This I Believe

Mercedes - North Palm Beach, Florida
Entered on October 8, 2006

This I believe.

I believe that the morals imbued by religion in society can be beneficial. However, I believe that religion is not necessary in the molding of a child, and that being religious does not mean that one is a good person. I believe that religion tends to cause more upsets than it quells. I do not believe in an all-powerful being. I am responsible for myself, for my own actions, and for the consequences. My beliefs are based on experience and on scientific fact; and it is this that I ground my opinions on.

Raised by an Episcopalian and an atheist, I was allowed complete freedom when formulating my religious foundations. Since neither of my parents actually practiced their religion, I was never made to go to church, and I never felt the want to. My experience growing up was a completely secular one, and yet I still maintain the morals that are upheld by the law and by society. I have never used an illegal substance, I have never had any confrontation with the law, and yet I am a complete atheist. I believe that religion does not beget morals, though it does help to support them. The stabilizing effects of religion in society cannot be ignored, at least in one such as ours where there is separation of church and state. I believe that a family is responsible for influencing a child in an attempt to mold an upstanding, honorable citizen, but when such support is not available, religion can serve as a surrogate parent and help to keep one on the right path in life.

My father, the Episcopalian, was an ardent churchgoer in his youth. He participated in the church choir as a boy and attended regularly until his adulthood. He was, at an early age, instilled with the values of the church. My mother, the atheist, never set foot in a church save maybe twice in her life. Ironic the circumstances then, when several years ago, my parents underwent a divorce. Why? My father cheated on my mother. I had the displeasure of witnessing this via a telephone call between him and his mistress that I accidentally walked in on. Being still a curious child, I hid behind the wall and proceeded to eavesdrop on his conversation, and with the ending statement of “I love you,” I became panicked and hid in my room until my mother arrived home. I heard the door open and rushed to meet her. Seeing her struggle through the door, arms heavily laden with groceries, the first question out of my mouth was “Did you call from the store?” Upon the dissatisfactory answer of “No, why?” I was confused and hurt and felt as if my insides had been torn into tiny pieces. I became progressively more recluse and alienated myself from my father. It was yet several months before my mother ever found out. During this period, I told myself that it simply couldn’t be true and pushed it to the back of my mind. I’ve never forgiven him for the pain he caused my mother, who was always a faithful wife and supportive mother; I can think of no one less deserving of such an injustice.

It was this that cemented my staunch atheism. I believe that this was caused wholly on the behalf of poor decisions, and I believe that God was not associated with it in any way. I believe that one can be moral and just without church, but that being religious does not automatically make a moral person.