“Atheism is more than just the knowledge that gods do not exist, and that religion is either a mistake or a fraud. Atheism is an attitude, a frame of mind that looks at the world objectively, fearlessly, always trying to understand all things as a part of nature.” — Emmett F. Fields
I am not evil. I am not angry. I am not lost, nor am I broken. I just don’t believe in the supernatural – no gods, no goddesses, no leprechauns, and no fairies. I am an atheist.
Like many Americans, I grew up in a Christian household – Seventh-Day Adventist, to be exact. There were things that I hated about church and one was that being a Christian and going to church didn’t seem to make a difference. At all.
One of my earliest memories was me, my sister and my mother (who was talked about mercilessly by the “sweet” Christian folk) going to Mt. Olive SDA Church in Hillsboro, TX. Since we lived in Keene, TX we had to drive 40 minutes to go to church. I didn’t understand why we would do this, when there was a church that was a 10-minute walk from our house.
I asked my mother one day why we did this. “Oh,” she said, “I’m not allowed in that church.”
“They don’t let black people in that church.”
What. The. Fuck?! In 1983, my devout, Christian mother was not allowed to set foot inside of a Christian church. Again, WTF?!
I was confused on why this was just accepted. Where was the outrage? Why was this not a big deal? No one seemed to be too bothered by this, but my mother being a divorced woman was shameful. Really?! Of course, the blame wasn’t with religion but with the people. Still, I could never get comfortable with such nasty, racist beliefs. While racism is not only confined to the church, it just wasn’t convincing being told that “God is love” while also being called “nigger” every other day – by Christians. God loves me, but you don’t? Just because I have brown skin? There was a serious disconnect there. I was 10 years old at this time.
It was also made clear to me that questions were bad. Terrible! While my mother accepted my questions, the church did not. As Seventh-Day Adventists, we believed that the seventh day (Saturday) was made holy and that it should be a day of rest – a belief adopted from Judaism. But why did I have to wake up early, put on a fussy dress, and go to one of the most dull places ever? I found it to be an utter waste of time.
“I thought this was a day of rest?”, I’d argue. I just wanted to sleep in. Why was this frowned upon? “You can’t just sleep the Sabbath away,” Mom said.
Why the hell not? That made absolutely no sense. And to me, church was worse than school. It’s like working on your day off. I was already a Seventh-Day Adventist. I already believed in God. Why on earth do I need to congregate with people older than my mother, who wanted to flap their lips all day about things I didn’t understand? I just wanted to sleep, love God, and draw. At least my schoolmates, who worshiped on Sundays, got to watch TV, play video games, and do whatever they wanted after church. Not us. We couldn’t do anything “secular” from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. I never looked forward to the Sabbath.
Unlike what some people think, I didn’t immediately switch from Christianity to atheism. First, I was a Christian, but didn’t go to church. After all, if God was all knowing, He knew that I loved Him whether or not my butt rested on a church pew. Then, I was spiritual, but not religious. Then, I started to study other religions. I liked a lot of what I had read (particularly Wicca) but these beliefs didn’t make sense to me, either.
Then I questioned why I believed in God. I would talk to him, but he didn’t answer back; I never heard his voice. I never saw him, never saw his face. I realized that I believed in God because that was what I was taught; I believed simply based on hearsay. Once I came to that realization, at the age of 36, I accepted that I was an atheist.
I don’t go around wearing my atheism on my sleeve, but there’s a reason I’m writing this. I’m writing this because there are atheists of color (not just black) that think we are alone. We are not – it just feels that way. And as risky as it can be to come out as an atheist, it’s even worse in communities of color. The Christian religion is entrenched in the black community. Being an open, black atheist is akin to denying your blackness. So, not only am I an amoral scumbag for not believing in a god, but I’m also not proud of being black, which is ridiculous!
So, to my fellow atheists and other freethinkers (especially those of color), you may not feel the need to (or cannot) come out as an atheist. But just know that you are not alone. We’re few in number, but we’re not alone. And just because we’re in the minority, doesn’t make it wrong. There is nothing wrong with being a atheist. I don’t care what anyone tells you – no one is born religious. Religion has to be taught.
Here are a few links to atheism in general and to black atheism in particular. I’ve also included a short YouTube video below.
The Atheist Experience (also on YouTube)
Greta Christina (Freethought Blogs)
Hemant Mehta, The Friendly Atheist (Patheos)
The Root: “Please Stop Assuming All Blacks Are Christian”, by Jenée Desmond-Harris
Black Atheists Of America (Facebook)
The New York Times: “The Unbelievers”, by Emily Brennan
“We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes.” — Gene Roddenberry
Love & Shimmies,