For a while I did not even know what an atheist was. I used to be a devoted Christian attending church with my uncle out of my own will. I loved the services for the music. But I would get headaches after church. Trying to find an explanation for the headaches, my family said I had demons. I started to believe that my headaches were caused by the fact that I did not believe hard enough. And that they were a punishment from God. I was told that it is only through prayer that I could get better.
I lost my religion at the age of 12
I began to read the Bible religiously. As I got older, I started to question certain things. For example, I had constantly heard that Jesus was a Jew. I failed to reconcile his Middle Eastern roots with my blackness. I began to feel like faith was a waste of my time. I slowly started slipping away from Christianity.
I would spend my nights fighting with my conscience. Falling asleep was difficult. Until one day, it didn’t matter anymore. I was 12 years old when I decided that I no longer believed in God. At the time I did not even know that it was called atheism. Whenever I was asked why I had stopped going to church, I responded by saying I didn’t believe in God.
“My lack of faith does not mean I am incapable of love”
I have always had to defend myself from criticism about how I chose to live a life divorced from God. My family said that my life has no purpose, and that I wouldn’t amount to anything if I reject religion. Even my vice principal in high school, who was also a priest, tried to talk me out of it, telling me that I was just going through a phase.
I believe that once you perish as a human, what remains are the memories people have of you as well as your belongings. My lack of faith does not mean I am incapable of love. But my decision has also complicated my love life.
I was once in a relationship with a girl who was a Seventh Day Adventist. She invited me to church. I refused. I then told her that I didn’t believe in God. We argued about Jesus feeding the multitude with two fish and about how Mary could give birth even though she was a virgin. Our relationship even soon after that.
Today I do not openly mention that I am atheist because I feel it does not change anything about who I am. I can still love other people and feel compassion. To me, what is important, beyond religion, is that I have faith and believe in family.