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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Eighth place (tie): Students of color essay contest — Aaliyah Philippe-Auguste

Aaliyah Philippe-Auguste

Why must I suffer to be blessed?

FFRF awarded Aaliyah $500.

By Aaliyah Philippe-Auguste

When you are a child, your parents are your heroes. You do not question most of what they say, because, why would you? They are your world. Their beliefs become yours. You love them. They love you. Until you start to think on your own. Once you get a little taste of what the world has to offer and that it does not just revolve around you, you begin to question every little bit of information that was fed to you since you were born. Almost everyone experiences some version of this, ending with some not “taking the leap” of thinking for themselves.

I grew up in a Black, Haitian-American Baptist household where it is required to “pray away” every trial and tribulation that my family encounters. My father only uses religion to justify his discomfort toward anyone who is not a straight cisgender man. My mother genuinely feels that she has a personal relationship with God, and she thanks him every day for a life that she hates. We went to church on most Sundays. I attended bible study because I was told it will help me become closer to God, and I was just too scared to find out what would happen if I simply just said “I don’t want to go.”

I never felt connected with Christianity or the idea of religion. When I was told that I must fear God — even though he is supposed to expel all the fear in my life — I knew at that moment there is something darker to this. Taking an AP world history course was my tipping point. I learned how Christianity was used to corrupt and destroy so many lives, including my ancestors’ lives. As I grew a stronger passion for science and medicine, the idea of having a sense of respect, awe and submission to a deity did not make sense to me. It never felt right to me. I never needed a god to be good. Why must I repent for simply living and being human?

Coming to terms with who I am, as I accepted the fact that I am an atheist, has allowed me to be more comfortable with expressing who I am today, a bisexual black woman. Living with constant reminders that what I am is “wrong” and a sin took a toll on my mental health, especially when they are from the ones I love. My heroes. My mother refuses to recognize the decline in her mental health because she believes God will fix it. To be constantly silenced in my own home has encouraged me to be a part of society that encourages our freedom to choose our own beliefs and identities. I reject religion because, at the end of the day, we are all human. But we must not forget that our society has been built on patriarchy, corruption, misogyny and racism. Many are too afraid to accept that God will not fix our world. Only we, humankind, can do it, and we must dig deeper into the internalized phobias that we have against anything different from the “norm.”

As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to spread awareness and educate others, I have had the honor to speak and participate in protests and rallies. To provide a platform for those silenced is essential for change. No more praying. Those who do must ask themselves “Why must I suffer to be blessed”?

Aaliyah, 18, attends Towson University with plans to major in  health education and promotion, with a minor in psychology on a pre-physician assistant track. “Being more confident with telling my story, I was a speaker at a Black LGBT Lives Matter rally, and I was asked to participate in more upcoming rallies,” Aaliyah writes.

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