Honorable mention — Persons of color essay contest: Jamiah Hawkins

The desolate road of disbelief

By Jamiah Hawkins

Church was a necessity and seemed natural to me, growing up black. However, it was in middle school — when I accepted that my feelings toward my male peers were more than just usual — that this viewpoint began to change. Sadly, the black religious community is not a haven for LGBT youth. The road to agnosticism is not a short one. At first, I tried, like so many others, to justify my lifestyle to myself, but I knew I would never grow to be a worthy Christian. The relentless bullying I faced, and a lack of a support system, led me to seek counsel from other areas.

It was in the eighth grade when my faith began to waver. I asked myself why a loving God would allow slavery, rape, child murder, genocide and colonization to occur. Why would a self-proclaimed loving God allow my race of people to suffer for over 400 years and still let us face oppression today? Why allow me to have homosexual tendencies, but also tell me I’m not allowed to love? Why?

I hoped that these questions would be answered and that I could go back to living my life with Christ. However, not only were they unanswered, but I was shamed for questioning the almighty, loving God. The almighty God that knew I felt alone and was bullied daily. The almighty God that allowed me to be stereotyped and racially profiled. The almighty

Jamiah Hawkins

God that failed me in my most needy times. The almighty God that took my uncle from me who deserved none of what the world gave him.

Rage paved my journey to agnosticism, but now, as a proud gay agnostic person of color, I can say I have a healthier mindset, one that allows me to articulate my thoughts and opinions in a positive manner.

Looking into the secular community as a person of color, I am saddened by the lack of diversity. However, it is my hope and mission to inspire the next generation not to be complacent in religion and instead to question it, question everything. This means engaging youth of color and planting the seed of curiosity within them by explaining the importance of questioning.

Being agnostic has allowed me to see the world entirely differently. Yes, some situations are far grimmer to me without the guise of divine interference, however, concepts such as death no longer cause me to fear everlasting damnation. Instead, agnosticism makes me optimistic about my life, emphasizing the importance of living and taking in every moment, knowing that it may be my last. It has also taught me the importance of never becoming complacent in all aspects of my life. Like stagnant water, remaining in place allows you to be polluted with bias and outdated views. The water that remains moving is clear and fresh.

It is organizations such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation that give me hope that one day my views won’t be taboo.

Jamiah, 18, is from Laurinburg, N.C., and attends the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, with plans to major in digital marketing. Prior to his senior year of high school, he took part in the Oban Exchange, which swaps students from his hometown and Oban, Scotland. “To my surprise, the secular community in Scotland was not only visible, but centralized and in the majority,” Jamiah writes. “Being able to see such representation and mutual respect for other’s religious views, inspired me to become an activist for the American secular movement.”