Should I talk about my atheism on a college application?

theotherguy
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Should I talk about my atheism on a college application?

I'm applying for the Turing School of Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin, and one of the essay questions is "Explain a belief you accepted at some point in your life but have rejected on the basis of a rational process. Perhaps the change was initiated by something you heard or some experience you have had; but for this essay you must go beyond reporting what you heard or describing what happened to you. You must display the process of reasoning that carried you to your new belief. In your essay, be careful to explain the belief itself, reasons you had for holding it, and, most important, the rational process that led you to reject it."

 

This topic has of course given me great excitement, because it practically begs for an atheist response. But, I'm a bit afraid because admissions counselors have told me to never talk about politics or religion in an application, and I'm afraid that I will get a negative response from graders, especially since the school is in Texas.

 

What are your thoughts? Should I take the plunge and write about my atheism, or play it safe and write about something less controversial?


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It is a gamble no matter

It is a gamble no matter where you are.  However, since you are talking about Austin...well Austin is radically liberal compared to the rest of Texas.

Most people in other areas of Texas tell hippys/homosexuals/atheists that they should move to Austin to be with their own kind.

American Atheists headquarters started in Austin I think.  I know it was there or at least one of their headquarters was there at one time.

"I am an atheist, thank God." -Oriana Fallaci


shelley
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In my opinion, hell no. 

In my opinion, hell no.  I'm very open to my college administrators about my atheism but I'm already "in".

Your a rational person so I'm sure you can think of 100 other examples.   One, I doubt you could address the broad topic of rejecting religion in the length of a college essay and two, sadly we live in a society where you only have to have one theist on the admissions committee for this to screw you.   So unless you're applying to a few colleges and don't really need this acceptance, I wouldn't do it.

If you really want to, you could however talk about a religious yet not religion directly topic - such as creation, homeopathy, the easter bunny, etc...


theotherguy
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well, I'm already garunteed

well, I'm already garunteed admission into UT, and I'm practically garunteed admission into the Turing honors college.

 I see the potential for this to hurt me, but the essay topic is so perfect! If I wrote about anything else it would end up sounding weak.


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theotherguy wrote: well,

theotherguy wrote:

well, I'm already garunteed admission into UT, and I'm practically garunteed admission into the Turing honors college.

I see the potential for this to hurt me, but the essay topic is so perfect! If I wrote about anything else it would end up sounding weak.

Well I'll admit the question is begging for an atheist response.  You should post your essay on here.  I'd love to read it.

Maybe you'll de-convert an admissions officer?! 


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I think you should write

I think you should write about your atheism.  They really just want you to display your writing skills while simultaneously learning a little more about you; they don't have to agree with your opinions!  I'm sure they'll be professional enough to not judge you for your beliefs.  Just argue really well, and don't make it seem like you're bashing anyone's religion too much.  I think, if it's a good essay, it'll be completely fine.  To quote Nick Naylor, "That's the beauty of argument, because if you argue correctly, you're never wrong."


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Play it safe.  I'm an

Play it safe.  I'm an academic who went to school in Texas, and I can say from my experience it only takes one narrow-minded jerk to screw up the rest of your life.

Write about when you were a kid how you found out Santa Claus wasn't real.  Or some other innocent, non-religious thing (the more humorous the better) that you believed as a kid and then discovered rationally was wrong. It does the job, can include your viewpoints on rationality, and it's cute and appealing without taking a chance of pushing anybody's buttons.

Then, after you're in, write an open letter to the Daily Texan about how you felt forced to hide your atheism in your application letter.  That'll show em.

"After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." -Stephen Colbert


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Except there don't seem to

Except there don't seem to be any conditions at the outset, at least based on what he's said so far, that are leading him to believe that he'll be discriminated against.

Theotherguy - writers will always tell you that you can write best about what you know. If I were in your position, I'd write about your atheism. It fits the question perfectly, and you're passionate enough about it that you'll no doubt nail the essay.

You can't be discriminated against on the basis of religious belief, whatever that belief is. Nero would be the best person to chime in on this from a legal perspective, but it seems to me that if you were denied admission, you'd have decent legal grounds for a suit that the ACLU would be happy to take on.

Do you know who is going to be reading your application? I mean, does it go to a committee in the computer science department, or does it go through a generic admissions office?

Nobody I know was brainwashed into being an atheist.

Why Believe?


