By Ariana Menjivar
When I was 4, my mom introduced me to a man I couldn’t see. She said his name was God and that he would always be present in times of need.
When I was 13, I told my mom that I didn’t believe in God anymore. She told me it was OK because I didn’t understand. I told her that she didn’t understand and that she would never understand.
When I was 17, my co-worker’s mother said to me, “You might go to hell, Ariana; it’s sinful to reject the Lord.” I asked her why. She told me that it just was. I then said to her, “Well then, I guess I’m going to hell.” It was a joke, but she got mad.
To be blatantly honest, I never understood religion. To a certain extent I also feared it; especially as a young child. The mix of fear and the frustration I had, along with the inability to understand the answers given to me in response to the questions I conceived about religion, bred anger in me and tore my young mind apart.
Christians, Catholics, Muslims, etc., all have their own beliefs about the “afterlife.” As a former Catholic, I was introduced to three options: Heaven, hell and purgatory. They were all equally terrifying to me. Hell and purgatory were terrifying for obvious reasons. Heaven just sounded too obnoxiously perfect. I didn’t want to live an eternal life in a place that didn’t challenge me.
My former religion implanted the idea that I was born solemnly of sin and that following my birth, the entirety of my life would consist of sins. It also taught me that as long as I confessed my sins, worshipped God, and was a good human being; I could still go to heaven. I would often contemplate whether the only reason people want to be good in life is to avert the possibility of burning in hell. Religion seemed too much like a scare tactic.
I became an atheist because I got tired of trying to abide to principles I didn’t agree with and pretending to believe in something I didn’t. I don’t live fearful of any possibility of what is beyond life because I no longer believe in any possibility. I’m a morally adept being and this is certainly not due to religion. I choose not to live in fear of an uncertain or nonexistent life. I live for the now.
There is humility in admitting that you aren’t certain about life after death. We have a scientific understanding of why we’re here. It’s in our best interests to create our own meaning to life. I have one life, I want to do what feels right to me, and what will benefit me while I am alive and well on Earth. Honestly, if you really think about it, in a sense we are all atheists about any God we don’t follow.
Ariana, 18, graduated from Watkins Mill High School in Gaithersburg, Md. She has been performing martial arts for 10 years and have been teaching it for four years. She enjoys watching horror and sci-fi movies. Ariana will be attending Montgomery College in Rockville, Md., and hopes to become a criminal investigator.