By Parker Maris
As of this writing, I am completing an internship in Uganda, where religiosity is 99.8 percent. It is odd knowing that virtually every person I have met here knows with absolute certainty that I, along with a billion people from India, among others, have a one-way ticket to eternal hellfire.
The logical flaws of reconciling a claim like this with a universe created by an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent god are as obvious as they are well-documented. It is this same hypocrisy that allows people to attribute Uncle Harold’s job promotion to “the good lord” while explaining hurricanes and child cancer as God working in mysterious ways. Looking at our planet from the perspective of a philosophically uncommitted extraterrestrial, the objective evidence for God is nearly as poor as the logic behind God being responsible for Uncle Harold’s pay increase. Thousands of years-old miracles described in a book simply cannot outweigh the evidence against the existence of God. This is made clear with a simple Google search of the correlation between a country’s level of religiosity and average quality of life. This reveals an almost perfect inverse relationship between rates of religiosity and nearly every positive quality of life indicator. Put simply, the more people in a country pray to a god, the more poverty, sickness, infant mortality, early pregnancies and homicides are likely to be found there. But what the hell was Eve thinking, eating that apple? Right?
Now that I’ve exposed the flawed logic and lack of evidence for a Christian god as grasping at low-hanging fruit (or what I like to call, “pulling an Eve”), I want to focus on my experiences with the consequences of religious dogmatic beliefs in Uganda. Looking for ways to give back to the community during my days off, I began asking people what challenges they were facing. This is when I met a boy named Laban who lived in the slum beside my residence. I quickly discovered he was an uncle to many, as both his sisters had never gone beyond primary school due to early pregnancies. This prompted me to learn more about the sexual education system in the region. I soon found out that nearly all girls in Uganda are told only to practice abstinence, while boys are given no sexual education at all. Absolutely nothing. Zero. How could this be possible in a country where roughly 25 percent of girls become pregnant before their 19th birthday and 1.4 million people are suffering from HIV/AIDS?
Having studied extensive anatomy, physiology and reproductive health during my time in college, I was determined to do something. I began contacting schools and was eventually invited to speak about sexual health to over 500 boys from several primary and secondary schools. Talking to boys who were clearly sexually active but did not know what a condom was or where babies come from was shattering. During these talks, it was common for both students and teachers alike to discuss “playing sex,” as if sex were a game. Despite the clear lack of information, I still had multiple teachers approach me after the sessions with the opinion that the talk I gave was unnecessary, as the girls had already been taught “religious values.” It was clear that conserving religious dogma had become more important than protecting children’s health. It was during these talks that atheism ceased to simply be a source of amusing intellectual debate for me and became a central piece of my identity. If the logical flaws and lack of evidence are not enough to dissuade you of God, grown religious men describing sex as if it were a playground game should at least warrant you to reconsider religion’s role in our society.
Parker, 23, is from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and recently graduated from the University of Calgary and is now at law school at the University of British Columbia.