Metroplex Atheists is proud to announce the winners of our first annual student essay contest. The purpose of this contest is to encourage young secularists to become more involved in the secular community, and to establish positive relationships with those young people by offering a cash prize of $150 for first place, $100 for second place, and $50 for third place. Please enjoy these essays from our 2021 contest winners.

First Place- Mariah Hudson

Understanding science isn’t a prerequisite for atheism, but it is necessary to avoid being deceived by anti-science arguments. An inquisitive mind is often discouraged by those faithful at risk, and its absence is responsible for society’s misguided distrust of the scientific method. Obstinate beliefs that holy scriptures are inerrant leaves no room for emerging naturalistic explanations, no matter the evidence. This is wholly unscientific and illustrates why the denial of science is easier than wading in a pool of cognitive dissonance by accepting both natural and supernatural beliefs. The fact that few absolutes exist in science is perceived as its deficiency while every question surmised absolute from inside the erring word of dogmatic authority is regarded a strength. Until these conflicting and inflexible beliefs become more pliable, science will continue to be denied because it is in opposition to arrogant certainty.

“You believe we came from monkeys?” my older sister exclaimed when I informed her of my disbelief in God. I am not sure if she was more shocked I admitted I was an atheist, or that I responded, “No, I believe in the scientific theory of evolution.” Whether I believed her straw-manned description or not, belief in evolution is irrelevant to the disbelief in gods. There is a falsehood that atheists must be experts in biology and the origins of life in order to disbelieve silly propositions. Who is demanded the explanation to cavities and baby teeth when they grow out of the belief in the Tooth Fairy? I suspect the honest answer, “I don’t know” is unsatisfying to someone who had unquestionably known their entire life. But I cannot blame my sister for her ignorance when scientific theories are bombarded by misrepresentations from science deniers every day.

Science is a threat to theistic religion because it explains the natural world without the appeal to gods. It is erroneous to assume all believers in faith fear science since many ignorantly concur with the assertions religious apologists construct. Authority is chosen instead of skepticism and skepticism is labeled cynicism. Scientific theories are grossly distorted by apologists and presented to believers as perverted truth because they know faith cannot circumvent actual scientific evidence. Scientifically illiterate believers then parrot these false claims in order to affirm their belief. Since all their knowledge of science are dishonest portrayals, many believers never accept real wisdom of a naturalistic world.

Education is probably the best cure to the denial of science apart from dismantling faith-based religion. When absent to studying the evidence and methods implemented by science, believers will continue to subordinately trust authority without question. Inconvenient seeds of doubt must planted in minds to stir cognitive dissonance. Until steadfast beliefs are permitted substantial inquiry, science will continue to be denied.

Second Place- Why Atheists Need To Come Out of the Closet, Matthew Harrison

As an atheist myself, my own “coming out” experience was difficult to say the least, both within my own mind and life, and externally with my family and community. Admittedly, for a while I became the angry atheist stereotype I have come to dislike, just as the secular and mainstream American religious communities do. They dislike the stereotype for different reasons, but I dislike the stereotype both because of how often it is misapplied and painted as a caricature of people’s real experiences, but also because of how it *does* have roots in real people and experiences. And I was someone who contributed to it.

In many cases it is costly, socially, emotionally, and even financially. If more people can be true to themselves and straightforwardly open in constructive ways, the secular demographic can reach the critical mass necessary to show those still in the closet that openness to changing one’s point of view and nuanced belief are good for individuals and for our communities. It is worth it in the long run to accept your inner self and what you believe (or don’t believe). Then we can build communities in spite of our differences of opinion.

Lastly, recognizing and accepting that changing one’s opinions is not only normal, but healthy, reasonable, and I would say even necessary for society and communities to continue to advance. Of course, atheism and more broadly secularism in general, have been growing over the past decade as well, both nationally and globally, so society *is* moving toward this critical mass. Yet even so, atheism and secularism, as they fit within the marketplace of ideas and within themselves right now, will benefit and further normalize as more people who actually fit into these schools of thought open up with their opinions and share their points of view with healthy, constructive criticism and dialectic.

Third Place- Why Atheists Need To Come Out Of The Closet, Sebastian Romero

There are many reasons why Atheists “need to come out of the closet”. In modern times, we have seen the effects of religion in our society. The baffling ignorant use of religion in order to get away with horrible acts in name of a God who may or may not be real. It seems as if human beings don’t learn from our ancestors mistakes. Back in the eleventh century, the Christian church took it upon themselves to reclaim their “holy land” from the Muslims, in doing so they slaughtered and murdered around a million people. Today it’s different, since the churches don’t have power over the states or government, but they are still respected as such. I read an article yesterday, which talked about a pastor who had molested his fourteen year old daughter and had been given a lesser sentence for being a man of God. That man was not the first nor he will be the last, until the law sees that religion is nothing but a belief without proof. Most religions are based on books which have been edited by the church for years, in order to meet their agenda. Most followers of their respective religion don’t even know half the history behind who they worship. They may only know the word of “God”. Today one may ask a Catholic neighbor what they know about past popes and most will just mention the last two. But when you tell them about popes having orgies and molesting nuns centuries ago, they show shock not even knowing their history. So why should Atheists speak up and come out of the closet?. That is very simple, to improve the world. To show people that one doesn’t need spiritual punishment nor reward after death to be good people. That one should accept people with all backgrounds and beliefs, because there is nothing that makes people better than others. I often explain people that are entitled to their religions to be the one, saying that if they had been born at the other side of the world. They would have been part of another religion, because it is just passed down. So why is it worth breaking relationships from Father and son, or Mom and daughter due to religion. The reality of the world is that most “believers” don’t truly believe but practice. If they are put to the test they fail if it becomes too hard. Religion comes with ignorance, because the church acts as a shepherd and the people that follow it are the sheep. A Christians understand this because of the similarity they say about Jesus being the shepherd. Atheists have been give the gift to not be sheep and follow a deity and belief in magic, but belief in facts of what we know. Because of the gift that we have, we have the responsibility to teach others to be better. To not rely on religion to be good or fear punishment at the end of their life. To teach that one should be good because it feels good to help others. To own up to actions, rather than ask a magic friend for forgiveness. Simply put, Atheist need to come out of the close to teach others to live free.