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I would give equal time to

I would give equal time to your atheism and a story about a closely relatedfamily member about whom you masturbated as a middle school student.  Both topics will leave a real impression on the reader.

"Tis better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven." -Lucifer


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Of course, but can he sue if

Of course, but can he sue if he doesn't get in?


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geirj wrote: Of course, but

geirj wrote:
Of course, but can he sue if he doesn't get in?

The bigger question is how can he prove he didn't get accepted for the atheism? 


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I'll bet Nero will tell us

I'll bet Nero will tell us once he's done masturbating to thoughts of a close relative.


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This isn't the great

This isn't the great American novel or a personal manifesto.  It's a pro forma college application essay.  Nobody is going to remember it anyway--least of all the author.  There's no need to take a moral stand on something so insignificant.

"After Jesus was born, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." -Stephen Colbert


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A similar experience, and my opinion.

I had a similar experience--not in the actual application process, however. After my first two years of college, I transferred to a senior college, which due to the "high level of acheivement" among its applicants felt a need to test every new student's writing skills. It was a two hour essay, and one of the questions was similar to the one you are faced with. I wrote for two hours about nothing but atheism, the stupidity of religious belief, etc.--and passed the test with no problems.

My ex-wife, who at this point I was not even dating, wrote a blistering diatribe (as she described it) against affirmative action. She was in all ways a better writer than I, in spelling, grammar, vocabulary, every aspect of language. She failed the test, and was forced to report for remedial tutoring in writing. In her Junior year of college. After skipping her senior year of HS to start college early. After carrying a near-4.0 GPA. She must have offended someone, no?

The lesson? Your topic matters. If you are assured acceptance, that would decide it for me. Your life is still ahead of you--you may wish to take the safe course (I believe there is a famous quote about that). Those parts of my life are behind me, and I'll be damned if I'd ever compromise my convictions to please some admissions officer, an employer, or anyone else at this point. If you fold on this issue, what other issues will you capitulate on? Can you live a life where you are slave to the whims of those who may not agree with you?


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It's very difficult to fit

It's very difficult to fit all of this into five hundred words, and I'm a bit paranoid about posting college apps on the internet, but I have basically written my essay. If it doesn't make any sense it's because it was edited down from about 1,500 words (it was a lovely essay at 1500 words, but now it feels bastardized).

 

I remember when I decided that God probably did not exist. I was thirteen years old, and I had just met a Jewish girl. Having grown up in a fundamentalist Christian family and having been socialized into protestant religion my entire life through religious summer camps, Sunday school and youth groups, I had never actually met anyone of another religion before. I suppose I had just assumed up to that point that all people believed in the divinity of Jesus, the reality of the Gospels and all of the stories in the Testaments… but this Jewish girl did not. To her, Jesus was just a cunning charlatan, no more divine than a snake oil salesman, no more worth believing in than Santa Claus. When I asked her why she thought that, she replied, “Well, why do you believe in Jesus?”

The question disturbed me. I began to think about my reasons for believing in Christianity. The belief of having an all-powerful watchdog in the sky to make sure I was safe and that there was justice in the world reassured me, but that alone was an argument from consequence and did not guarantee his existence or the divinity of his supposed son. In search of more concrete answers, I researched theology, philosophy, and religion. I talked to my pastors, my peers, and my parents, but nothing would satisfy me. It appeared to me that Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, Allah, Zeus, Thor, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster all had the same amount of proof. All had equally compelling holy books, equally enthusiastic followers, and exactly the same amount of physical and scientific evidence: none. I asked my pastor about this, to which he replied, “that is why religion is based on faith, son. We believe these things even without proof because that is what God wants from us.”

I began to comprehend that all of these people, all of these Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus all believed in their supernatural deities for no reason at all. They accepted religion on nothing but that blind, brainless conjecture known as faith. I realized that if no religion had evidence and all were based on blind acceptance, then there was no reason in believing in any of them. After all, I already had no belief in any of the other religions, so it seemed natural and logical to abandon my own when it had just as little evidence to back it up as all the others.

In spite of cultural pressures and parental indoctrination, I abandoned my belief in God and became an atheist. It was easier than I imagined, and afterwards I felt a great sense of freedom and excitement. I had no need for anxiety over divine matters, no angst over the gross injustices of the world, only a reasonable, scientific understanding of the world unclouded by presupposition and superstition. I have broken free of the cruel cycle of superstition, and I proudly hope the same for my own children.

