My earliest memories of church and religion are based in fear. I remember being a little kid being afraid of the hooting and hollering. I remember seeing someone get the “holy ghost” and being afraid that it was going to happen to me. I also remember questioning the validity of some of the bible stories that are told to kids. I questioned how did Noah get two of every animals in one boat and keep them all alive for forty days and nights. How did Jonah survive the Whale? Wouldn’t Adam and Eve’s children have to commit incest in order to populate the earth? I was told that these stories were like fables, not real but meant to illustrate a moral point. So from that point the seed was planted. I always had a nagging feeling that it was bullshit.
When I was older, teen years or so, whenever I questioned I was instructed to just believe, that it was wrong to question God. Questioning God was showing lack of faith. Just believe, just believe, just believe.
In my twenties, like any other person, I experienced things that made me turn to faith for help, guidance, comfort, answers, etc. Sometimes I’d feel better after some serious prayer, which I now realize was just me really concentrating on my issue until I reach a conclusion or had solved the issue. But mostly I felt like I was just going through the motions of what was expected of me. In my late twenties, I began to feel unfulfilled by christianity. Initially, I believed I just needed a new church home. Then I thought I needed a new denomination or non denominational. Then began my study of other religions because while I enjoyed church service when I attended (it’s very entertaining with the music and dramatics) and often left feeling good ( like how you feel after watching a great movie) the feeling was fleeting and I often wondered why I wasn’t catching that all elusive Holy Ghost. I wanted to “FEEL” something that I could truly recognize and call “SPIRIT. I initially considered Islam. ( Specifically, NOI as I was simultaneously going through my Black Power Awakening) but after really delving into my research I was left feeling like NOI was a cult on that Bullshit and that Islam as a whole wasn’t for me because 5 am bacon free pre breakfast prayers were not for me. Shallow? Maybe. But bacon free and praying five time a day? Definitely not for me. Plus being covered in Georgia was not going to happen. I learned about Judaism. The jews aren’t really checking for non jews and black people like that so I looked into the Black Israelites and they just screamed CULT CULT CULT. So yeah, no that wasn’t going to be a good fit. So being the proud all-knowing black African descendant that I am, I figured well let’s look at some African religions, maybe my ancestors will speak to me. Hotep, voodoo, all of the earthy wiccan paganism, nope, to lazy to learn all of that. So I went east and far east. Meditate, strike a gong, chant, all seemed like self-hypnosis. I don’t have the patience to search for enlightenment. After this little spiritual trip around the world, I decided that ok, I was born and raised Baptist, so that’s clearly what God intended for me. So in my early 30’s it was all about running head first at top speed back into church. Except, I could barely keep a straight face and keep from laughing and the bullshit and contradiction. The hypocrisy. So I just stopped going, figuring I could just take my salvation into my own hands. I can talk to God anywhere. I had several of my own bibles, so what could church tell me that I couldn’t learn on my own for myself?
It was in this self guided quest for knowledge that I found my first YouTube video that compared the story of christ to like five earlier versions of religions. It was like the first hit with a sledgehammer on a wall that was coming down whether I wanted to it to or not. It was the beginning of that Zeitgeist film. I literally had to pause the film, think about it, let it sink in and then come back to watch the rest. It really struck a chord with me that religion was basically plagiarized and then twisted and molded to fit any situation in which masses of people were to be under strict control.
Then I stumbled upon Jeremiah Camara’s Slave Sermons series on his youtube channel and that was the beginning of the end for me.
Then different things became apparent to me….either just from my eyes becoming more opened or following research and reviewing history as I had learned in school through educated adult eyes. The transatlantic slave trade, the crusades, all of that messy stuff that was done under the guise of religion. Now I could go on and on about all of that but that’s not the point of this post. After years of constantly seeing examples of why religion is bullshit, I took me a full year to admit to myself in my head that I am an atheist.
That fear that is in my earliest memories, it was on going and the under current of the reason why I searched so desperately for something to believe in. All along I should have just been believing in myself. I wasn’t really afraid of hell, I don’t really believe I ever truly believed such a place existed. I didn’t really fear that God was going to personally show me his wrath….I hadn’t been important enough to “Blessed and highly favored” so I doubted that he was going to punish me for blasphemy and non belief. My real fear was that I wouldn’t have anything to hold onto in hard times or to thank when I was feeling grateful. Now I realize that family, friends and myself are who I hold on to when I need to be held and to say thank you to the person when I benefit from their kindness.
Now that I am declaring that I am atheist, my new fear is loss of friends and family. They don’t know what to do with that. They’ll be afraid for me and my damned soul. I’ll simply tell them that according to their religion, that they can just pray for me and everything will be alright. Right?