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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Honorable mention — Persons of color essay contest: Raimundo Farmer

A journey to disbelief

By Raimundo Farmer

Raimundo Farmer

From an early age, I expressed doubts about my family’s strong Christian beliefs.

In my eyes, the bible and the church always seemed so contradictory for several reasons.

First, this benevolent God claims to love all of his creatures, yet for some reason this same God would allow his children to be sent to hell simply for being gay or making inevitable mistakes. Second, humans by nature cannot be perfect, yet he expects us to achieve his flawed idea of perfection. Last, throughout the years, I’ve pushed the question: If God truly existed, and we are sincerely made in his image, then wouldn’t he be just as sinful and as corrupt as we are?

I am a nonbeliever because God seems to be a contradiction and provides people with a limited perspective. My family’s limited religious perspective almost killed me, and my liberation from religion saved my life. I am bipolar with ADHD. I experience mania which causes me to desire high-risk endeavors, and depression that dulls the world and causes me to become suicidal. Before I received my diagnosis, at the lowest point of my first depressive episode, my family only told me to pray. Prayer: the solution that would permanently mend my broken psyche. Desperate, I tried praying for weeks and felt myself slip deeper and deeper into the depression. The suicidal thoughts that were once completely irrational started to make more and more sense. That’s when I had enough. I instead turned to intensive therapy and medication that has ultimately helped me manage my symptoms. If I had continued to pray instead, and waited for a God who wasn’t listening, I may not have been here today. Strong religious belief can be detrimental to those struggling with mental health. The issues we face are biological and while on the one hand, religion can be therapeutic, it is not medication. Prayer cannot prevent the chemical reactions in our brains from occurring.

Those who put too much faith in religion need to see its flaws. I believe the secular community would be able to better engage with religious people of color by first openly acknowledging and accepting the positive aspects of religion, such as religion’s ability to provide structure or its positive values such as being kind to others. Then the secular community could follow up by pointing out the contradictions of religion and provide examples of how religion is holding humanity back, for example mentioning how it negatively  affects the mentally ill or suppresses the LGBTQ community. Freeing myself from the limiting perspectives of religion has helped me to begin my journey as I deal with my mental illness. I know that there are other people of color who are struggling and putting their faith in beings who don’t exist, just waiting for their problems to be solved instead of taking initiative. God will not magically fix oppression, inequality or illness of any kind, just like he didn’t fix my brain. It’s up to us to make the changes that need to be made.

Raimundo, 19, is from Compton, Calif., and attends Claremont McKenna College, where he is majoring in psychology and philosophy. “I plan to use this knowledge to create animated stories that can teach children better values and hopefully encourage them to be more accepting of others regardless of their ability to fully understand people who differ from them,” he writes.