As a black American, Christianity runs through my veins. I’m thankful for it in a way and I dislike it in other ways. Christianity is the reason I am alive, but I cannot rejoice when so many others who look like me are dead.
One of Christianity’s core pillars is fear. Followers must fear God, fear their own thoughts, fear hell. I hate it, but where would I be without that fear? The unknown scares countless people and yet, only some create god(s) to hide the fact that the world is chaotic. Despite this, I know the world isn’t evil because good things can happen just as randomly as the bad. I would know.
Abortion. I am conflicted about it myself. To take or to nurture life seems like an easy question, but it isn’t. It was a battle for my mom. Although she is a Christian and doesn’t believe in abortion, she thought about having one with me. When I found out I was angry, but I remembered my older brother, who will be turning 38, was going in and out of prison ever since he was in high school. I would never want that for my kid. Maybe, aborting me in my mom’s mind would’ve been her version of saving me from some ill fate. But she didn’t, because she feared suffering in hell if she went through with it. I’m grateful to be alive, but I wish that the threat of burning in hell wasn’t the reason. I wonder if anything positive, like love, can be built off of something negative such as fear?
I am aware of what my family would say to my story: “You are here for a purpose and you should be thankful to God for it.” I don’t feel that way though. I don’t understand how black people can believe in Christianity. Their acceptance of it stems from white slave masters wanting to pacify black people. The idea was that if black people were “good slaves,” they could receive a slice of heaven; meanwhile, slave masters feasted on the whole pie that black people died to pick the fruit for. It’s weird because sometimes I wish I believed. I want to believe that somehow all of the evil and cruelty in the world made sense, to believe that everything happens for a reason and that the world isn’t chaos. I wish I felt that my mom kept me solely because she loved me, not because of her fear of burning in hell. But I can’t and won’t.
I don’t think that my other family members would handle it well, so I’ve only told my mom and brother. I lie when needed and try not to mention being an
atheist to any other family members. My mom’s worried about me because I’m going to “burn in hell.” I can’t say that I don’t mind, because it does hurt a little when she says that. My brother ignorantly jokes that I worship Satan. My roommate would always insinuate my being an atheist meant I had a lack of morals. All in the day of the life of a black atheist. Christianity is so intertwined with blackness in America that a black atheist sounds like an oxymoron. Atheism is almost never a choice for black kids, no matter how we feel. At least, that’s what we are led to believe. But, it shouldn’t matter what we are led to believe. We should be able to choose what to believe. There’s nothing freer than that. So, when I’m left out of activities with my roommates and friends every Sunday morning, I don’t care. I am slowly coming to terms with being a lone wolf among black sheep.
Alexandra, 19, is from Salisbury, Md., and attends Howard University. She volunteers to help Hispanic students learn English and also works 30 hours a week during school to pay for her rent and bills.