Ninth place (tie) — High school essay contest: Ahndiya Kiburi

Ahndiya Kiburi

Choosing humanity over God

FFRF awarded Ahndiya $400 for her essay.

By Ahndiya Kiburi 

Why don’t I believe in God? It is a question I hear surprisingly often. Emotionally, I have had some negative experiences with organized religion in the past. In third grade, my best friend told me I was going to hell because I did not have a church. That was terrifying to me. I also did not understand why some religions did not accept the LGBTQ+ community. It made no sense to preach love in faith and not embrace all of humanity.

Intellectually, I do not feel as though human beings on this Earth have the ability to understand or know definitively that there is a higher power. I believe that good and evil stops and starts within our own minds. I consider myself an agnostic: I claim neither disbelief nor belief in a higher power.

Religion holds us back from seeing that there is more than one way of thinking and seeing the world. I find that Christianity, for example, often belittles others who do not believe in their faith. My ancestors were stripped of their animistic religions when they were brought to the Americas as slaves. Slaveholders used the bible to justify slavery and many enslaved Africans came to believe that if they “served” on Earth, God would give them eternal joy after death. When we use religion to oppress and we think that our beliefs are the only truth, we lose sight of embracing the diversity of human existence.

I have seen religion among my high school peers hold them back from achieving their full potential. For example, due to specific Christian beliefs, one of my peers cannot attend college and become a nurse, which is her dream career. Instead, her parents are forcing her to live in their home until she is married. Religion is limiting. It limits knowledge, emotion, morality, and thought. I could never limit myself to the joys of life. I choose love, kindness, and the faith I have in others to live my life with honesty and accountability. 

Ahndiya, 18, is from Sacramento, Calif., and will be attending the University of California-Davis, where she plans to major in design and international relations and would like to be a diplomat. She is passionate about the visual arts and fascinated with other cultures, languages and histories. She has done volunteer work, served as chair for a civil rights student-led club and served as creative director for an international ecology project.