Freethought Today · September 2016

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

College Honorable Mention: Are you there God? It’s me, skeptic by Alexandra Lewis

FFRF awarded Alexandra $200. This is an excerpt.

By Alexandra Lewis

Being skeptical about the existence of God was not something that came to me as a child.

As I grew older, the more skeptical I became of the existence and validity of God and Jesus Christ. This eventually led me to identify as agnostic. In addition to asking myself these questions, my experiences with churches (specifically black churches) have left me with mixed emotions toward religion altogether.

Part of my reasoning for reconsidering my faith is rooted in my experiences with black churches. While my objective is not to reprimand black churches, I can wholeheartedly say that some of the beliefs that are preached upon are extremely unwelcoming to certain individuals. For example, it is a common belief among most (but not all) black churches that members of the LGBTQ community are sinners. As someone who identifies not only as a person of color but also as queer, it is difficult for me to feel like I am welcomed with open arms and that I truly belong.

Hearing pastors preach about how being queer is a sin is something that I've experienced both first- and second-hand. While no one knew that I was queer, it was still terrifying for me to think that people could start furiously quoting bible scriptures at me in the event that someone found out.

The trivialization of mental illness in black churches is another reason behind my skepticism toward my previous faith. I was diagnosed with clinical depression in my early teens and no matter how much praying I did before and after, I still struggled with it.

My case isn't the only one like this; many black men, women, teens and children battle with poor mental health, and are pointed in the direction of God and God only. Listening to the church and only relying on God to "save" me from my depression was something I could not do. I later realized that seeking psychiatric help alongside counseling and a good support system of family and close friends is what would help me deal with something that I struggle with every day.

Alexandra, 19, was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and raised in Charlotte, N.C.. She attends East Carolina University. Her interests include photography, reading and writing.

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