I totally bombed this essay the first time I tried to write it. Completely missed the whole point of the assignment. Just rewrote it, spent a considerable amount of time on it. It's for a 100 level freshman entry course. The assignment is as follows:Identity Essay:
Write about a significant social identity of your own. Write about your early and developing awareness of it and about experiences you have had related to the advantages and disadvantages of this identity in the context of the dominant U.S. culture or any other cultural context in which you have lived. Your essay should fill up one sheet of paper, both sides, double spaced. You may write more if you wish.
I have chosen to write approximately three pages, I feel that it covers my topic and completes the assignment. Without further ado, here goes my essay. I would love constructive criticism as well as editing about mechanical and/or grammatical errors.
My Experiences in Atheism
When I was about 14 years old, I was travelling in Guatemala with a friend and his family. I stumbled upon a magnificent old church in the town of Antigua where we were staying for a few days. I was immediately fascinated with the grand size of the church, its simple façade and antique feel. I slowly walked in to the main room through the front entrance. I began to get very cold and have an incredible feeling of unwelcome-ness wash over my entire body. Within minutes I became so cold I thought I would freeze. I quickly turned around and showed myself out. I did not think of the experience much until recent years when I began to question religion, human origin and an explanation for my surroundings.
Soon after my return from this trip I began a juvenile study of religions and their respective offerings. After much study I had quickly become dissatisfied with the major world religions. For me they seemed to provide nothing more than allegorical tales to be interpreted as a manual for life's day-to-day operations. The explanations of our origins seemed hokey at best to me. I began to speculate on ideas concerning the existence of God, an explanation for where we came from and a great many other topics. I wanted answers for all of these things. Nothing came to satisfy my insatiable hunger for the truth. Without knowing it I had started an incredible journey that would transform the very way that I see the world.
I put these ideas on the shelf for a few years while I continued on with my life. I would have plenty of time to form my own ideas as I grew into an adult. Fast-forward a half-decade to the age of 19. Armed with a library card, clean glasses and a healthy appetite for knowledge, I hit the library. I started checking out books left and right about atheist ideology, philosophy and history. I became more fascinated with the subject than anything I had come across in my whole life. I would study late into the night, reading everything even remotely related to atheist ideas. I was quick to share these ideas with almost anyone I interacted with. It would lead me to debates and sometimes all out arguments about religion and its views.
I can clearly remember engaging in a debate with a man outside of a coffee shop. We began a casual chat after a chess game, when he mentioned something about a church sermon he had attended recently in which his pastor announced that atheists were "poisoning the world" with their beliefs. I asked him how this could be so true. We began to share a debate about religion that would continue on for several hours, eventually ending in a stalemate much like our previous chess game. Questions began to arise in my mind; does the bulk of the western world believe as this man does? Will I really go to Hell if I do not accept Jesus Christ as my lord and savior? I felt so belittled by the end of the conversation. It was after this game and debate that I began to reflect on how this newfound identity as an atheist could affect me in my life.
Realizing that most of the world participates in some form of major religion, I knew that it would be hard to stand as a minority in terms of my religious affiliation. I had never identified as a minority before, due to my status a white male in America. It was something very new for me. This is currently the only social disadvantage I can see as part of my status as an atheist. It is clearly never easy to be a minority in a majority world.
These views have been a bit double-edged sword in terms of advantage and disadvantage. For me the advantages are infinite in possibility. Since adopting these views, I have become very quick to look at things with a very open mind. I am interested in tangible explanations for things, most times scientific explanations for the world and its origins. Perhaps this has robbed me of my imagination. I am still quick to speculate however if the answers provided in science textbooks, peer reviewed articles and graduate lectures are the absolute concrete truth. I am sometimes quickly frustrated with anything religious in nature, it seems to turn the screw that the whole world is right and I must be wrong.
What is to say that these ideas are forever? A person's identity can shape, grow and change throughout their life. As time goes on, I may find myself wandering back into that very same house of God in Central America kneeling down to pray. Most likely I will be nose deep in a Christopher Hitchens book!