Honorable mention: People of color essay contest — Jonathan Le

Jonathan Le

An autobiography already authored

By Jonathan Le

When I ask my mother why it’s such an issue to be nonreligious, she simply replies with an all-too-common sentiment: Without the sturdy foundation of religious morals, there are no bounds on my potential to act awfully, and there’s good chance I’ll become a remorseless sinner in the future. To be thought of in such a way by someone so close to me is disheartening at the least, but the fact is the idea of the unchained, obscene atheist runs wild through the minds of many deeply religious people. It would be simple enough to say I can judge a local news villain as despicable as well any devout person. However, becoming irreligious is so liberating and fulfilling that it strikes me as bizarre to need to defend the decision.

The most amazing part of being an atheist actually stems from the reason many religious people consider my world to be so lawless: It’s because, in a way, it really is. I uphold basic morals and I certainly don’t intend to abandon them, but with the absence of that “sturdy religious foundation,” I’m free to sin to my heart’s content. To be clear, I mean I have the freedom to decide whether what’s been decided as sinful actually belongs under the label. The world changes and evolves and so do my values. Instead of being handed an absolute manual, I have the opportunity to examine everything I wish and decide on my own whether it is correct. I’d hate to live based on an autobiography already authored by someone else.

As a member of the LGBT community, the issue is even deeper and more personal for me. It’s wrong to ingrain within people that a huge aspect of my life and that of so many others is automatically immoral. LGBT people shouldn’t live our lives for any amount of time thinking of ourselves as broken or somehow wrong. Too often I find looking through a religious lens shows only a dismal world. Whether it’s that humans are sinful and evil at our core or that we need to be saved by someone stronger rather than through ourselves, it’s a view that I can never find myself supporting. I have always believed humans to be good at heart, and I refuse to accept we are anything but inherently aspiring for improvement.

Someday, I seek to share these beliefs alongside more of my fellow students of color. Unfortunately, as it stands, there is less involvement in the nonreligious community among minorities than ideal. What stands out to me most is, frankly, a shortfall of an actual nonreligious community. People of color can find strong bonds in their ethnic communities and through typical religious groups. It’s easy to see how daunting it can be to enter the irreligious space, where there are far fewer people they can relate to coupled with a reduced sense of belonging and kinship. So many people maintain religious ties primarily for the connectivity aspect. It is extremely important that we build and strengthen the nonreligious community to feel welcoming and interconnected so that people of color see absence of religion not as abandoning home but as an avenue to look further.

Jonathan, 18, attends the University of California, Irvine and is pursuing a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. “My greatest passion has always been science, and biology in particular, so I even started my own science club,” Jonathan writes.