Honorable mention — High school essay contest: Anna Hendrick 

Anna Hendrick

Science, sexuality and religion

By Anna Hendrick 

I grew up in a religious household. My parents, their friends and my immediate family all attended services weekly at a United Methodist Church, which meant that I went as well and was always involved in church events. Despite this, the things I learned about the Christian faith stopped resonating with me when I reached middle school and began thinking more deeply about faith. I have always had an easier time believing in things I can see or that have clear, concrete effects —things that I can be absolutely certain are true. That is one of the reasons that I am so drawn to science rather than Christianity. Religion and evidence for a higher power is something that I cannot see, and I have never been able to come to a clear decision about what I believe — I much prefer to identify as agnostic and live my life without any consideration for religious beliefs.

While growing up, I also began to understand and see how people who claim to follow faiths that preach kindness and love use that same faith to perpetuate hatred and backward ideals that harm our society’s progress. This only turned me further away from religion. One of the worst examples of this is how conservative and Christian politics addresses the LGBTQ+ community. Not only are religious arguments against LGBTQ+ people scientifically unfounded, but most religious texts — the bible in particular — do not substantively address homosexuality. Additionally, I find that many arguments are tied to traditional views of gender roles that are misogynistic and reduce human existence and worth to reproduction. Studies about human homosexuality suggest that there are significant biological, environmental, genetic, prenatal condition, and even neurological differences between non-heterosexual (gay, bisexual, etc.) and heterosexual people. Additionally, studies done on nearly 500 species of animals have shown homosexual activities and behaviors.

All of this evidence suggests that being gay is a natural predisposition with biological bases — not a choice or an abnormality. Despite this, many people — most notably the very religious — refuse to accept homosexuality as natural, advocate for discriminatory laws and practices, and even turn to outright hate. It is frustrating to see a group of people who preach kindness reject people so violently while also showing a complete disregard for scientific research and fact. This has made religion even more difficult for me to accept, and it has led me to believe that religion has no place in politics or in state or nationwide policy. Not everyone believes the same things, and religion is often used as an excuse for hatred. We need to trust in science and objective fact — not conjecture and religious zeal.

Anna, 18, is from Virginia Beach, Va., and attends the College of William and Mary. “I attended numerous summer camps for STEM, and took science courses at a local university instead of at my high school for two years,” Anna writes. “I am also a member of the International Youth Neuroscience Association, and I attended the 2020 International Neuroethics Society Conference. I plan to pursue a double major in neuroscience and Japanese with a possible minor in biochemistry.”