Freethought Today · September 2016

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Fifth Place (tie) College Essay Contest for Students of Color winner: By Kamerin Winston

Breaking away from Christianity

FFRF awarded Kamerin $500.

By Kamerin Winston

Christianity has been ingrained in my blood as a black woman in the United States since the day I was born. My enslaved ancestors worked while singing Negro spirituals; spirituals about freedom and how God was going to free his chosen people. Christianity was the crutch that helped guide us through our turmoil, even though often it seemed to hurt us more.

I was born and raised in Detroit, a large city with more than 80 percent of its population being black. "A church and a liquor store on every corner," is a common description used by people in Detroit. Everyone I knew went to church. My family, friends, neighbors and co-workers all belonged to a church. Even if you didn't attend church regularly, you had a church home you attended on Christmas, Mother's Day and/or Easter.

Well, for me, my mother became a devoted Christian at a young age, so we attended church every week. In my early years, I spent significant time there. Wednesdays for bible study, Fridays for evangelistic service and Sundays for 8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. worship services.

As a child, I consistently questioned things said in church. Jesus did what? Why would he do that? It never seemed realistic to me. Especially in a Pentecostal church, everything seemed so theatrical. I often found myself paying more attention to the actions of people when they "caught the Holy Ghost" than listening to the Sunday sermon. I continued to go to church because my mother wanted me to, and I thought maybe one day I would feel the way those people in church were feeling.

As I grew older and began to learn the history of the world, I really took a historical look into various religions, specifically the one I grew up practicing. I found the story of Christ quite outlandish. In church, I'd heard a million times the story of Jesus dying on the cross for my sins, but to read it in a textbook made me more skeptical than ever. After learning about the history of African people and how they lived thousands of years without Christianity, I realized that Christianity may not provide the answers to life and death.

Christianity in the black community has been our rock. Christianity was there when our ancestors fought for their freedom from slavery. Christianity was there when our brothers and fathers were lynched during the Jim Crow era. Christianity was there when we were hosed down and chased by dogs in Birmingham.

We have always looked to Christ and God for guidance during our struggles in this country. Yet I can't help but wonder why God would allow this to happen to us. The bible says God would never give us more than we could bear. Could we bear watching our children and spouses being taken away from us during slavery? Could we bear watching our children being murdered? Can we continue to bear watching our children being hunted down and killed like animals by police? We pray to God for a long life, yet praise him even at funerals. Christianity gives us hope, but it may be false hope.

Freethinking, particularly in the black community, has a very negative connotation. Because of our history in this country and our reliance on religion, especially Christianity, to separate yourself from religion seems like a slap in the face to others. There are so many people who grew up in the church, but, because they don't agree with Christianity, have chosen to remove themselves and their family from the church.

It's not that bad to no longer practice the religion, but the second you no longer identify with it you are seen as the enemy. Black freethinkers often put up with attending church just to keep up an image. There needs to be a safe haven for black freethinkers, a place where they can get together and know they are not alone.
Kamerin, 18, lives in Atlanta and attends Spelman College, where she is a history major and political science minor. At Spelman, she served as the community leadership council president for her first-year hall and also was a member of Spelman protégé under the Morehouse Business Association. She is interested in politics and business, and has worked closely with her politician father.

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