For many years now in my life as I have ventured to gain more knowledge of self, knowledge of my culture and history, and explore spirituality & religion; there has been an unspoken dichotomy forcing a choice to be an “intellectual” or a “sheep”. I have also observed that this can generate some shame, confusion, or outright feelings of hatred towards both religion and God, so I feel the need to address this.
Generally speaking 85% of us grow up with exposure to a religion in our households. Nine times out of ten being raised by the values inherent in that religion becomes a part of who you are raised to be. As kids we are all forced to do things we don’t necessarily want to do at the time (cleaning our room, eating our veggies, going to bible study, etc), and sometimes our level of distain for these things grows to a point that it creates resentment. For example, a child who grows to despise going to church because it is forced upon them as a requirement with very little explanation, and as they get older, they vow to separate themselves from this institution that has them bound. It can be that simple, a kid who just wanted to play video games on Sunday, or just wanted to play outside with friends on Wednesday’s instead of going to bible study, and that’s where the seed germinates. (My examples reference Christianity mainly because the majority of the U.S. population falls into that category.)
So then what happens as that seed takes root and the child grows? Separation from the traditions of church becomes an expression of their independence as a young adult. As they “become more grown”, they will also declare they have “outgrown” church, and/or that religion altogether. This is why you will see many young adults who transition from Christianity to Islam, referencing the fact that Christianity left too many things unanswered for them. Or, as a Black girl or boy growing up in America, race starts to become very real right around the time of adolescence if not before. Questions about a white Jesus, or where the Black and Brown people were during these biblical stories, or why catching the Holy Ghost is necessary when nothing about life’s reality seems to change as a result…these are questions that begin to form and depending upon the responses given and the conclusions drawn, the response can often lead to a need to look elsewhere for more.
In this seeking process, as young Black girls and boys there are more choices to be made. First off, in the quest for truth about OUR history, the fundamental golden rule in that journey is to erase 99% of what we are taught in school and question everything. Everything. This is fundamentally contrary to believing by faith. The quest for truth about our culture’s rich history of innovation, expansion, depth, complexity and the series of events that lead us to the present day, is mind blowing. Without exception it will ignite something inside that will burn fiercely. Anger is a natural response, among many others. Inevitably there will be an intersection with our history and religion as we search for answers, and it’s at this point we are often called to make a decision between truth or God.
Now this is the crux of the issue. The crucial point in this that is often overlooked is that God and religion are not one and the same. They cannot and should not ever be misconstrued as one contingent on the other. However the very nature of the institution of religion requires this to be true to ensure its survival. If you can find God outside of your church/temple/mosque, then why would you need them anymore?
On the flip side, as our journey around our history evolves and our intellect grows, the logic is appealing. Why lean on faith when you can apply logic? With logic you always find an answer. Like mathematics you only need to define the equation and solve it, there are no mysteries. There is comfort in that. But it gets slippery when you start to apply that logic to the mindset that decides to believe that God does not exist. We can see and understand all of the complexities of the human body and its intricate systems working without any conscious effort on our part. We can draw some conclusions on what makes these systems fail, which result in disease or death, but we cannot definitively identify what makes them run. What is it that keeps our heart beating instead of simply stopping without any precursory notice? Before we even delve into the millions of species of life that we live among on this planet, even just considering the human race. The amazing & wonderful things we can accomplish, seemingly all by ourselves. But how does one believe in all of the wonderful within all of us, without believing in the wonder that we derived it from? That same logic will force you to reason that all of this, was not and is not the result of an inconsequential “bang”. There is an over abundance of proof of that truth.
The answer is you can have both. You can be a highly intelligent, critical thinker, and believe in God. Any entity that shuts down your intellect, your ability to think and ask questions, discuss and debate, etc is not of God. If we weren’t meant to question and analyze we would not have the gift of reason. And ultimately yes, we choose (free will). It is my belief that we come from the pure essence of Love. God allows complete freedom including the right to never believe in its own existence! It is your choice, always. But my purpose is to make it known that it is not an either or choice. In fact it is very much both, if you opt to see it.
Love & Light to you.