Friday, April 1, 2016

#RealTalk: Why I Stopped PRETENDING To Be A Christian

"The truth is that I see religion as a means of social control and domination for those who are in control of governments and other institutions that are used to govern. It does not mean that do not respect a person's convictions or belief in a higher power, and in my acceptance, I am exposed to the constant barrage of God this and prayer that memes, comments and posts via social media. The problem comes when I decide to make a post in reference to my Atheism, someone tries to flex their privilege and respond with some chastisement about how THEIR God is the real deal, mind you, I don't comment on others' posts when it regards religion! I have constantly question whether or not I want to go to certain events because someone will try to guilt me into a prayer circle or saying grace at a dinner." - APW

I have said it before and I will say it again, I have NEVER truly believed in a higher power and I have total dislike for the need of religion, ALL religion. I maintain that I respect the beliefs of all and the right to believe in a higher power. Anyway, I was raised by my Grandmother, actually my entire family. Moma is a Jehovah's Witness and she never forced it on me, I did go with her to the Kingdom Hall and out to field service as a child. I never really truly had a feeling about it one way or the other, until I started to see how people were affected by religion going into my preteens. I used to see kids get whippings for not wanting to go to church and hear classmates talk about how much they love God. I didn't take much offense to this until I became more comfortable with my being gay, mainly because believers came at me as if I could fix my attraction to men by being correct and dating women. My pretend christian-hood really took shape when I was in my first relationship, and he decided for some reason that he needed more God in his life.

In truth I had been dealing with the fact that he came out because of me, I was trying to find my way and determined to figure out who I wanted to be. At the time I was 5'9 on my way to the 6ft I am now, about 170 pounds with a 32 waist. Basically, what you see today as masculine features were not so masculine back then. He HAD to come out after being undercover for so long, he broke up with his girlfriends and told his family. I guess it was too much for him so he dragged me to church where folks were told that I was his little brother, when in reality he was playing catcher for my bat. To make a long story short, I had to continue to be closeted around certain people to protect him and even went to church with him out of love. Fast forward to 2008/2009, I tried to be a believer. I tried and failed, what I mean is that I joined a church and got baptized. I tried to build community, friendship, and family when I already had those things. I did learn a lot from the pastor, and will always have a great deal of respect for how thoughtful he always was. Here is the thing, I was not happy, I paid tithes and did all that stuff you do in a church when I had the time to do it. There was a common thread in my life as a pretend Christian from 2002 until 2013:

I thought that I had to PRETEND to believe in and love a God that did not exist to me. I thought I had to pretend because almost every job that I had, there was an atmosphere of rewarding those who fellowship at a church or those who held a form of religious beliefs. I felt the need to pretend to love God because of the homophobia that existed in workplaces. I have heard the phrase "it's bad enough to be gay, but to not believe in God, that really bad," many times.

I met other Atheists and wanted to reach out so badly, I was in a closet hiding the fact that I was/am not a believer. I was out gay, hiding my HIV status because of stigma, and my being an Atheist due to on big question:

WHO WANTS TO BE FRIENDS WITH OR EVEN IN LOVE WITH A PERSON WHO IS OPENLY GAY, LIVING WITH HIV AND DOES NOT BELIEVE IN GOD?

I  found out the answer to that question in parts and phases, some warm answers, some cold/cruel answers and most of it was learning to be comfortable with myself. I had to stop pretending for my sanity, because I was no longer cool with the respectability politics, the ridiculous standards, and the false narrative of being blessed. For me there was no God, there is no God, there is only the means of social control to manipulate those who need something to believe in and give them hope through their hardships and poverty of various forms. Privilege exists within the construct of religion, not just the idea of hope, I spoke of it earlier...promotions, better relationships and etc come from being a member of a congregation. Because I could no longer pretend, I now believe in checking religious privilege in the same way I would check male privilege, cis privilege and of course white privilege. I respect the journey that I had to take in order to get here.

FYI:


Atheism - disbelief of lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

Agnostic - a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.

Agnosticism -  is the view that the truth values of certain claims – especially metaphysical and religious claims such as whether or not God, the divine or the supernatural exist – are unknown and perhaps unknowable.

Christian privilege - is the system of advantages bestowed upon Christians in some societies. This system arises out of the presumption that the belief in Christianity is a social norm, leading to the exclusion of the nonreligious and members of other religions through institutional religious discrimination. Christian privilege can also lead to the neglect of outsiders' cultural heritage and religious practices.

Religious discrimination - is valuing or treating a person or group differently because of what they do or do not believe. Specifically, it is when adherents of different religions (or denominations) are treated unequally, either before the law or in institutional settings such as employment or housing.
Religious discrimination is related to religious persecution, the most extreme forms of which would include instances in which people have been executed for beliefs perceived to be heretic. Laws which only carry light punishments are described as mild forms of religious persecution or as religious discrimination.