Thursday, February 5, 2015

Duality of Consciousness

I have many facets to my identity. Here are just a few: Blerd, Afrogeek, Blatheist, or if you prefer, Black Nerd, Black Geek, Black Atheist. I am a non-conforming individual fighting against the religious status quo. At least that's what I would like to think. The reality has much more complexity than it would seem.

I love comic books and the ideas about secret identities and alter egos. I especially like the X-Men. With it's thinly veiled allegory about being "the other" and the challenges that come with it, allow me to insert my experiences into the stories. The "other", referred to in the X-Men by the term mutants, have abilities, powers, and skills that set them apart from everyone else. These folks were born with their powers.

Some mutants look very different from normal humans and have a difficult time with acceptance due to their appearance. Other mutants look like normal humans and can fit in as long as no one discovers that they have powers. Some of the major themes of this comic book are hatred, conformity and discrimination. The mutants are feared and hated by normal humans. The mutants are also discriminated against because normal humans do not see them as equal to them. They view the mutants as rejects or human mistakes.

Any group that doesn't fit into society's accepted boxes can relate to these particular comic book characters and their struggles. I am similar to both kinds of mutants referred to in the previous paragraph. I cannot hide the fact that I am a Black man. People see that and have their preconceived notions about me based on my skin color. However no one would know that I am atheist unless I told them. In that regard, I get to hide my beliefs and suffer no ill consequences as long as I am quiet. I have to wear an intellectual mask around my friends and family to protect myself from the stigma that comes from going against the grain of Christianity. A large majority of my social circle still consists of Evangelical Christians.

As I have written before, the social consequences of going against Christianity in the Black community can be severe. In most major urban areas, Black Evangelical Christians hold key positions of power and authority within the public and private sectors. They are in positions where they have influence over who gets promotions or gets opportunities.

Coming out loud and proud as an atheist could cost me familial relationships, political clout, and a platform to secure an income. I applaud those who are privileged to come out as atheist without many social consequences. Others like myself have to maintain a duality of consciousness as well as an air of secrecy. I have to walk a fine line between upholding my personal integrity and playing the "don't ask, don't tell" game.

It would be nice if I could be judged based on the content of my character and not on the context of my faithlessness. Trying to walk an enlightened path is tough when you want to take the high road, and foolishness from others attempts to bring you down. I realize that Christianity does not play by the rules they so desperately want others to play by when it comes to them.

Hopefully in the near future, I will be able to say that I am a non conformist fighting against the religious status quo. Please understand that I am proud to be an atheist. However until the day comes where I can feel safe being who I am without any masks on, I will continue to hide in plain sight.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Things the Christian God Doesn't Know

Christians are taught that God is omniscient or all knowing.

Here are verses to support that view:

Psalm 147:5
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit. 
1 John 3:19-20
By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.
Matthew 10:30
But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.
Psalm 139:4
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. 

But did you know there are things that God doesn't know?

Here are a few that I thought of:

1.  If the Christian God knows everything, does he know what it feels like to masturbate to a porno while eating Doritos?

2. If the Christian God knows everything, does he know what it feels like to call in sick to work, when he really isn't?

3. If the Christian God knows everything, does he know what chemotherapy feels like?

4. If the Christian God knows everything, does he know what it feels like to be afraid when a gun is pointed at his head?

5. If the Christian God knows everything, does he know what the sensation of an orgasm feels like?

6. If the Christian God knows everything, does he know how it feels to be addicted to drugs?

7. If the Christian God knows everything, does he know what it feels like to laugh while drinking milk & it comes out the nose?

8. If the Christian God knows everything, does he know what it feels like to wrestle with the choice of ending a pregnancy?

9.  If the Christian God knows everything, does he know what it feels like to hide his sexuality from his family out of fear?

10. If the Christian God knows everything, does he know what great sex feels like with a complete stranger?

11.  If the Christian God knows everything, does he know how it feels to lose a job, with only a few dollars in the bank?

12. If the Christian God knows everything, does he know what it feels like to puke after a long night of drinking?

Thanks to DarkMatter2525 for the inspiration for this... you can see his YouTube video below:

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Shaming the Successful

In the Black American community, our culture has a definitive Christian undertone to it, due to 400 years of indoctrination and a violent separation from our indigenous African roots. This insidious aspect plays out when it comes to the role of the church in the community. Many in the Black community feel like they could not have made it without God. The narrative of historical oppression spoke of by family members coupled with the reality of racism that shows up in every day life, gives this particular view a life of its own. Songs with these refrains speak to this viewpoint:

"If it had not been for the Lord on my side, where would I be?"
"Never would have made it, never would have made it without You..."

This philosophy, reinforced through Sunday sermons and church Bible classes over generations, uses guilt theology to keep congregants believing this untruth. Ergo, any time a person reaches a particular milestone or accomplishment, they must preface their achievement by thanking God for giving them the ability to succeed. People commonly hear this refrain on award shows and after major sporting events where a Black celebrity achieves something great. Fellow community members become quite critical when a person does not acknowledge God for their success. They rebuke and shame the insolent Black folk who forgot or refuse to give props to God with these common phrases:

"You are getting beside yourself!"
"Don't you forget who you belong to, You belong to God!"

