Freethought Today · September 2016

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

College Honorable Mention: Alone among my own people By Taylor Johnson

FFRF awarded Taylor $200. This is an excerpt.

By Taylor Johnson

I believe personally that there isn't a god or higher being. If there did happen to be one, I wouldn't allow my life choices to be defined by one. I believe that one being cannot hold significant power over everyone else, which makes it harder to view God as real instead of as a story to comfort those in need.

My decision to be an atheist-agnostic is strongly frowned upon in society, especially in the African-American community. Because I am black, it is assumed that I belong to some denomination of Christianity and that I place a large amount of faith in God. I had to hide this part of myself from family and friends, acting as though I still believed. When I told my mother of my atheism, she rejected it and still forced me to attend church with her every week. I got into arguments and fights with peers at school and camp when they found out about my lack of belief. They said that I was just trying to be like "the rich white kids" and that I needed to embrace my black ancestry. I tried explaining my views and how I am accepting of theirs, but they chose not to listen. I found myself alone among my own people, rejected for my opinions. I longed for a place where I could find others like me or speak to like minds. The secular movement should work more to reach out to different populations of people and make their presence known, encouraging nonbelieving youths to be more open about how they feel so they'll find others who will accept them.

To those who try to counter my beliefs and say that I am wrong, I always remind them that at a point in history, their beliefs too were frowned upon and looked at with disgust. All groups of people face some form of oppression before being recognized. Treating atheism the same negative way Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism was once treated isn't OK. All we can do is believe what we individually believe and live our lives as the best citizens we can be.

Taylor, 19, attends SUNY Purchase College in Harrison, N.Y. She was born in Far Rockaway, N.Y., and moved to Jamaica, N.Y., in 2012. She is part of her school's cheerleading team, and a shadow cast production of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." She enjoys hiking, camping and child care.

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