Honorable mention — High school essay contest: Neil Dervis

Neil Dervis

Ignorance leads to death

By Neil Dervis 

Throughout my life as a person and student, atheism and belief in science have been integral to who I am. I have grown up as a third-generation atheist and as a result, trust in science is essential to my belief system. Through my parents’ organization, Central Florida Freethought Community, I have attended many science-related talks and get-togethers that expanded my realm of thinking. These meetings instilled in me a sense of constant skepticism that is not taught within most churches. My constant skepticism ensures that I make well-informed decisions and do not believe information at face value, especially from someone I do not trust or from an organization that embraces faith over science. This has helped me during the current pandemic more than ever.

Some of the more religiously inclined individuals have put themselves and their families at risk by believing that God and faith in religion will protect them from the threat of the Covid-19. This false sense of security, while initially comforting to them, is dangerous because choosing to ignore the facts and science about the disease and relying on faith alone could result ultimately in sickness and death. This lack of trust in science and misplaced trust in religion could cost people their lives and the lives of those they love.

Some religions preached against wearing masks and against practicing social distancing as mandated by the CDC. As a result, more people were infected with this disease and some died. In London, Orthodox Jews refused to listen to scientists’ advice about the dangers of large group gatherings and, as a result, 64 percent were infected compared with the UK’s average of 7 percent, according to the BBC. To top it all off, even when masks and social distancing were mandated by a science-based organization, the religiously inclined individuals preached against the measures that were proven to help fight off Covid-19 and save lives.

I observed during my senior year in high school how some students would use the idea taught by religion that “when your number is up, your number is up.” In other words, when God decides you will die from Covid-19, there is nothing you can do. So, these students refused to wear masks. They threw parties during the apex of the pandemic, completely discarding the science behind the spread of this disease.

I believe that skepticism should be a more integral part of a school’s curriculum to help ensure misinformation does not get shared.

Lastly, I think my exposure to countless scientific talks boosting my belief in science through the Central Florida Freethought Community has helped make me a less ignorant person and possibly could have saved my life.

Neil, 18, is from Oviedo, Fla., and attends the University of Central Florida. “My mother and step-father created the Central Florida Freethought Community, CFFC, when I was in middle school,” Neil writes. “As I grew up, they gave me responsibility for the organization’s sales of merchandise. Every summer, I visited my dad, who is a civil engineer, in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. I plan to major in psychology to become a psychiatrist with my own practice.”