I am a Black woman atheist. I am not on #teamjesus #teamgod or whatever.
Yes we exist! How am I an atheist even though studies say Black women are super religious? Well one day I decided religion for me was bullshit. OK, it was a gradual process. It was sort of like year after year putting pieces of a logical puzzle together and by the age of 30 I had all the pieces. For me, it just made sense that religion just didn’t make sense. Before you go around claiming I hate religion, I don’t. I just don’t believe in it. So how did Euro Jesus (I like to call him euro Jesus because of the pictures on church fans) become my ex lord and savior?
I grew up in a household full of Catholics, Pentecostals and Baptists. They weren’t fundamentalist but it wasn’t as if I had a choice. I was your typical Black child raised in a Christian home. I went to church EVERY WEEK. It was from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. If you are a football fan it was pure torture. This was before the internets were on cell phones. Heck, it was before regular folks could use the internet. I was forced into the choir (I eventually liked it because I love to sing). I did the church plays, went on trips, church fashion shows, etc. My earliest memory of speaking in front of my church was when I recited the shortest bible verse there is, “Jesus wept.” AW right! At six I didn’t know what any of it meant. I just remember the mother of the church and my Nana smiling at me and radiating with approval and pride as I stood in front of Emmanuel Baptist Church. Of course with my over-sized fancy red and gold choir robe on.
As I said before giving up religion was a gradual process. As a kid I saw how the women ran the church but somehow the males were given all the credit and respect. The male word was literally church law because the bible said so. And even though pastor got busted for cheating on his wife he was darn near worshiped by everybody. That bothered me. The cheating part and who he did it (half of the damn church pews) is another story.
When I was thirteen I remember when my Nana was dying in the hospital after falling into a diabetic coma. We knew her time was ending and asked for her preacher to come to pray for her as she transitioned. Well after giving thousands of dollars of her retirement money to the church the pastor asked my mother for more money just to visit her. I was shocked but not surprised.
I remember learning about Black American history and realizing that Christianity was the religion of my ancestors enslavers. It was not my ancestor’s religion. The enslavers would quote bible verses to maintain White supremacy, justify slavery, colonization and keep my Black ancestors from fighting for their freedom with promises of riches in heaven. Sadly, I see the great-great grandchildren of slaves accept the same slave mentality of despair on earth so they can be rewarded with streets of gold in heaven today. I see how these same people would rather worship the god of the enslavers and hate and reject the religion of their own flesh and blood. That bothered me.
My next realization came when was I was about 18. I was heavy into politics and saw that religion was being used to limit the reproductive choices of women and the rights of our LGBTQ family members by our government. Even though I was still person of faith, I knew my religion should not impose on the lives of others. The constitution, as I understood it, encourages the free exercise or lack thereof of religion but prevents the establishment of religion by government. Why were religious people trying to impose 2,000 year old religious laws on others? Hmm? Don’t we believe in limited government? After leaving the service I started advocating against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. A majority of those for DADT never served in the military let alone a sandwich. As a service member, quite honestly we didn’t care who was gay or straight just as long as you had my back.
And then college came! In my religious class (I went to a Jesuit college) we discussed these same topics and how the bible saw them. I realized then that I could not be on the side of a document that claimed mental illness was a sign of the devil. I could not be a part of a religion that claimed I was meant to be enslaved or punished because of some story that happened thousands of years ago. I could not be a part of a religion that justified bigotry, sexism, slavery, murder, violence and genocide in the name of a God I couldn’t even prove that was real. I could not betray my ancestors and worship the god of the enslaver. Talking snakes, women made from ribs, marrying your rapist, worldwide floods, burning bushes, sacrificing and hell? None of it benefits me and just didn’t make sense. Scientifically it has never made sense and it never will. So I said enough and left it all behind.
I have been without a faith for a while and I do not regret it AT ALL. In fact, I feel free. I am free to believe what I like. I am not tethered to patriarchal bigoted doctrine that goes against my political, emotional or financial interests. In case you are wondering what do I believe in. I believe in the greatness of humanity. I see the cars that we drive, the clothes we wear and even this computer I type on and it’s awesome. Most importantly, I see every single day as a true blessing because it just may be my last. I never ever forget to tell my family and friends I love them. I am trying to leave my impact on this floating rock we call earth and I do not take my life or time for granted. Well this is my story. I hope you come into your journey whether you have a faith or are like me, a faithless heathen! If you ain’t sinning you ain’t living baby. Just kidding.
Remember the only limit is the one you place on yourself. Think and be limitless.
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