sent in by Charmika Stewart
Because I am a black American, I was born into a Christian family. I would be hardpressed to name just two other non-famous black atheists, and even the one I know is most definitely in the closet. For to be black is to be Christian in America. It's a cultural thing, I suppose, dating back to slavery. The church is a strong institution in the culture, where blacks get together and discuss life and bond, and for the longest time it was the only place that this was possible.
My parents were not very religious when I was a child, attending church only about twice a month and never really mentioning God to me terribly much except when they told me it was necessary to pray. My half-sisters, however, all belonged to horrendous Christian cults that have since been disbanded. My oldest sister took me with her to church when I was fairly young, and I became a Pentacostal. My mother, rather disenchanted with the Pentacostal faith, quickly snatched me from its clutches after a few short years and rejoined the church of her youth, bringing me and my two young brothers with me.
We lived in semi-poverty during this years, and attended a church of people in essentially the same social bracket. Due to the squalor, there were exceedingly few persons to be found (in a church of over 1000) who had any form of intelligence. I was the only young person there with a modest intellect, and because of this I became a local celebrity. I wrote plays and poems, tutored, gave speeches, and was elevated beyond my peers. The more I learned, the more I incorporated into my studies, but much to their dismay, I was never too interested in furthering my Christian study. Nevertheless, like my mother, I was deeply religious and rejected all things secular. Indeed, secular was the worst possible thing any one notion could be, and so I rejected everything, even secular music.
During my later puberty years, around 14 or 15, I was very torn, for my longing for men (and occasionally women) conflicted with my religious conviction. Masturbation was wrong, and thus I could never do it. Seminars on "sexual counterfeits" filled me with insurmountabl guilt. (To this day, the guilt that I suffered as a child from sexual fantasy, masturbation, etc, remains something impossible to overcome.) I, nonetheless, remained steadfast in my faith until around my senior year of high school.
It was around this time that my heavily religious mother stopped taking us to chuch 4+ times per week, and I had more time to focus on school. The more I learned, the more I realized that nothing that was being said in church made sense. I began studying the bible on my own and found that it had so many contradictions, so much hypocrisy, and exceedingly little moral value to it. What got to me the most, however, was how God kept "making promises" to my church and breaking them. I couldn't see how these people could reconcile all these obviously wrong things about their faith. On day the pastor was giving a sermon and the thought "God doesn't exist" came through my mind. I was instantly dismayed, and thought for certain that I was going to Hell. I tried to renew my faith, and told myself that I would never become an atheist. My family was too religious, and we heard very often of how the world was going to end fairly soon. I also couldn't offer any explanation of where the world came from if not God, so I didn't see a reason to reject him. Just because I didn't like some things and others didn't make sense, I didn't see it as a reason to immediately reject him. After all, so many people are Christian, they couldn't all be wrong... could they?
One day, my church did something that troubled me greatly. They started attacking evolution and homosexuals. Despite my fervent religion, I never thought the earth was created in just six days and that mountains of scientific evidence for an old earth was at all accurate. I could also not believe that something as inherent as homosexuality could really be condemnable. Although it was always a background issue, I never thought the church's stance on these things was really as fire and brimstone as it seemed. This turned me off to that particular branch of Christianity, and when I entered college, things made another unsuspected turn.
I joined the Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship because I figured "white Christianity" had to be less extreme than "black Christianity." I was pleasantly surprised by the music, the acknowledgment of real life and the similarity in culture of the members. I had alway identified more with what people deem "the white culture" anyway, given that most of my friends and all of my boyfriends had been white. However, it was during this time that most of my Christian friends were losing their faith and I was alone in my resolution to be a Christian to the day I died. I was left with these very shallow people with this branch of Christianity that was becoming more and more evangelical, something I could not accept. Looking back on things, perhaps had I become associated with the Methodist church, I wouldn't have been so turned off, nor would my friends be so interested in trying to "rescue me" from the crazy cult I had joined.
During the next few months I immersed myself in the study of philosophy and physics, and both of which were subtly hinting to me that my faith was nothing but a mound of contradictions and was not to be trusted. It was, however, it was my own family's fervent religion that finally sent me on a quest for God. I had just entered a relationship with a boy who was questioning his faith as well, and when he finally accepted that God was just a figment of our imagination, I decided that I really had to find God. After several weeks of intense study, I realized that there were only two possibilities: Either there was no God, or there was and He/She/It made it look like there wasn't one. The amazing irony was that I was a Christian who moved to a very Christian city (indeed, I doubt a more Chrisitian city of this sizeable population exists in this country) and lost my faith. I'm now a very proud agnostic atheist, agnostic because I don't know if a God exists, atheist, because I don't believe one does. I still can't tell my family, because they would disown me, but I look forward to the day that it'll be possible.
Joined at Birth
Left at 18ish
Was: Baptist, Pentacostal
Now: Agnostic Atheist
Converted because of Family
De-converted because: Reason
email: for DOT misc DOT reasons AT gmail DOT com
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)