It was late 2017, and I was a high school senior. Therefore, it was an appropriate way to spend my time writing essays for possible scholarships. After all, a lot of money is put towards scholarships, and most people tend to avoid the essay types. However, being who I am and going into the field I want to (computer science) meant that I didn’t have many scholarship options — which isn’t a bad thing — but it did mean that I had to make due with what I had to choose from.
Of course, one of the options out of the handful of scholarships I could apply for was hosted by AU Students (Students for Separation of Church and State), one of the most notable atheist political organizations in America. While I agree that a government that doesn’t force religious agenda is ideal, I don’t agree with many of the points they make, which only made me more interested.
I made up my mind to submit an essay when the qualifications read “submit an essay regarding how religion has decayed our nation.” Shortly after some brief brainstorming, I cracked my knuckles and got to work.
Here’s my submission.
The Secret Religion
“When Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase “separation of church and state” in a letter written to the Danbury Baptist Association, it is without a doubt that he had one fear in mind — the fear that a federal government would force an oppressive religious regime on its constituents. Perhaps he did not consider the fact that our religious problem is so embedded in us that it is almost impossible to extinguish. In many ways, his fear reflects the current state of America, though in an unusual way. Our current illness, which appears to be spreading like darkness and decay in the Aokigahara forest, goes by many names, but it always characterizes itself by the same attributes — selfishness, hate, desperateness, dishonesty, and death. But what is this mystery religion?
Perhaps the best way to understand and conquer it is by examining its facets.
The first is selfishness. People who adhere to this religion place themselves higher on a totem pole than their peers, often in ways that are destructive and disgusting. These people steal money, mental health, and even virginity from others to satisfy their never-ending cravings. Their lack of care for others affects everyone, causing death for everyone regardless of their walk of life. People in power have a heightened ability to perform these actions, allowing rulers like Hosni Mubarak and Ferdinand Marcos to siphon their nations of everything so they can pocket more money than they could possibly spend. In situations like this, nothing can thrive but the most avaricious and a cloud of fear.
The second is hate. Members of this religion cannot stand any viewpoints but their own, and those who oppose or question their regime are immediately labeled as heretics. People of hate regularly harm women, children, minorities, and members of the LGBTQI+ community by spreading lies about their identities and encouraging them to become something that is not healthy for them to become. Ultimately, this has caused a plethora of issues, ranging from forcibly closing businesses and destroying property to slaughtering many innocent people, and there is no evidence to suggest that this is slowing down anytime soon.
The third is desperation. This secret religion leaves nothing but hopelessness in its wake, promising everything and delivering nothing at all. People turn to it in the pursuit of control, of meaning, and of satisfaction, but it delivers none of these. I know because I too was once a follower of this religion. It is the reason why, in 2013, seventeen percent of American students considered taking their own lives. It is why 2.4 million in the United States used opioids in a non-medical way, desperate to chemically improve their lives. There is no hope for these people.
“Ultimately, this has caused a plethora of issues, ranging from forcibly closing businesses and destroying property to slaughtering many innocent people, and there is no evidence to suggest that this is slowing down anytime soon.”
Lastly, the consequences are death. The consequences of this religion are death, for both the members and those around them. They are trapped by selfishness, unrelenting hate, and a rabid anxiety for something that cannot be satisfied.
At this point, it should be obvious as to what this mysterious secret religion is by its characteristics. As it says in the Christian Bible, “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act.” Ultimately, the above description was a portrait of our humanity. This secret religion is one we have all taken part in, and only a few have overcome.
- We are all guilty of acting selfishly, putting ourselves before others. We are a people of liars, cheaters, and thieves. Therefore, we are selfish.
- We are all guilty of ignoring, dismissing, and ridiculing others. Our behavior ranges from ignoring what we do not enjoy reading, such as this essay, to throwing people off buildings and beheading those who you disagree with. Even if simply in our thoughts, we are all guilty of hate. Therefore, we are hateful.
- We are all sufferers from hopelessness. Even if we have found something to cope with, there is nothing we can truly trust that appears to be solid enough to rely upon. A solid job, a loyal spouse, or even a bank account can be taken away, leaving us with nothing. It is impossible for us to become satisfied on our own accord. Therefore, we are hopeless.
Every human to have ever been born has attempted a different solution, but none of them have come much avail upon reaching the end. From these past efforts, it is possible to use deduction to agree upon what an answer could be. It is not merely a government reorganization. Since only eight percent of recorded history has been a time without war, this has proven unsuccessful in the past for curing unease.
Ultimately, uncontrollable anger and outrage is not a solution either, since it transforms us into inverted mirrors of whatever we oppose. Finally, ignoring the problems of our world is not a solution either, because of the nature of logical, objective truth, there is no reliable escape from it without bleakness. The drug-addicted father cannot escape from the reality that his children will be scarred. The sexual predator cannot break free of the truth that his victims will be hurt forever. The dishonest politician or business owner will never know the depth of what her dishonesty and fraud have caused.
Fortunately, and from my own experience, there is a way to be cured of these ills. It is an ancient cure, but one that is equally as relevant today as it has always been. It is a solution that is with you in full and always, no matter what you look like, where you are from, or what your name sounds like. This method, reality, and ray of hope has a name, and his name is Jesus Christ. By examining the historical record and the lives of the people who I know he has affected, I can say with confidence that he is our creator and came to the earth as a man, died to pay the penalty for our mistakes, and came back to life after three days to conquer death. I have certainty that by engaging in a relationship with him, selfishness and hate are no longer appealing and have no power over my actions. Because of his workings in my life, I no longer need to feel hopeless or anxious about anything. Even in death, I have the assurance of life.
Furthermore, understanding who he is has shifted my perspective — no government or policy change can change the hearts of people, who are ultimately responsible for hate and selfishness. No cage of paper can hold back the force of a tsunami. To truly separate government from the policies of selfishness and hate, the people under their authority must stop acting hatefully and selfishly of their own accord. Is it impossible to cure cancer in a patient by merely prescribing pain medication? Thus, is it my goal, having been changed by this, to spread this message wherever it is needed. I hope that, for your sake as a reader, you would consider this alternative viewpoint and not turn it away out of hate.”
Needless to say, I didn’t get the scholarship, but at least I’ve got this essay.