2nd place (tie): College essay contest — Katherine Lance

I cede to no one, not even God

FFRF awarded Katherine $3,000.

Katherine Lance

By Katherine Lance

Since before I could even articulate the thought, I have philosophically opposed the idea of an omnipotent, omnipresent and omnibenevolent God. Most children do not wrestle with the problem of evil. However, being the victim of maternal abuse, I pondered evil daily and prayed to God nightly.

I read Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger when I was 10 — and everything fell into place. Armed with this philosophical knowledge, I came to rely only on myself, unable to place my fate in the hands of such a callous handler as God. No God ever came to save me.

When I was 16, I told my mother she was forcing me to parent her, so she kicked me out. God never came for my older siblings. They simply left. God never came for my younger sister. At 14, I was 95 pounds of pure desperation fighting an enraged grown woman. When it was time to write a testimony for court, I did not pray for God to give me strength. I relived all my worst memories alone in my head. And I got it done.

My grandmother’s death was the catalyst for my official break in faith. An impoverished Mexican immigrant, pregnant when she crossed the border and abused for much of her life, she was a victim of every obscene punishment life can offer. Despite this, she was deeply religious. My devout Catholic grandmother died enfeebled and in agony, wracked by cancer, despite her faith that God would save her. My mother called me stupid for not believing in God. I explained the problem of evil to her in this context and she never questioned my beliefs again. 

Others are not satisfied, citing intelligent design. Religions first existed partly as a way for humans to explain the unexplainable. As we make further advances in scientific research, we have no need to assign deities to what we now know to be natural phenomena with rational explanations. Intelligent design as a concept is similarly invalid. As a student of biology, I can show you the meandering path of evolution in many organisms — pointless vestigial structures, deer antlers being made of cancer cells, legs serving as makeshift antennae in proturan insects. Koalas eat what is basically poison, have an almost completely smooth brain, and cannot recognize eucalyptus leaves as food unless the leaves are still on the branch. Pandas are terrible at reproduction and parental care, leading to their near functional extinction. Sloths sometimes confuse their own limbs for branches and fall to their deaths. Even the human   skeleton is architecturally unsound. These are only a few examples of how evolution has taken place.

I will admit the natural rebuttal to that argument, which is that God only set the universe into motion and did not otherwise interfere — that there is no such thing as an act of God. I will allow this as a possibility, but I will never be religious.

As someone who grew up with an abusive mother who so ardently believed in God, I have a natural place in my psyche where faith should lie. It is filled instead with statements to the contrary.

Cormac McCarthy writes in The Crossing, “There is no order in this world save that which death has put there.” This is the truth the religious wish to deny. By seeking comfort in God, we can turn a blind eye on the senselessness of suffering. I choose to overcome obstacles rather than pretend they do not exist. I take an active role in my life rather pray for happiness. All of myself is my own. I cede to no one, not even God.

Katherine, 20, is from Cedar Park, Texas, and attends Tarleton State University, majoring in wildlife sciences, with minors in natural resource ecology and entomology. “I spend much of my time hiking and working on my insect collection, and I am also a visual artist and creative writer. I use these skills to run a blog advocating for the conservation of insects, which are often wrongly vilified in popular media.”