As a result of this, Black Christian people give God the majority of the credit for their success and sprinkle the rest to others who contributed to their endeavor. They take introspective looks at their lives and ascertain that only God made it possible for them to make it out.

This ideology also shows how Black folk identify with the Jewish protagonists in the Old Testament writings. They see themselves as a real life parallel to the oppressed people in the Exodus story. They hear their authentic cries of justice connecting with the cries of the Children of Israel in the Bible stories. The paltry few verses in the Bible that speak to equality and freedom joined with the secular idea of "all men being created equal" became the impetus for a struggle that continues this day.

As a freethinker, I recognize how my cultural heritage got intermingled with Christianity. I am thankful for the realization that I did not get here by myself. I stand on the shoulders of giants. Many people contributed to my success and I am grateful for them all. I now understand that God had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Top 5 Things People Think Atheists Do

Top 5 things people think atheists do

1. I worship the devil. (FALSE)
Not believing in gods or the supernatural does not equal devil worship.

2. I hate god.(FALSE)
Just like I hate fairies, Santa Claus, the chupacabra, werewolves, and vampires; I do not hate something that I don't believe exists.

3. I was hurt in the church, that's why I left.(TRUE FOR ME ONLY, BUT MORE THAN JUST THAT)
Only a sadist would stay in something that caused them pain. I used to shy away from admitting that past hurts played a role in where I am. I was indeed hurt over and over for many years due to my religious affiliation but that is NOT the experience of all non believers.

4. My life has no meaning.(FALSE)
My life has meaning because I give it meaning with every breath I take. When I die, those who come after me can determine how much meaning my life had in the aggregate.

5. I am angry and need to experience god's love.
I am not angry and how can I experience something that I do not believe exists. I experience love from other people and I give love to others.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Stuff I did as a Christian

When I was a Christian, I did some and believed pretty outlandish things in the name of faith. I thought that by doing these things, I would be obedient to "the will and the word of god."

These scriptures played a major role in how I exercised my faith. (All scriptures from King James Version unless otherwise noted)

Luke 6:38
38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

1 Samuel 15:22-23
22 And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice(emphasis added), and to hearken than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

2 Chronicles 20:15,17, 20
15 And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's.(emphasis added)
17 Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you(emphasis added), O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you.
20 And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.(emphasis added)

Mark 11:22-23

23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart(emphasis added), but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.(emphasis added)

By using these scriptures as models, I would give money, time and resources to the church I belonged to at the expense of my finances and family. I did not want to be rebellious since this act was equated to witchcraft. I simply wanted to be in God's will and obey. If being in God's will meant giving up things and listening to his mouthpiece, then I was willing to do that.

I wanted to have the kind of power where what I spoke would come to pass. I thought by following this prescription, this would happen for me and my family.

One time in church after a sermon, my former pastor asked the congregation to reach into their wallets or purses and pull out money. He said that the people who had enough faith should take out their money, wave it in the air and walk around the church eight times. By doing this the walls that are blocking your finances would fall like the walls of Jericho. I only had 20.00 in my bank account and wrote out a check for that amount because I believed that God would do something miraculous.

My pastor would tell me that "sacrificial giving hurts because it's a sacrifice. By giving in this way, you honor God and he will not forget your obedience." My former pastor was correct because it hurt not only my bank account but it hurt my family because it made providing for them even more difficult.

I am happy that I "walk by sight and not by faith." I live a live based on reason and rationality, no longer depending on useless faith to guide me into rash decisions.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Arguments that Christians use

Arguments that Christians often use to combat criticism against their faith:
(I know all of these very well because I used them in my former Christian life.)

1. It's a Christian Thing, You wouldn't understand.
Example:"The natural man cannot perceive the things of God because God is a spirit and those who worship Him must do it in spirit and truth."

2. The Bible wasn't written for unbelievers. 
Example: "The Bible was written by God through human hands for the saved. Without divine understanding the Bible would appear to contradict itself and not make sense."

3. You are being deceived by the enemy(Satan). 
Example: "Satan is confusing your mind so that you will never see the truth about God's love toward humanity."

4. You are taking the scripture out of context. 
Example: "This verse may say this, but it really means this. When you breakdown the Hebrew and the Greek, you can see the underline meaning."

5.  You don't want to acknowledge the truth. 
Example: "God is showing you mercy, but you are refusing to accept it."

6. You just want to live in sin. 
Example: "You don't want to submit to God because you don't want to give up your sinful lifestyle."

7. You need to let the love of God turn your stony heart to flesh.
Example: "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. That's you and me. God wants to save you and shower his love upon you."

8. In hell, you will lift your eyes.
Example: "You don't to take my word for it, when you stand before the judgment seat of Christ, it will be too late."

