I am from a little city in the heart of Louisiana that is dominated by Baptists and Pentecostals. I was baptized Episcopal and attended church for years.
I decided to leave the church when I was 12.
I have never gone back.
When people ask me about my religious affiliation, I say I am nonreligious. I despise the word “atheist”, but that is a personal preference.
My peers used the word against me, making those few years a nightmare. I was bullied unrelentingly all of middle school and most of high school because of my views. I hold no spite towards them, however, we were on a journey together. My path was just different. Everyone was trying to sort out for themselves what they believe and establish their identities separate from those of their parents.
However, since being at Baylor, I have questioned my beliefs, even though I was fairly confident that I would not.
Being in a place that is so incredibly proud of its Baptist heritage, it is hard not to take a second glance at what it really is. So, I decided to read back into Christianity, hoping that I had “matured” enough to truly understand and maybe even rejoin the faith. To be completely honest, it would have been only to make my time here at Baylor easier.
But in my pursuits, I stopped and I took a step back. I asked myself “What am I looking to become?”
I realized that I wanted to be just me. Just Eileen.
I don’t want a label attached to my name just because I go to a certain place to worship, recognize a different prophet or neither. Not everything needs to be categorized or sorted, especially something as intensely personal as religion.
I know that my worth as a person or the value of my thoughts comes, not from the classification of a particular form of piety, but who I am as an individual. With this, I have found a peace I have never felt before.
I walk around campus with an awe I never thought would surface, and I am overcome by the feeling of acceptance so many have graciously offered – even if I don’t fit the criteria of the “ideal” Baylor student. My convictions have never been stronger since I have stepped foot on this beautiful campus. I can thank Baylor for that.
Reaffirming a nonreligious student’s lack of beliefs may not be the intention of the university, but I am so grateful to be here.
– Eileen Eichenauer
Pineville, La., freshman
International Studies major