Fourth place (tie) — BIPOC essay contest: Tylinn Wilson
The shackles of religion
FFRF awarded Tylinn $2,000.
By Tylinn Wilson
Dear Black Community,
There are few things I am more proud of than being African-American, a descendant of the very people that built this country, and a member of a community that continues to thrive despite widespread discrimination and anti-blackness.
From the way we walk, to the way our skin glows in the sun, the way our hair defies gravity, the way we are able to find humor in any situation, the way we maintain our beautiful culture despite our ancestors having theirs ripped away, are all reasons we are such a remarkable group. I am writing this letter today to talk about a construct that I believe is holding us back from all of the progress we could be making as a community.
Christianity is so deeply ingrained in Black culture despite it being something forced upon our ancestors during slavery. Some of our greatest leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr., had a religious background. On Sundays, you’ll find Black families filling the pews of a Baptist church that their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all attended. We all recognize moms and big-mamas touting “God don’t like ugly” or “Won’t he do it!” It’s no surprise that the infiltration of religion in our daily lives has led to “atheism” being a dirty word in Black households. However, I think a lot of the misconceptions and hesitancy toward atheism and freethought is something that can be fixed through explanations and conversations from nonbelievers like myself.
Above all, I am an atheist because I believe in peace, justice and equity for all. Many people believe that atheists are devoid of morals, but some of the most immoral acts in history have been committed in the name of religion. Christianity was used to justify the killing and cultural destruction of Indigenous Americans. Jihadists have used Islam as a basis for terrorist attacks around the world. Harmful ideas about women’s autonomy has roots in archaic religious ideas.
Nothing of this scale has been committed by atheists and it is certainly not in line with letting people live in harmony. I would consider the morality of atheists to be more solid than that of religious people because we do good without having to be threatened with eternal damnation.
Another reason I feel so strongly about abandoning religion is because I think, as a society, we are far too educated to keep buying into it. We know that in the past people made up stories to explain the things they did not understand. There was not enough scientific discovery to understand the ways in which all of the species on Earth evolved, so people made up intelligent design to explain it. There was not yet technology to explore space, so people used scriptural commentaries as a means to say that the Earth was the center of the universe. With all of the scientific progress we have made in the last 500 years, we know more than enough to understand that some magical being did not just pull everything out of thin air in six days.
Allowing myself to trust in science and live life the way I see fit has been one of the best decisions of my life. I think that as a community, letting go of religion would be extremely beneficial. The plight of people with mental illness wouldn’t be met with “pray it away” and LGBTQ+ youth wouldn’t have to fear being outcasts in the community. We could move away from waiting for God to save us, and instead focus on mobilizing and providing mutual aid to those in need.
Tylinn, 19, is from Wichita, Kan., and attends Wichita State University as a pre-med student majoring in biology. “I hope to become a physician specializing in maternal-fetal medicine in order to address the rising maternal and infant mortality rates in Black and Indigenous communities,” Tylinn writes. “Outside of school, I enjoy photography, oil/watercolor painting, spending time with family, and watching any documentary I can find!”