Acknowledging Myself as Atheist – a Memoir by Djenne Thomas

****The following piece is an adaptation from one of my 16 year old daughter’s class assignments. I was unaware of her choice to write about this subject until she told me. She received a grade of 95, and of course, being so please with the outcome, I asked her permission to share. The content has been slightly edited, but her ideas and thoughts come through loud and clear. Please share this with others who may be feeling the same way, but may have trouble with open expression.**** ~ Mandisa    


Its half past 10 and my mom and I are headed towards her meeting she has every 3rd weekend of the month, I gazed at the stagnant gray clouds and counted the number of black cars that passed. 24….25….suddenly, I see a license plate with peculiar text on it. “God loves me”.

 I paused. Bewildered, I turned to my mother.

“Hey, did you see that?”

“See what?” she asked.

I point towards the blue colored sedan.

My mom sighed, and I could only think that this is just another person looking for attention.

That was the starting point of what it meant to be a nonbeliever -or at least that was when I noticed. I remember a time when I felt like a rainbow colored fish in a dull black ocean. When I was five, I attended a private school named Romar Academy. It had a wide variety of activities, such as karate, piano, and dance. It had a friendly vibe in an overachieving learning environment. However, one thing stood out the most. At lunchtime, we couldn’t eat until prayer was done – which I never understood. So I waited until they finished, then hungrily ate my food.

 One thing I love most about my family is that we are skeptical. We love to question things that seem to interfere with the daily activities of others. We’ve also traveled many places – from the blue-green beaches of the Bahamas to the lively, spectacular city of New York. When we eat, we never pray over our food, nor is there any mention of any god at any given time (as a real being).

 2011 was the start of my mom’s group “Black Nonbelievers”. Taking from her childhood experiences of growing up Black Nationalist, being exposed to religion in various aspects, and questioning life in general, she developed an atheist group of her own. I support her by going to some of the meetings, and I have learned new things about her and what it means to be considered atheist.

 Recently, I saw a documentary called “Contradiction”. It is a movie about how religion affects African American culture. I taught me many new things. For example, during slavery, religion was used as a tactic to mentally restrain slaves. Like a box filled with colors, a dull world – religion – kept that box from being opened. But as I continued to watch, I realized that many other races have that same problem. After learning this, I was able to picture the transition that many cultures took when they were exposed to Christianity.

Transitioning to a new environment is never easy. You have to get used to new routines and people. When I transferred from public school from private, I noticed the students weren’t all Black or African American. And I felt happier as a result. Seeing people from different races and cultures made me feel completely comfortable with myself. Even now, I feel extremely apprehensive if I find myself surrounded by one race/culture in particular at any given time. Also, I find it hard to cope with not being able to get along with many of my fellow African Americans. It started as a joke, but I sat down one day and brain vomited all of my thoughts. Everywhere I looked, I saw some Blacks either committing themselves to a higher deity, or making a fool of themselves and being disrespectful in some way. I always wanted to know why these bad apples are shown in the media. But moreover, when I did make friends with other Blacks, something would eventually distance us – religious belief. When I told them I was atheist, they stopped talking to me. When I told them I was bisexual, they stopped talking to me. I find it much easier to talk with my peers from other races. In fact, more of them are atheist – just like me.

 In a world filled with extravagant things and adventures, I never thought too hard about religion. I accept people for who they are as long as they accept me for who I am. My mom is my role model. She is able to overcome obstacles head on, and still keeps a smile on her face – even when someone tells her to “go to hell”. Being an atheist to me isn’t worshipping the devil, or even saying things like “God doesn’t exist”. It means that I‘m an adventurer who is a skeptic and feels free. As I travel and meet new people, I question and explore whatever I want. And I expect a straightforward answer, and will never stop looking for my own.