Honorable mention — High school essay contest: Adam Johnson

Adam Johnson

Honorable mention

The flaws of organized religion

FFRF awarded Adam $200 for his essay.

By Adam Johnson

Religious traditions have introduced some of the most ubiquitous and culturally defining ideals into the zeitgeist of the modern world. These ideals, however, are often revealed to be more harmful than beneficial as humanity evolves socially with each passing generation. While religious faith provides many good-hearted individuals with a set of principles to guide their paths through life, the modern sociopolitical implications of millenia of blind faith into ancient belief systems and texts leave many minority groups and entire swaths of society marginalized and oppressed under an outdated worldview. It is for this reason that I reject religion.

Growing up while attending a Catholic school, I was always confused by the extent to which my classmates blindly believed what was taught in our religion textbooks. My family spent Sunday mornings on Florida’s beaches rather than in church pews, and I had learned to trust that the universe was governed by scientific laws. Why wouldn’t it be, considering all the evidence it offers as opposed to the baseless claims of my teachers and priests? And why would this religion that preaches love and acceptance generate so much hypocritical vitriol towards my peers in the LGBTQ+ community?

With time, I realized that organized religion was not for me. Without the three major Abrahamic

religions, the ideal of “chosen” individuals and idolatry would be far less prominent, limiting the formation of competing, divisive sects. Without religion, patriarchal obsessions with virginity and female purity, where women are treated as child-bearers, would no longer exist, allowing women access to contraceptives and abortion without offending religious zealots. Without religion, the LGBTQ+ community would not face as much hateful discrimination based on oft-misinterpreted ancient texts.

Without religion, there would be no debate over the validity of scientific discoveries and evidence.

It is my hope that, politically, at least, humanity will shift toward secularism, as the voice of a religious majority in power can create significant cultural setbacks. The world’s religious traditions, by their very nature as conflicting sets of “absolute” ideals, have no place in government or in manipulating the course of societies built on principles of freedom.

Adam, 18, is from West Palm Beach, Fla., and will be attending Duke University, with plans to major in environmental engineering and political science. He has been playing the trumpet and piano for 11 years, and has competed as a finalist in the International Trumpet Guild’s Youth Solo Competition. He received the Sunshine State Scholar award as one of the top state high school students in STEM. He volunteers with a sea turtle rehabilitation center and with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which seeks to raise money for childhood cancer research.