing in disguise. I have not had to unlearn what was taught to me with the aims of seeking the truth. My entire life, I have been able to exercise my full autonomy and think freely.

Sharay, 21, is from Makaweli, Hawaii, and attends the University of Washington, where she is majoring in political science. She is a first-generation college student and plans to extend her learning post-grad, whether it be formally or otherwise.