Sunday, January 13, 2008
How the Black Church Treats its Outcasts - by Angelo Smith
Many of my friends are very religious. No matter what they were doing the night before, you find them in church every Sunday, praising he Lord and asking for forgiveness for whatever God awful thing they did the night before. As long as they go to church and predicate their actions by saying that "Jesus forgives all", they are ok.
But then again, many of my religious friends are good people. But they too can be difficult to deal with, as I continuously confront the Black Church Mafia. The psychological stranglehold that religion has on black people is amazing and overwhelming.
I was born and raised in the church. My brother is a prominent pastor, and my mother was too, before she passed. I went to church with my family every Sunday, even before I knew what it meant to go to church. I didn't know why I was going, I just knew that if I didn't, I would get my butt kicked.
Then, one day I woke up and started asking questions.
I am not gay, I am not a terrible person. I obey the laws, go to school and pay my taxes. I have always treated people kindly and fairly and I don't make enemies easily. I love my neighbor, help old ladies across the street, and give toys to orphans at Christmas.
But none of that matters to my friends, because they all say that I am going to hell.
This is what I go through as a black man who does not go to church regularly and who doesn't buy into what religion is all about. Once a strong believer, I've asked the most basic questions about my Christianity, and the answers have not made any sense. What also does not make sense is that people tell me that in order to find the answers, I have to go ask the people in the church or look inside the bible.
I have a problem with that, and here's why.
1) The bible was written by men. Yeah, they say they were inspired by God, but so does every other man in history who has written a religious book. The book possesses a great deal of wisdom, but is also full of sexism and incredibly tall and ridiculous tales.
2) No one knows what is going to happen when we die. That scares people. The idea that you are going to die and simply not exist anymore is so daunting and scary that you are relieved when someone comes along and says "That's not true, I know EXACTLY what is going to happen when you die!".
So, my question to this person is "Have you died before?"
Second question: If you have not been dead before, then how do you know what happens when we die?
Answer: Because this book told me what happens.
Third question: Who wrote the book?
Next question: Is God nearby to confirm that he wrote the book? I didn't know he was an author.
Answer: No. He didn't exactly write it, someone wrote it for him but they were inspired by God.
Next question: Really? Do you have proof of this to show me that this person or people are no different from the fanatics, like the guy in China who led 20 million people by convincing him that he was Jesus' little brother (true story)? I just want to make sure I am getting the real deal and not something fake, so I need some validation here.
Answer: The guy in China was a false profit, but this is real.
Question: Can you confirm that?
Answer: No, it's a matter of faith.
Question: That's all you can say?
Answer: Yes. And if you don't believe what I say, then you are surely going to burn in hell forever.
Gee thanks. So, you present this notion that there is a Big Brother figure, a super hero who protects us from our enemies and counts evey hair on our head. If anything good happens, it was because God did it, not because it just happened. If something bad happens, then of course it was not God's will.
And no religion can hold itself together without a nice series of threats. The bible states that anyone who does not state Jesus Christ to be his Lord and Savior will burn in hell. What a nice way to keep people following you, especially if they aren't sure what the heck is going on in this world we're living in. You've provided them with insurance that says "Well, even if it's not true, maybe you should join the group just in case it is."
Life can be scary, hard and stressful. During those times of stress and weakness, religion makes us feel better. It is comforting to know that there is a big giant who can make your boss pay for firing you, help you pay that bill you can't quite make, or heal that illness that the doctors can't find. That is why religion is so popular. I studied psychology in school and while my religious friends think that all this education has made me into a non-believer, I prefer not to be ignorant. Psychology is the driving force behind religion, which is why some people are addicted to church like a drug and go into such a frenzied state during prayer. It makes you feel like your problems are going away.
I know because I've been there. What we think is the Holy Ghost is really the chemicals flowing through our brains providing a soothing effect that induces us to do more of what we were already doing. When we get weak, we just go back for more of the drug.
Of course I can't say this to my friends, but I don't care. I've got to be honest. It doesn't mean that I am right. It means that my theory is just as good as theirs, even if I don't have a book written by God to prove it. I am not arrogant enough to make such a claim.
As a result of being a black man who is willing to at least consider the possibly that black folk's heavy religious commitment might be superstition, I get the following:
1) Few black women will consider marrying me, since I am not "equally yolked" (I guess I would be a bad egg). They would rather marry some lying, cheating, arrogant pastor than to marry a good man who simply asks the hard questions and doesn't accept any old idea that everyone else is following.
2) All of my friends and family are constantly trying to convert or save me. Although I live a normal and good life, they consider me a lost sheep because I do not find the higher power through the conventional channels. I tell them that if God wants to find me, he will find me. After all, he is God, right? And your counter argument that God is finding me by sending you to talk to me makes me want to tell you to leave. You are not God's vehicle, unless you can show me a license and registration.
3) Everyone considers something to be wrong with me, when I simply judge people by the content of their character. I am not a bad person, and no one is going to convince me otherwise. Also, those who feel that every Muslim or Budhist in the world is going to hell and that God is only going to save the Christians needs to realize just how arrogant that actually sounds.
4) Whenever I pose simple questions or alternative theories, they are not taken seriously. I am told to seek my answers from people and sources that are already biased in their perspective. I am also attacked for having no faith and being a non-believer. The idea of open thought and ideas is only accepted if you accept the answers provided to you by the church. In other words, it's an open court, as long as the defendant is found guilty at the end.
I really get sick of it, but it doesn't matter. People are going to continue to believe, continue to ostracize those who do not believe, and that is the way the world will continue to work.
Man is afraid and religion makes him feel safe. So, that is why it will always have power.