October 13, 2016
Dear Future President,
For centuries, religion played a critical role in politics and economics in Europe. Religious differences resulted in bloody wars, such as the Crusades. In addition, they established a patriarchy and viewed women as little more than tools for extending their bloodline because of their religious beliefs. That sentiment still exists today. As a result of my strict Muslim parents and early indoctrination to Islam, I was trapped in a bubble for a significant portion of my childhood. All I had ever known was Islam, and that was likely all I was ever going to know, had I not moved to California, switching to a public school. I was able to discover the real world, and in doing so, developed the critical thinking skills necessary to challenge the gradual blurring of the line between religion and politics, something history has shown us will result in failure. Our country needs a strong, secular leader to move away from religiously influenced politics and the bigotry and lack of unity it creates.
Not a single atheist has ever served as the president of the United States, and a study by Pew Research Center shows why. The survey found that atheism in a presidential candidate is still a major turnoff for 50% of American adults, who would automatically be less inclined to vote for that person. However, that number has been decreasing, as evident in that both current presidential nominees are not widely viewed as religious. In addition, 47% of Republicans believe Donald Trump, the current Republican presidential nominee, is not very religious, yet fully support him. (pewforum.org 2016) America is making progress, but it still has a ways to go.
The merging of religion and politics is dangerous because of the lack of disputation or critical thinking involved in religion. At an early age, children are taught by their parents that they should not question their religion. However, this lack of questioning results in absolute positions and very little room for debate. That in itself is not a major problem, but when combined with the often violent and discriminatory practices of a certain religion, the results can be catastrophic. For example, Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate and and evangelical Christian, is a strong advocate against gay rights. His reasoning behind it is that it would conflict with religious beliefs, notably his own--Christianity. (indystar.com 2016) As a result of bigoted religious beliefs combined with political power and influence, Americans are losing their rights.
As an American citizen, I am worried about the erosion of secularism in government, but as a high school student, I can't do much. Additionally, I'm atheist, in large part due to my siblings. In middle school, I was exposed to other people who weren’t Muslims, but contrary to what I’d been taught, were fully normal people. My older brother and sister took that skepticism and took it one step further to atheism. I learned about the bigotry and discrimination present in Islam, which is the main reason why I want a secular government. My parents, however, are strict Muslims who would most likely disown me if they ever found out I am an atheist. Being a minor, I need them for financial support and I still want to have a good relationship with my parents, as I still respect them, regardless of their beliefs. But I also don’t want to live a double life forever and lying straight to their faces doesn’t seem like the right thing to do either. As a result, I am going to wait until graduating from college, then come out to them. Hopefully, they can come to terms with my choice, but for the time being, I have no choice but to pretend to be religious.
Mr. or Mrs. President, we live in an era of inequality and division. Religious differences have splintered our government since its inception, and will continue to do so. The only way to unite and solve the world’s true problems without compromising our beliefs is to operate our government secularly. I hope that you will take this initiative and return America to what its founders intended it to be--a secular nation.
San Diego, California