9.  I know getting saved can work for you, since it worked for me.
Example: "Look at my life, see how blessed I am, it's the God in me that makes this possible. If you give your life to Christ, this can happen for you too!"

10. You need to be saved for real.
Example: "You think that God is playing with you, but you will find yourself dead, if you don't get serious about living for him. Don't find yourself being counted among the goats."

These approaches take the onus of criticism away from them by challenging you to look at your lifestyle and see how it squares with Christianity. When confronted with these approaches, simply say: "My lifestyle has nothing to do with my criticism of Christianity or the Bible."

Monday, September 15, 2014

Post Christianity Transformation Pt. 2 Mental

I would like to think of myself as a pretty positive person. I like to surround myself generally around positive people. Ergo, I tend to stay away from negative people. However, here's what interesting: I wasn't always this way. I was a melancholy, self-deprecating, person. I was always one of the most intelligent children in all of my schools but I didn't like the responsibility and attention that came with  that exposure.

Even as a child I had issues with my self image. Although I got messages from church, like "god don't make no junk", and positive messages from my family, my experiences exercised a greater influence on my self perception.

During my preteen years at a predominately Black middle school in Detroit, I got picked on every day because I was one of the smart kids in school. They used to call me "white boy" because they erroneously equated intelligence with skin color. The girls used to call me ugly because I was a little overweight and I wore thick glasses. It didn't help my case that the teacher would point me out and tell the students in my class that they should be more like me.

I internalized all of these negative messages and made them my reality. I was always sad and I kept to myself and I didn't have any friends. No one wanted to be friends with the smart kid, not even other smart kids. Folks kept their distance from me. I felt really alienated and alone.

During this time, I started to spend lots of time at my local library, reading all kinds of books. The books that really got my attention dealt with Greek mythology. I started learning about the Titans, sea monsters, Poseidon, Pandora, Prometheus, and of course, the Pantheon of other Greek gods. Reading this ancient literature took me to a time where gods intervened on behalf of heroes. Foolish humans suffered the wrath of the gods, by stepping out of their ordained place in the cosmos. I absorbed and memorized these stories with the accuracy of an ancient Greek bard reciting the tales over a campfire.

I also attended church regularly and I started to distinguish myself from the other youth in the church by studying and memorizing the scripture with the same degree of attention that I gave to the classic Greek stories. By studying the scripture more and being able to explain it with precision allowed me opportunities to teach others.

This new attention in church made me feel good about god however I still did not feel good about myself. I devoted more time to studying the Word, yet I still felt alone because none of my peers in church cared about the Bible and god like I did.

By the time I got to high school, I still felt really alone and the self loathing became part of my personality. However a light shone on the horizon that gave me a glimmer of hope. That blinding light called puberty, changed my physical appearance, but it did nothing for my mindset. I got a little taller, thinned out, and changed the way I dressed. Before high school, I cared nothing about fashion, all of a sudden, I inundated my parents with requests for name-brand clothing.

By having this self loathing mentality, I could never see how people treated me. I kept believing that everyone in the world would treat me like those kids did in middle school. I lacked confidence in myself in every area except when it came to christianity. That was one area where no one could touch me. However a new struggle would await me.

Before puberty, I really didn't care much about girls or sex. I enjoyed reading, playing outside, and church. Now I had to deal with mixed messages: Messages from my body and messages from the Bible.

I started to become really attracted to girls, but my low self image and lack of confidence kept me from talking to them. This self deprecating became part of my personality. Even when I did successfully approach girl and get them interested, my negative mindset caused me to self sabotage any potential relationship. I justified the self sabotage, by saying that "I have to remain pure for jesus and save myself for marriage."

However I ended up having sex as a teen. Even with my negative self image, I was confident enough to meet someone who liked me and I liked her. After we had sex, I felt great, but super guilty.

I started to think of my natural sex drive as a curse from the devil. I started to pray that god would take it away from me, so I could be a vessel. I continued to excel with the bible teaching and started to feel like I had a special calling on my life. Yet, I totally disliked the fact that I was a sexual creature.

This low image of myself affected me for 21 years or a large portion of my life. This negative outlook  played a role in my career choices, my relationships with people, and unfortunately my former marriage. I was sad most of the time, yet people would come to me for words of encouragement.

I was known in the body of christ as one who always had a "word". I would help and encourage people; their lives would make significant strides but my life would get continually worse. Physician, heal thyself! I would pray to god to take away these negative feelings, yet he never answered those prayers and I was left feeling more sad, more empty.

It wasn't until I started to question my faith that I started to see the dawn of a new day in my life. I am grateful for the professional counseling I received during my divorce that helped me see who I really was. I am also grateful for the countless hours in self-reflection that enabled me to reboot my life.

When I let go of god, I started to feel better and I started to see my sexuality as a natural part of who I am.

As I write these essays, they tell a particular part of what happened as I evolved past christianity and god concepts.  There were so many processes that were occurring, I may never pinpoint everything that took place. What I do know is that I am a positive person today who lives to make the world a better place for those who will come after me.