When I was around six or seven years old, my best friend and neighbor, Raymond, told me the story of how our earth was made. I found it fascinating and thought that Raymond must have been the most intelligent person in the world. It was some time before I realized he was reciting the Book of Genesis. This was something he learned by attending church with his parents.

Like many African American families, we grow up attending the Baptist church. However, my family was not the average African American family. Though I did attend church on some Sundays with my grandfather, I never remember attending church services with my immediate family, brothers, sisters, mom, and grandparents. It was usually just me or me and my sister attending the services on rare occasions with our grandparents.

But Christianity was all around us. And even though I did not attend church much, if someone would have asked me what religion I was, I would say I am a Christian, not because I was really practicing any religious rituals (going to church, praying, singing in the choir), it was more because religion was embedded in me through society in general; the Pledge of Allegiance, television shows, signs and symbols, movies, etc.

At a very young age, I knew that questioning any adult about religion was not a good idea. Black families are not always acepting of people who question the authority of the bible. God forgive (no pun intended) if you are at any Black gathering, whether it’s a wedding, funeral, Thanksgiving dinner or barbeque, and you blurt out that you are not a Christian. But even though I was the most malleable person on earth, I always found the entire story hard to believe. I could not wrap my head around the stories of the Bible.

At the age of 14, I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, and it changed my life forever. Malcolm pointed out that enslavers used religion to help keep their enslaved people passive, to make them pray their way out of strife instead of physically doing the earthly things that would keep them out of bondage. Of course, those worldly actions would many times result in violence. Religion helped the owners keep a lid on a violent slave uprising.

Religion was not the only way enslavers kept the people they were holding in place, but it did help to make life bearable to think that glory was in store for them in the next life. Religion softened the will and resistance to colonization of native populations worldwide. This view about religion framed my thoughts on faith for the rest of my life. It was not only my view on Christianity, but all religions, including Malcolm’s.

It was not until I read Bertrand Russell’s book, “Why I am Not a Christian,” that I started to think I may be an atheist. Being an atheist was not a big deal to me, but I knew that if I told people this, it would open conversations I did not want to have with people I did not want to speak with on the topic. So I may have been a closet atheist. I started using the word agnostic, but that seemed like a euphemistic way out. I did not want to offend anyone. Many of my friends and family are religious, and these debates can burden relationships.

However, after reading Richard Dawkins’s “The Blind Watchmaker,” I knew I would no longer appease Christians by trying not to upset or disappoint them. I am what I am, and they could take it or leave it. I respect and support people who practice religion in any way, and I do nothing to try to convince them otherwise of what they believe. They have a right to their beliefs, and so do I.

I’m a humanist. Helping others and making their lives better is who and what I am. I don’t need a god for that. Helping others makes me feel not only better myself, but it helps to give me a positive outlook on the rest of the world. With all of the craziness in this world, anything a person can do to make a more positive outlook is good.

People can deliver their own brand of ethics without relying on a supernatural entity to guide them to do good. I don’t believe I will go to hell for not believing in religion. I think this life is one shot, and why not try to help others while we are here?

What religion should a person believe? Millions of people from all over the world think that their faith is the true faith and all others are false. Therefore billions of people who don’t think their way, regardless of what they did in life, will go to a bad place for eternity. Thinking this way makes no sense. Can goodness only come from a belief in God? We all know of awful people who believe in God. Religion did not make them better people.

Humanism is not sticking to one set of beliefs or unchanging rules. We have to change our views based on new information that we receive. We should constantly be evolving while we are still breathing. Technology has chased religion from the earth, mountains, space, and time, and now it is only a philosophical idea that stays out of reach of scientific inquiry.

Humanism states common sense should be the standard, not 3000-year-old text. According to the American Humanist Association,

Humanism is; An approach to life that is based on reason and our common humanity, recognizing that moral values are properly founded on human nature and experience alone.

Most Christians seek to avoid suffering and pursue happiness. Humanists want the same thing. The problem is that many Christians preach about helping their fellow man, but something is wrong when they put it into practice. To help others, you should have a healthy dose of empathy and compassion. Christians are against abortion because they believe that the baby, once conceived, has a right to life. However, they do not feel the same way once the baby is out of the womb.

Those who helped to make abortions illegal are the same people who champion mass incarceration and the death penalty. They support the building of walls (ancient technology) to stop people from running from economic strife and violence. They also sprout racial hatred, support White supremist groups, support conspiracy theories, promote radical politicians, and they do whatever they can to make voting more difficult. If you even mention the possibilites of stricter gun laws, they will promise to blow you brains out.

As a technology teacher and educator, I like information formed by evidence and experience. I trust science and technology. I look at the history of where we were and where we are now. I believe in what I have experienced, and I like the evidence that proves the natural forces I experience in this reality. Technology is not my religion. I do not have faith in technology; I have trust in technology.

I have dedicated my life to pursuing happiness, peace, and safety for the last twenty years. I’ve followed this compassionate goal by giving time and resources to help others get a better social, economic, mental, and emotional place in our divided American society. Some say I will still spend eternity in hell because inspite of my effort, goals and good deeds because I did not accept Christianity. But I can live peacfully with those opinions. I have work to do.

The logo for the American Humanist Association reads GOOD WITHOUT A GOD.

I don’t think that’s the best slogan, but I get it. It’s acceptable to not agree with everything that other like-minded people will say. However, the main point is that doing well for society without rewards or expectations is a sure way to help us make a better world. The Black church has always been the backbone of the civil rights movement. But this movement towards the rights of humans should be embraced by all, regardless of our beliefs. I think we can still agree that all of us are human.

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Thomas Holt Russell

Thomas Holt Russell

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Humanist, educator, writer, photographer, and modern-day Luddite. http://thomasholtrussell.zenfolio.com/ My writing is a living organism.