Second place — BIPOC essay contest: Shreyas Karki

Shreyas Karki

In spite of God, I am moral

FFRF awarded Shreyas $3,000.

By Shreyas Karki

Dear Ms. Sanchez, 

In 8th grade, you asked me how I could be moral without a Christian God, as if God was Rome and all roads of justice and goodness led to him. I thought that was funny because, as a little brown boy with match-stick arms in a predominantly white school, I associated God with immorality.

The boys with the cross necklaces would call me “curry-eater” or, simply, “shit skin.” The kids quick with a bible verse would ignore the so-called heretical words rolling off my foreign tongue. A boy named Simon — the same name of one of Jesus’ apostles — would bully me relentlessly. He sat in the front row of your class, Ms. Sanchez. Because these kids prayed to your god, they thought good was an identity rather than an action. They believed in your Christian god and, therefore, were moral . . . even if they only applied Jesus’ teachings of acceptance, love and compassion to those with the right ability, race, religion or complexion. 

Historically, God has been used as an excuse to do evil to others under the pretense of good. During the Crusades, God stained the swords of Christians with Muslim blood. Manifest Destiny — America’s “God-given” right to expand — led to the murders of thousands of Native Americans. The Ku Klux Klan, believing in a “religious foundation” in Protestant Christianity, targeted Jews, Catholics, African-Americans. According to them “Jesus was the first Klansman.” Therefore, evil and God aren’t mutually exclusive, which means good and God aren’t mutually inclusive. 

My atheism isn’t an absence of morality. Instead, it’s a relocation of morality: Good doesn’t come from God, good comes from within. Good isn’t something you become by believing in a certain being. Good is something you do. As an atheist, I know I am defined by my actions rather than my beliefs, and therefore choose to practice good. 

Ms. Sanchez, would you describe the kid who punched me for not giving him last week’s homework “good” simply because he followed God? Is a KKK cross burning on my lawn shining the light of a just God? No, because good is something you do. I love my neighbors — even those different than me — because I want to do good, not because God told me to. I feed the homeless because I want to. I don’t cheat, steal, lie or kill because I don’t want to cause harm to others. When you ask the question “How can I be moral without God,” ask yourself this: If God didn’t exist, would you cheat, lie, steal, kill? Would you coat your classroom in gasoline and burn it to ash? Of course not, because God isn’t keeping you from doing those things. It’s you. 

Without God, I am free to think for myself and follow my own moral compass. I hold myself accountable for my actions and cannot be led astray by whispers of evil disguised as good. It’s easier for me to accept and love others. It’s easier for me to look at a boy of a different complexion and greet him with open arms instead of a closed fist. 

Shreyas, 21, is from Pearland, Texas, and attends Rice University, majoring in English. Shreyas wants to be a physician and writer.