Eighth place (tie) — Persons of color essay contest: Adonis Logan
FFRF awarded Adonis $500.
By Adonis Logan
I grew up in Jamaica, an island with the highest number of churches per capita in the world. Like most children in a black Carribbean household, I went wherever my parents brought me, adopted their beliefs and never questioned much. Church every Sunday was obligatory. I will admit, I never saw anything wrong with my family’s devotion to church because that was the Jamaican cultural norm. My own liberation is synonymous to committing social suicide in the black community. Despite these obstacles, like never truly being free to discuss my beliefs, I continued to pursue my liberation and journey toward becoming a nonbeliever.
I am a nonbeliever because I seek to move from a mindset of faith and belief into a freethinking realm of reason and rationality. My journey becoming a nonbeliever had two major influences. The first came when I immigrated to the United States at the age of 10. The experience of switching countries was the catalyst my family needed to begin questioning religious norms. Within months of moving, my family became busy and generally uninterested in the practices of the church. After witnessing our faith deteriorate rapidly, I realized that without the weekly “religious re-ups” of going to church, practicing faith is synonymous with taking drugs. Both give you a temporary high that allows you to relinquish your problems, but in the end, neither gives you the comfort or answers you seek. Coming to this conclusion was monumental mainly because it led to seeking out my second major influence.
Thanks to my newly developed freethinking mindset, I wanted to understand why others didn’t reject religion, as well. During high school, I informally interviewed religious leaders in my community, attended an Anti-Defamation League conference and different religious ceremonies. In my quest to understand others, I became aware of an even greater issue. Most, if not all religious people that I talked to firmly believed that their beliefs were the “best.” They were highly critical of all other beliefs except their own. I asked each of them, “Do you think your religion limits followers from thinking for themselves?” As if reading from a script, they said something along the lines of, “I know there is only one God. My God is the greatest. He is a forgiving God that lets people do as they wish, and, if we do as he wishes, one day it will lead me to (promised land, heaven, anointment).” After the 10th encounter, I could nearly finish their answers for them. I was disappointed to see adults create a dichotomy between their fellow believers and people who believed other things.
These experiences opened my eyes to the possibility of thinking for myself.
Now, as a sophomore in college, I am not limited by arbitrary religious beliefs. I recognize religiously based divisions and witnessed the natural deterioration of my family’s faith. I find that I am drastically less likely to discriminate against someone. Considering the current political climate and the bombardment of bad news across most media outlets, now is the most opportune time for the secular community to engage with people of color. People are more likely to explore thinking for themselves when society seems unstable. For me, getting involved with the secular community is an opportunity to determine truth and morality through reason and evidence, instead of accepting dogma. Most individuals don’t even realize thinking for themselves is an opportunity they are missing out on. I urge the secular community to interact with people that wonder about existential questions. I find these people are the most receptive to hearing other ideas.
Adonis, 19, is from Boston and attends Centre College, where he is majoring in environmental studies. He was named the Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year in Boston and was awarded the Princeton Prize in race relations for the state of Massachusetts. Adonis writes: “My proudest accomplishment after completing my first year of college was receiving the Robert Dale Holmes Freshman of the Year award, which is given to a ‘member of the first-year class who, by the improvement of his or her work, diligence, and character, reveals most clearly the value of college training and the spirit of the college.’”