I have a long history with religion.
I was Christened in the Methodist church in the late 70s. My baby pictures show the sepia tones of sunlight shining through stained glass windows on my family and little me at a beautiful ceremony.
My grandfather’s brother was a Baptist minister. I remember running around his church with my cousins, singing with the other kids, and starting to read an old Bible handed to me by one of the women of the church.
For a while, my mother was my Sunday School teacher at my grandfather’s Methodist church. It was one of the most consistent bonding moments of that part of my childhood, after my grandmother’s death. I grew to love Bible stories, and was a voracious reader. My young mind craved the concepts of good and evil, right and wrong, and the unconditional love of an omnipotent God.
When I was 11, we started going to a Southern Baptist Church. I was re-baptized by immersion, and through my teenage years was taught the Bible was a literal and direct message from God himself, homosexuality was a sin, along with a list of many others.
In college, I was on the Baptist Student Council. At one point, one of my ideas in response to a campus minister who angered half the campus by calling them names was to stand in the campus square and hand out Valentines from Jesus for Valentines Day. Yeah, if you were at Eastern Kentucky University in Spring 1998, that was me. I was also part of a ministry group, singing and acting at churches in the area.
I considered seminary, and was given the opportunity to speak at a very rural church in Eastern Kentucky. Before going, our campus minister prepared me; King James Version of the Bible only, men and women sit on different sides of the building, and they were likely all white. I spoke passionately, and seemed to be welcome, although I was likely the first black man to have spoken at that pulpit.
After college, I saw the rise of the megachurches and the strengthening of the bond of politics, money, and Christianity through the preaching of prosperity gospel and the war on terrorism. I was a voracious listener of conservative radio, and a frequent viewer of Fox News. I read Hannity, Savage, and O’Reilly, among others. I was surrounded by right wing ideology.
Over time, I lived in different cities, and saw how this affected me and the people I met, many who were on the fringes of the society I thought existed from my rural, small town. I always had confidence in the scientific method. I had found tenuous excuses to allow both conservative Christianity and scientific knowledge to co-exist.
Eventually, the cracks in my worldview began widening. I had never personally been homophobic, but I had seen how homosexuals were talked about and treated by fellow Christians throughout my life. I felt a kinship as a Person of Color, because for every Christian space I was in where LGBTQ+ people weren’t welcome, I knew not ten or twenty years before, I wouldn’t have been.
In 2007, I found myself trying to bridge the relationship of a fellow Christian coworker with several others, and I got to really look at our views from their perspective. Over the next few years, I noticed more of the hate, the anger, and the inconsistency of the modern Christianity I was a part of, and I tired of it.
At first, I thought, I would always hang on to Jesus. I thought even if the rest of the dogma, the conservative media, and the inconsistencies of words to action weren’t a part of my life, Jesus would always be.
A few years later, that thread too was gone, not by sin or denial, just no longer needed. I felt better. I felt free of the anger and mistrust of others and the world. I felt free from the dogma and expectations of a religion which seemed to have grown more out of touch with what I was experiencing.
I began to consider myself an atheist somewhere around 2010. For years I described myself as “spiritually inert”, and I embraced the world of engineering and knowledge around me. I found ethics which fit my already existing beliefs of equality, harmony, and peace through Humanism. I encountered a binary world of 1s and 0s, and made sense of it with what was available to me at the time. I got into a comfort zone, and I didn’t need to consider an intuitive, spiritual, or more complex universe than the material one I could see.
In 2016, I learned I had survived a heart condition which could have killed me at any moment my entire life. I’ve lived through being shocked with paddles in an emergency room. I’ve survived being awake while cardiologists burned extraneous electrical pathways on my heart.
In 2017, my son was born. The first week, I saw every family member I had loved in him. I felt them again, many for the first time in decades.
Processing these experiences I began to feel there was more than I was getting from my life the last few years. I had achieved success, money, and notoriety in my field. I found myself increasingly unhappy.
In 2018, many people already know my wife and I opened our marriage, dating separately, and I started practicing polyamory. About that time, I also became vegetarian, and began spending more time in nature, hiking, camping, and spending weekly time in the woods. These were the external changes.
It’s time to tell the story of what occurred internally and privately the last four years.