Recently I wrote a post about my religious journey and acknowledging the pain of the doctrine fed to me has caused. I revealed to close friends about my exit from Christianity and I have had reactions to this news I wasn’t quite prepared for.
There were several assumptions about why I decided not to call myself a Christian anymore. People have said things like:
“You think you know more than God?”
My answer is simply no. Because how can you ask me how do I know more than a deity I no longer believe in? Do I think that humanity happened by chance? No. Do I think I have all the answers? No. I’m still growing and learning. The underlying question to this sentiment though is “So you think you’re better than me and my beliefs?” Simply put no, but the more complex answer is I think Christian beliefs have a purposeful socially degrading structure, that as a whole, hurt people. Do I think I’m on a moral high ground because of this conclusion? No. But I do feel like I have a lot more freedom to critically think without thinking a higher power will damn me for it.
Others have simply dismissed my choice as “a sign of the end times”.
Of course I’m used to “divine” deflection by my own community.
The scripture from Matthew 24:12 was invoked on me:
“Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.” – New Living Translation.
Many have interpreted this scripture to mean that people who “used to love god” will now turn away from him; and turning away means turning to evil in this context. I however think that the injustices of the world is what makes hearts go cold. The greed of a few and the lack of empathy we have for each other plagues our society. In my honest opinion, the church has had a hand in this thinking.
Yet my disbelief hasn’t made me cold, if anything it has made me hyper aware of how I can affect people. How in the past my rejection of people in the LGBTQI community has probably made someone feel even more isolated. Or how I didn’t take precautions for my sexual health because I had engrained in me that “I need to save myself for marriage”. While ignoring how that was really only emphasized for women and that this message conveyed that “you have to get married one day and it has to be a man” in order to have “divinely ordained” sexual experiences.
Some people have been very accepting and has helped me through this new stage in my life. I highly appreciate the love and the kindness. There are even friends who I know who are worried about my soul, and I just encourage you to know I am happier.
I had to confront the thoughts that were always there that I had called “the devil”.
- Like how god in the bible sounded like an abusive husband. The jealousy and the wrath of the Christian god is mentioned over a hundred times but the love of god is only mentioned a handful of times. Then I connected that with the women I seen in church who had no good husbands and how they were told to “keep praying” and stay with these men. Endangering their lives.
- How I am supposed to forgive anyone and everyone that hurts me but god can send us to eternal damnation? Then I link this to how our society treats prisoners. Our country is around 78.4% Christian (as of 2007) and we have the highest incarcerated population. We are the most unforgiving society and it preys on the poor & black.
- Black women are the most religious demographic in the U.S. but we are the most depressed.
- How churches can talk about abortion and homosexuality all day long but can’t seem to gather rhetoric (as a whole) on the school-to-prison pipeline, or domestic abuse, or labor rights. Where is the morality? Where is the conviction? Oh wait “it’s the devil” and “of the world”.
- Being told I’m not worthy of god’s love constantly and how my faith is “a filthy rag” as a young teen with self esteem issues didn’t really feel like the best boost. One moment I’m fearfully and wonderfully made, and the next my efforts are never enough. That we must constantly repent because of how dirty with sin we are. How we are “born into sin”. I just can’t see how that builds anyone.
These “devilish” thoughts were just questions of critical thinking. Yet the church taught me that these thoughts weren’t “holy”. That these thoughts were sinful. That they wreaked with “the spirit of rebellion”. That was another popular sentiment in the black church: everything they didn’t like was a “spirit of ____”. That way I can be dismissed as letting the devil use me. I can be apart of the many who are “persecuting Christians”.
Then on top of that if I correct a Christian spewing historically inaccurate info (usually around racism) then apparently I’m wrong because I “believe man” and not god. As if the bible is the only reference point for all of history. Or when I talk about gender relations I get the whole “man is the head” rant. That is scary.
I know there are churches and church goers who fight for social justice and are actual assets in their communities. Individual Christians themselves can be radical, progressive, conservative, moderate, etc. As a whole, however, it reinforces the structural ills we have in the U.S. Not many like to take it there but how come the counterpoints to my arguments of feminism, queer theory, white supremacy, etc. is typically from a Christian standpoint? Or how can Republicans completely hijack the religion without compliance from the community? I can no longer stand by this structure just because I personally feel like it makes me feel better about life. I want life to be better for my own future kids, so I can’t take up for this structure anymore. I can’t keep defending it.
In the process I had to create several pillows for “my fall”. Christianity was all I had to build myself for years but now I found other ways to make a real support system for myself.
- I saw who else has went through this. I read and discovered James Baldwin, Frederick Dougless, Langston Hughes, Alice Walker, Harry Belafonte, and W.E.B. Dubois all were questioning religion and criticized the black church. People I truly look up to had this journey and Mr. Belafonte himself had words of wisdom to give me. My soul has been touched by all of these great freedom fighters.
- I read “Ebony Exodus Project”. A book of black women’s testimonies about their exit from Christianity.
- I took comfort that I no longer have to wonder why “bad things happen” and wonder if it’s because I sinned or some grand lesson was being taught to me in a cruel way. I can just see life for what it is now. A journey of good & bad & gray area. That we affect those around us and you have the decision to either add to life in a positive way, or be a negative influence. Either way consequences happen. But if something bad does happen, I can die knowing I tried to be a positive force for my fellow man. That gives me hope and joy that maybe someone has been touched to continue to do the same, regardless of how life may toss them.
- I gathered a circle of supporters and like minded people who are also powerful people. They have helped in ways where I feel energized. Especially the sister circles I am involved in. They give me a feeling of fellowship and renewal that church has never really given me.
- I recognized I am still growing, but breaking past the mental stronghold this religion had on me has given me a great peace. I feel freedom to really explore and ask myself “What do you stand for?”
This quote below sums up my feelings on God:
“If the concept of God has any use, it is to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God can’t do that, it’s time we got rid of him.”-James Baldwin