This is a first attempt to blog, and I just want to say who I am. I am a father, a human, a black American from New York, living in South Jersey and I have recently embraced agnostic atheism. For the Christians who may read this, no, I am not angry at god, I did not have a bad experience in church, I have come to this conclusion after reading the bible, having questions, and not getting any answers.
I was baptized Roman Catholic as a baby, took my first holy communion at 10, and was confirmed at 13. All this while I never read the bible. I had no need it was all done for me by the priest. He would stand at the altar and tell me all I needed to know about the bible. Every Sunday, without fail. I would sit, wishing I could leave and go back home and watch Wonderama, but I had to endure this hour. Catholicism was not so bad as boring. The rituals and processions and solemnities where just not a tune I could feel. Then we met some Seventh Day Adventist.
The Seventh Day Adventist is a Christian sect that adheres closely to Orthodox Jewish traditions especially in keeping of a Seventh day (or Saturday) Sabbath. When we were introduced, I felt this churches “vibe”. Lively hymns, lots of amens and hallelujahs from the congregation as well as a preacher that shouted out to you and inspired you to believe with his passion!
My mother was convinced and we were made to get up every Saturday, take the train to Harlem to go to Zion Temple Church on 116th street. I didn’t mind going to church here, lots of kids my age and color, not like the Catholic church. And after service we ran around and played not, like the oh so pious and quiet Catholics.
My mother was baptized first. As I watched her walk up the aisle as the preacher asked ”Will you accept Jesus? Will you be saved by his grace?” Her along with a few others made their way up to the altar and asserted they would be baptized in the “blood of Christ” as a symbol of redemption and rebirth into a New Christian, washing away your sins. I watched as she was held by her arms and submerged backwards into the water. For a few seconds I did not think they would bring her back up but they did and the whole congregation erupted into a frenzy as if Jesus himself walked in and had a seat!
Seeing My mother take this leap of “faith”, I myself declared my love of Jesus and my need to be saved as well. And was baptized for the second time in my life as a Born again Christian! Hallelujah! but as the water rolled down my body and I shivered, I did not feel different, no spirit entered me, I still had my thoughts that I had. I still went home that night and touched myself in my shower. Nothing changed. I began to take bible study and for the first time in my life was encouraged to read the bible. They gave verse and chapter and we talked and discussed its merits and how it showed god’s divine mercy love and compassion for humans, and that he had great expectations as well as mansions and streets paved with gold waiting for us should we remain “faithful” and worship his eternal glory and divine wisdom. This is when I found out the dictionary meaning of faith.
Let me back up a little bit. I need you to understand that as a young man I was pretty smart. I walked into kindergarten at 5 years old knowing how to read, write and spell fluently thanks to my mother. And in 1967 that was pretty impressive. I was always told by my mother, “When you see or hear a word you do not understand, look it up in the dictionary.” And if for nothing else I thank my mother for that amazing bit of information.
Now, back to faith. I did not understand the word prior to church. I had heard it but it was now a requirement as an Adventist. So much more so than a Catholic because we were actually following God’s word to the “T”! So this word rolling in my head became a headache so I looked it up. Faith – Complete trust in a person or thing. Believing something without proof. This shook me. I had gone through two religions and I had faith, but in What? I never heard god talk to me. I never saw him in any actionable activity I performed, and His presence did not comfort me near as much as hugs form my nana! But I toiled on. Praying everyday, not for things but thanking him for his wonderful gifts of sustenance and compassion for not letting us die in our sleep. Our prayers to stay on the righteous path to him rather than the slippery slope that leads to worldly behavior, wickedness and eternal damnation.
During this time I had sex in the church with more than a few of the “church sisters” smoked cigarettes and did “ungodly” acts. I always prayed and asked forgiveness because that is how it worked, as long as I asked, Jesus would forgive! What a remarkable system! I found I could do almost anything I wanted and Jesus would give me a nod and a “Saved again pass”.
I was 16 at this time and the questions started to creep in. I had against my pastor’s warning, started to read the bible all by myself. What I came across was astounding! Not only was Gods eternal Love, glory and wisdom laced with some of the most horrific, twisted murderous and incestuous acts I had ever heard of, but I found contradiction after contradiction in “The Word of God”. I could not contain my self and asked my mother, she said she did not know what to make of it, as she only read what she was told to read. I asked my friends, they just didn’t read at all. And so I went to our pastor. He smiled, gave me a gentle touch on the shoulder and answered my question with a flash of brilliance that only smacked me in the face. He said, “These stories are taken out of context, You have to have faith” . Faith, I have to not believe what I read as the Word of God but believe blindly that this is his intention, to confuse and bedazzle me because he is “just to large for you to comprehend”.
I had enough. I searched over the next few years. From rabbi to Buddhist temples, Even to the Cult of Tony and Susan Alamo! Man, did I dodge that bullet! But no one, no one could help me “get God”. I had never felt him, or Jesus, in my life or do anything for me that I didn’t have direct responsibility for or that I could attribute to someone else doing it for me. But still I held on because He had to be true. I had spent my whole life so far worshiping and honoring and kneeling and praying and keeping his commandments, well, the ones that I felt were good to follow, just like most Christians.
It was not until I was in my 40′s, I would say 48, that I turned from God into Spiritualism. Here I had it easy. I believed in a Deity, but not the god of the bible. Something Had to create us right? But this still gave no solace. No peace, no comfort, as I still had this nagging fear of hell!. It was not until May of 2013 that I stumbled upon an atheist meme that asked, “Are you on the Fence?” As I read it, my head exploded! Yes! I am on the fence I have been forever! I then had the good fortune of having a coworker give me a copy of Christopher Hitchens “God is not Good”. and then I knew! I watched his videos, saw some Richard Dawkins, some Sam Harris and these people, these thinkers, these people tapped in me something that religion never did. Freedom. Absolute freedom to be and do whatever I wanted without fear of Hell, demonization, excommunication or non-tolerance.
I knew that murder was wrong, the bible did not have to tell me that I deduced that long before I read it in there. I knew I loved my parents, long before I was ordered by the commandments. I was a moral, human in a world filled with all sorts of individuals and I was finally OK.
Now I must tell you, at first I was quite bitter and angry for wasting my time, life and money on religion and it stung just as any con job you find out you got had by stings. But then I found Twitter community and like minded people who not only were atheist, but embraced it. Some of these folks are brash and brazen, some are thoughtful and kind, and some are just batshit crazy! but one thing for certain, they have shown me a sense of respect and community that I never experienced in church, in the sense of judgement free sensibilities. and openness to new information. Free, funny, analytic, logical, reasonable. This is how I was born. And thanks to atheism. This is how I will die, and I am good with that.!