Casualty of Conscience

When one’s views on religion are so far from the norm, relating to others and discussing the issue can be very awkward and uncomfortable. As someone who identifies as agnostic, I’m well aware of the fact that, in the larger scheme of things, I do not fit in with my species. There are roughly two billion Christians, one and half billion Muslims and one billion Hindus on this planet. So to say that people like me are a minority would be a severe understatement. When you consider the fact that I’m Black American, the situation becomes even more dire. My people are known for their religious devotion; we love us some Jesus! So sometimes I ask myself how I can bear it. The reality is that I am surrounded by people of faith. And I cannot-even among my loved ones-be straight up about my thoughts without fear of ostracism. That is part of the reason my blog is so important to me. When I write I can fully express the things that I cannot speak.

Facing my agnosticism has made me anxious. I worry about my identity. Religious issues aside, I’ve always stuck out in my community and have struggled with accusations of “acting white” or thinking I’m “better” than other Black people. Now deep down I know that such discussions are silly. I was born a Black woman and will die a Black woman; there is nothing I can do to change that. But I know my people, and they expect conformity. It ain’t fair and it ain’t right-but it is what it is.

Then there’s the other issue that worries me: dating and relationships. Post-apostasy every man that has approached me has been Christian or Sunni Muslim. Since I know that religion can be a major issue and I potential deal breaker, I have never led anyone on regarding where I stand spiritually. At the same time I respect the beliefs others and don’t antagonize or play devil’s advocate with them. So long as they don’t force their beliefs on me, I’m good. Long-term, however, I wonder about my  prospects.

With that said, changing my beliefs in order to conform to gain the approval of Black folks and/or be with a man is not something that I can do. For so many years I was not honest with myself. For so many years I pushed my questions aside. For so many years I performed rigorous mental gymnastics in order to keep myself within the fold. Looking back I see exactly why I stayed for so long, even when I wasn’t living according to the Scriptures. Not only was I afraid of  punishment in the afterlife, I feared it in this one as well. I feared being left out, ostracized and looked upon with distrust and suspicion. But as I stand here now, I am no longer enslaved to those fears. My conscience will never again be made a casualty to win the approval of others.

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A native Seattleite and recent East Coast transplant, I have been interested in politics, religion, and race from the day I saw “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on the bookshelf belonging to my BFF’s mom back in 1991. While my zealotry has thankfully diminished with maturity, I remain the deep thinking, passionate, and humble woman I have always been. I reside in the suburbs of NYC with my husband, daughter, and our two feisty but deeply loved cats.

5 thoughts on “Casualty of Conscience

  1. Props for sticking to you, because when there is one, he’ll be the right one. I’m confused by all the “Christians” that approach me wanting relationships with pre-marital sex. I thought abstinence until marriage was a part of the belief system?! So I wonder why it’s o.k. that they can’t “really” practice their religion, but if I openly admit that I don’t practice a belief system / believe in dogma then all of a sudden there is a problem. Hmm… Hypocrisy? Wish there was an agnostic dating site….

  2. Salina don’t even get me started! Really, the biggest difference between us and them is that we are simply HONEST about what we feel and think! Or as a bumper sticker I saw stated:”The difference between atheists/agnostics and Christians is that atheists/agnostics never feel guilty after having sex”.

  3. How you feel resonates with me, in a way. Being an Arab atheist, I often worry about how I will deal with the world once the ties with my (religious) family are severed. Religion makes up such a major chunk of my culture that, without it, what is left for me? Do I risk losing my roots and the support of my community for my views? Not a day goes by when I don’t contemplate the consequences of outing myself.
    Your blog inspires me so much. Keep it up. 🙂

  4. this is such an important post! having been brought up in a catholic family and considering conversion to islam for my Arab and Muslim bf I know where you are coming from. I’m agnostic now and I cannot imagine being with a very religious person.
    I find it hard at times to stick to what I believe in now cause it seems I could have it so much easier if I was a Muslim or Christian. But then again I’m sort of proud of myself for not trying to talk myself into sth that I don’t actually believe in.

    best of luck finding sb who is on the same page with you when it comes to religion 🙂

  5. Living in a country where the majority of people don’t really believe anything, you’re also stigmatized when you DO have beliefs (even/especially if they’re different from the majority).

    I see myself as Unitarian Universalist Monotheist something something and people around me get so uncomfortable because I believe in God, then the religious people around me get so uncomfortable because I’m not a Christian or a Muslim.

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