Seventh place — College essay contest: Dylan Mitchell

Enjoying the bliss of that which we know

Dylan Mitchell

FFRF awarded Dylan $750.

By Dylan Mitchell

“No Hell below us, above us only sky.” These words, exquisitely written and performed by the late John Lennon nearly 50 years ago, remain controversial even today. But why is that? Why are atheist sentiments still considered ethically lacking by the religious majority?

We in the secular community constantly hear the question: “Where do you get your morals from?” followed by, “And what stops you from performing [fill in random and obviously egregious act]?” We’re also subject to the well-intentioned but often rude question of “Where do you find meaning in life without God?” What I find most interesting is the proverbial mirror these apologists are staring into without realizing. I would reply: “Tell me, is the only thing stopping you from performing such an act the consequence you fear from the invisible Big Brother you worship? What is the point of corporeal life here on Earth when you believe an eternity in serenity is awaiting you in heaven?” The irony in these questions posed by the religious is that they answer themselves, and often times such answers are more profound from the atheist’s viewpoint.

What stops the hypothetical secularist from shamelessly committing vile deeds? I would say it’s innate human compassion and empathy, combined with a genuine concern for the state of the planet and its inhabitants. The point of life without God? I argue it’s the pursuit of happiness through maximizing positivity, pleasure and activism. With no second chances at life, no divine deus ex machina to be comforted by, I think atheists harbor the unique mentality of making the best of what we have. What logically follows is a mindset of humanism. For us, a life spent curating kindness and overall well-being for ourselves and those around us is a life well-spent. There do exist, of course, many religious organizations that have the same creed, and have helped many a person throughout the world. However, while mostly appreciated, these groups have an inherent design flaw: They’re built on a foundation of coercion with the not-so-subtle goal of conversion. Secular humanism will always be more genuine, and as a result more effective, from its lack of any ulterior motives.

To truly live for the here and now, is to choose the bird in the hand. To spend our precious waking hours wishing for the afterlife is to lose time. Even if heaven existed, it would be an inevitability undeserving our mortal attention. Since evidence hasn’t yet manifested in the favor of such a place, I think we’re all better off making the lives we have now as enjoyable as possible for as many as possible. Humanism’s goal is to make the world that exists as close to heaven as possible, from the ground below us to the sky above. Imagine that.

Dylan, 20, is from Kernersville, N.C., and attends Guilford College and is majoring in creative writing. He is an aspiring author. “Though I write fiction exclusively, I read almost entirely nonfiction philosophy, and mostly on the topic of religion,” Dylan writes.