 


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This was an interesting read

This was an interesting read and I hope everything works out well for you with the Honors Program and what not.  However, I do agree that this topic is a little too intense to be covered in 500 words.  I must really be getting old because when I applied to college the essays were around 3 pages.


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I like the essay.  It would

I like the essay.  It would seem hypocritical of a computer science department named for one of the most famously persecuted atheists (actually Alan Turing was more persecuted for his homosexuality) to hold your religious beliefs against you.

Responsibility: A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one's neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star. ~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary, 1911


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I would take the word

I would take the word "probably" out of the first sentence of the first paragraph, and get rid of the last sentence of the last paragraph. Both are pointless.

A very well-written piece!

Nobody I know was brainwashed into being an atheist.

Why Believe?


Nero
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geirj wrote: I'll bet Nero

geirj wrote:
I'll bet Nero will tell us once he's done masturbating to thoughts of a close relative.

LOL!!!!   Sorry.  I forgot about this thread.  That, or I am really, really into thinking about one of my cousins.  You pick.

As for the lawsuit, victory is unlikely.  This is particularly true as he is in TEXAS!  Universities use lots and lots of factors when determining whether someone is admitted.  They look to exam scores, grades, letters or recommendation, introductory letters, essays, race of the applicant, socio-economic situation, and a cadre of others. 

So, to be able to prove that is was the atheism that kept a person out would be difficult.  When the Supreme Court has looked at cases of descrimination in the past, it has examined race and religion issues.  The rules of the university made these an issue though, not the applicant.  So, if the Turing School said, "We only allow theists," then a case would succeed.  I doubt they have such a statement though.

Therefore, if you want to get into the school, I would choose a different path.  If you want to make a stink and then end up working at BK, write the essay as an atheist.  While you are at the mercy of theists, it is wise to play the game.  Then, when you have some control, bring the atheism to the fore.  You'd be surprised how many atheists I've hired, for instance.

"Tis better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven." -Lucifer


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I just sent in my

I just sent in my application to the honors college today. I also just got my acceptance letter from UT.

 So I know I've made it into the school. If I don't make it into the honors college I can always apply again at semester.


Nero
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Congrats. Did you mention

Congrats. Did you mention atheism?


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Hey, can your essay be

Hey, can your essay be included among sample college application essays?Eye-wink


jesseM (not verified)
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Hey, can your essay be

Hey, can your essay be included among sample college application essays?Eye-wink


jesseM
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Cool essay

Cool essaySmiling


mrjonno
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Just a couple of points1)

Just a couple of points

1) You have to write an essay to get into university?, wow thats harsh, in the UK they often just look at your predicted grades give you an offer based on those and if you match them you get in often without even meeting anyone there.

2) I thought even in America that theists in sciences were almost unheard of so who would you upset?

 

 


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mrjonno wrote:I thought even

mrjonno wrote:

I thought even in America that theists in sciences were almost unheard of so who would you upset?

What on earth made you think that? The National Academy of Scientists is composed mostly of atheists, but that group is not a representative sampling of scientists. I know many Christian and Muslim engineers and scientists at my university, but to my knowledge I am the only atheist. I know that there must be some other atheists in the sciences, but I just have yet to identify any.

"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."
British General Charles Napier while in India


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If a school is what it says

If a school is what it says it is (a place to learn to think for yourself and feel respected while doing so), it would be their loss to use that against you. I say go for it! As long as it's not full of jabs and snarky comments, but intelligently written you should be fine Smiling

*Our world is far more complex than the rigid structure we want to assign to it, and we will probably never fully understand it.*

"Those believers who are sophisticated enough to understand the paradox have found exciting ways to bend logic into pretzel shapes in order to defend the indefensible." - Hamby


theotherguy
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seeing as this was bumped

seeing as this was bumped for some reason; I should give an update.

 

That was almost a year ago when I sent that application. I was rejected. I don't know if it had anything to do with my essay; but it was a stupid decision to write something controversial.

 

I am at a much better school now anyway.


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theotherguy wrote:I'm

theotherguy wrote:

I'm applying for the Turing School of Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin...

You're gonna fuckin' love Texas! Esp. the current fucking governor.

No. I think it could be more impressive to Texans if you were to talk about your all-time ejaculation distance record.