Honorable mention — Persons of color essay contest: Evan Flemming
Rejecting religion to fully understanding life
By Evan Flemming
I have been liberated from religion for my entire life. Growing up, my family was very open. My mother is a spiritual but not religious woman. She was educated in the Catholic school/church (as were my grandparents). My mother is very open and understanding of others. However, she was the subject of scrutiny from “religious individuals” when she vocalized her support for abortion, birth control, divorce and freedom of sexual orientation. As a child, I can fondly remember stories my grandfather told of attending mass six days a week from the age of 6 through 18; and serving as an altar boy until he graduated high school.
However, upon graduation, he left the church. I always knew my grandfather was agnostic. He would say he could not believe what he did not see. Not subscribing to religion did not make him any less human. He was a good man. He was a reader, a researcher, an observer and a critical thinker. He taught me that everyone has differences (sexual orientation, disability/ability, color, race, ethnicity, language, socio-economic background, education) but those are not reasons to treat another human being poorly or subhuman. I learned that differences can unite people and learning about others can help build bridges.
From my observation, I feel subscription to religion is a hindrance to the pursuit of understanding the universe around us. For example, those who subscribe to religion believe that human beings came to exist according to “God’s will.” However, in truth, the answer is much more complex and far more reaching. The origins of our existence cannot be summed up by the utterance “because God made it so.” To make such a claim is belittling to the scientific evidence that provides an actual account of our existence.
Outside of the scientific realm, religion often serves as a broken moral compass, both socially and politically. Domestically, religion is routinely used as a defense for anti-abortion laws. Right now, the health and well-being of girls and women in America is being placed behind the personal beliefs of people who will never be affected by the laws they create. However, when the Founding Fathers created the United States Constitution, there was specific indication that there should be a clear separation between church and state. Internationally, one of the most controversial geopolitical struggles is taking place because of one group’s ancient claim to the “holy land” and another group’s understandable unwillingness to leave its livelihoods behind.
My rejection of religion and acceptance of humanism has helped me come to a better understanding of the world around me. I believe that unless someone teaches you to hate; natural instinct is to have love and compassion for fellow human beings, nature and the environment. I have the desire to understand the “how” and the “why” for everything that occurs around me — both physically and metaphysically. Instead of resigning my beliefs to an “all powerful creator,” I have chosen to interpret the universe and what it offers for me. I have rejected religion for a few reasons: I do not believe in what I cannot see (agnostic) and what I cannot prove through science; additionally, humans are ultimately self-serving and no matter how good the intention, religion is
used to control and manipulate people.
I believe in order to better engage people of color to become freethinking, the secular community should create meaningful dialogue. This dialogue should identify specific, tangible examples of how the past subjugation of our people as African-Americans was facilitated through the force of compliance to religion/Christianity and its exploits: slavery, segregation, physical and psychological abuse, lack of access; and how religion continues to support and reinforce this oppression. Ultimately, my wish is for people of color to become freethinking, by reading and researching the world outside of their bible.
Evan, 19, is from Atlanta and attends Fisk University as a biology major on a pre-med track. He would like to become anesthesiologist. He volunteers as a Student Ambassador, math tutor and works as a tutor for with a very large charter school in Nashville. In 2018, he began a paid internship at an anesthesiology practice.