Honorable mention — Persons of color essay contest: Camryn Beaco
By Camryn Beaco
I find it difficult to pinpoint the exact moment I stopped loving God, or, rather, when I stopped believing that there was a God. As a young African-American male, I grew up in a devoutly Catholic home. I attended a private Catholic institution in elementary school, and I was taken to church every Sunday. Essentially, I was born into family whose first priority was always a higher power. As I neared high school, I became more aware of the world around me. I began to question why an omnipotent being would allow his supposed children to suffer such unspeakably evil things every day, every month and every year. I’d turn on the news and hear about children starving in Third World countries; women being assaulted and punished; innocent civilians that look like me being gunned down in the street. I suppose one day I woke up and decided that, even if there is some sort of higher power that exists, I wouldn’t believe in that god.
I would identify myself as agnostic. I don’t presume to know any single one of the vast body of secrets our universe holds. I cannot wholly disprove or corroborate the existence of anything outside of that which I know. But I have made a choice to refuse to support or follow a being, real or not, that allows such evil to exist. I resent the Christian mantra that God’s ways are not our ways; to me, that’s irrelevant. Any truly good, all-knowing being would understand and sympathize with the abysmal pain experienced by millions of people on this planet every day, and it certainly wouldn’t view the pain inflicted as some sort of trial or test.
Being free from religion has allowed me to focus on the here and now, humanity and what I can do to improve lives across the globe. Instead of praying for marginalized communities and people, I donate, volunteer and try to make a difference with my own two hands when I can. I have unshackled myself from a life of turmoil, debating whether the God I used to believe in cares about its creations and waiting for a divine force to correct things I can improve myself.
As a person of color, I think it is imperative that the secular community better engage people of color. In all my life, I have met extremely few nonreligious African-Americans, and it’s been the same for other non-African-American people of color, as well. I think it’s important that those questioning in similar ways I have to understand that the secular community’s goal isn’t to disparage the higher power or powers they’ve believed in their entire lives. I find that those that are nonreligious that shame the religious tend to drive the questioning away. People are afraid of such an open rejection of what they’ve relied upon their entire lives.
I believe that the secular community can better engage people of color by demonstrating that the religious and secularist communities can, and do, have similar goals: the betterment of humanity. No matter what views we hold, we are all human beings that are entitled to the same respect and love.
Camryn, 19, is from Aurora, Ill., and attends DePaul University, with a double major in English and economics.