Being an atheist while living in the Bible Belt
FFRF awarded Soji $200 for her essay.
By Soji Bedsole
If you grow up in Alabama, religion is infused in your life, whether you are a believer in God or not. Churches, large and small, stand on every corner. The “word of God” managed to seep into my public education regardless of the law, and I was given looks calculated to create shame on Sunday just for wearing sweatpants.
My parents were teenagers when I was born. Before ever taking my first breath, I was an ignominy to my family in the eyes of the religious community. Soon after my birth, my parents split. My father’s priorities quickly became alcohol and drugs. He was a miserable, angry man who had no outlet for his hate, except one, me. I was repeatedly physically and mentally abused at my father’s house. I had remembered hearing admonitions to “pray to God and he will answer” and that “God has a reason for everything.”
I took that and ran with it, only to crash hard into a wall. I would pray every night that the abuse would end. I kept everything from my mother because of threats my father made. However, I relied on a God to save me. It never happened.
The abuse went on for years. My father finally ended up being arrested, and I then stayed with my mother full-time. It took many nightmares and panic attacks to finally open up about the situation. To this day, I cannot come up with a reason why any omnibenevolent God that is constantly preached about would subject a helpless child to that.
However, as I started to grow and learn about the world, it shocked me how there are masses of far more tragic stories littering the Earth. Everything I have heard about God and religion began to make no sense to me. My mother and I have gone forward in life as atheists, and even though we often get a look of sorrow or a spiteful lecture about our “eternal damnation,” we have no ill will toward people of faith. I am not ashamed of the way I think.
Soji, 18, from Madison Ala., will be attending Auburn University, with plans to major in chemical engineering and pre-medicine. Her ultimate goal is to become a surgical oncologist.