I’m okay. You’re okay. Not following religion is okay too.

It’s okay not to follow a religion, or to follow a religion. I’m okay, you’re okay, and not following a religion is okay too. No need to attach stigma, or a stigmata, to people based upon their choice to join, or not join a religion. As a Black woman, it’s often assumed, I am a church going, Christian following, cross wearing woman. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing those things, it’s just not me, and that’s okay. However, I don’t see spirituality, faith, philosophy, or following a religion, as mutually exclusive. I’m obviously no theology expert, I simply find the predication of following a religion, to being the foundation for family values, credibility, or goodness, a bit misguided. Human beings are capable of having a family with values (or without), and treating our fellow humans with dignity, or without dignity, sans religion. Not being religious does not diminish your “Blackness,” your identity, nor does it impact the magnetic pull on your moral compass. It does not mean you do not honor, and appreciate the foundational connection to the abolition of slavery, or the civil rights movement, nor does it mean you don’t respect the human need to belong, to love, to trust, or organize around rituals from a powerful narrative. It does not mean you do not respect that gratitude, fear, appreciation, or trauma, may lead one to place what is not in their perceived “control” into the “control” of something, or someone else, when science, or philosophy provides no relief. Humans typically prefer faith, hope, and optimism, over pessimism, cynicism, and despair. Not following religion does not yield you incapable of appreciating light in other people, nor block you from receiving light, or being light. It does not matter whether or not you say, “Have a blessed day,” or, “Namaste,” or, “Shalom,” or, if you say nothing at all. Following religion, or not following religion is not a barometer for measuring ones humanity.

Like many Black girls in America, I was raised in the church, went to services and Sunday school, yet as I grew up, I realized religion was something I didn’t authentically identify with. I felt connection looking up at a sky full of stars, or sitting in nature, I just didn’t feel a connection to religion, and I observed, not being religious, while being Black, was kinda frowned upon by Black people. It is unavoidable, that there will be folks, who look at you differently, as if religion, particularly, Jesus, is required for them to see you, period, end of story. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the lessons of kindness, and treating others as you would want to be treated, religion reinforced. However, religion didn’t teach me those things, my parents did, as did playing with kids in school, realizing it was better to play with kids who were kind, instead of being cruel, and knowing in my gut, to choose helping, over hurting. I understand the, community, a place of worship offers, and I also appreciate the, community, people create on their own, independent of religion, which is equally valuable. Full disclosure, gospel music is a permanent part of my DNA. Aretha Franklin singing anything, especially, Mary Don’t You Weep, resonates, Fantasia sang, Mary Don’t You Weep, at Black Girls Rock, and it gave me life. Marvin Gaye singing, God is Love, is joyful, and by the way, What’s Going On, might be the best album ever, (I realize music is still being made). The connective tissue of music with meaning, is good. It’s okay to be connected to a source of energy greater than yourself, to be humble in the universe, to be kind, to be of service, to do what’s right by people, and not be religious. Maybe in the chaos of blame, shame, and the, “I’m right, you’re wrong,” rolling carnival game, we should try being still, being mindful, call it meditation, call it prayer, or call it quiet connection without a screen, book, person, or building, call it whatever you want. Be still, just chill. I’m clearly no expert on quantum physics, however, I do know energy is real.

Whether a religion commands you to cover-up your face, or cover-up your flaws, no religion should command you to cover-up compassion. Likewise, if you are atheist or agnostic, there is no call for arrogance, demeaning religious people doesn’t make you superior. Sanctimonious sermons, serve no one. Perhaps people should try out religions, to see if it fits, before jumping in. For instance, if you are into sci-fi, maybe give Scientology a look, I hear it takes a deep dive into aliens, and space travel. If you are into herpetology, with a passion to get up close and personal with snakes, there’s a religion for you somewhere near a swamp, or Washington, D.C. Or, start your own church, apparently there are no taxes, so you could live like the Righteous Gemstones. Or, combine religions, in order to develop what works for you, a little of this, a bit a that, and viola: fusion faith. The incredible, Fran Drescher, is Buddhist and Jewish, she calls herself a BuJew, sounds good to me. Whatever you choose to follow, or not follow, don’t let it stifle your compassion, or curiosity.  I’ve noticed religions (again, not an expert), have a notable lack of comedy across the board. Well, at least intentional comedy, where all parties are in on the joke. Also, there’s a lack of women in upper management positions, religious org charts, don’t reflect females. Unless you count witchcraft, and they burned women at the stake for that. Again, I’m no authority on religion, hell, my favorite religious movie is, The Blues Brothers, Jake and Elwood were on a mission from God. Plus, the music in the film is epic.

Religion is used to excuse, and reinforce almost anything and anybody. Perverting religious power is hardwired throughout history to justify war, genocide, slavery, bad hair cuts, politicians, garish outfits, and profit. For Christ’s sake, slaves were given Bible’s with passages removed, in an effort to curb rebellion, and to reinforce “God’s” will, and the “belief,” that Black people were inferior, and needed to be saved, cue the white savior. Prior to being kidnapped, and forced into slavery, Black people were part of varied communities, with their own rituals, worship, and belief systems. All of that was wiped out, replaced with a convenient Caucasian version of Christianity. Religion is a shiny carrot to dangle in front of poor people, and struggling folks, with a faux promise of “riches or well-being,” to be granted, at a later date of course. Karl Marx wrote, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” Full transparency, I’m not a Marxist, nor have I tried opium, however, it does appear that rich people are continually pushing religion, as a deflection, from the out of control wealth gap. Now, I’m no theology expert (obviously) however, following a religion, or worship of a deity, doesn’t secure credentials for a person to be trust worthy, it is not a badge of entry for automatic acceptance, nor does it serve as a stamp of approval. Jesus Christ and Richard Nixon, were both Capricorns, talk about zodiac zaniness. Although, if you think about it, Capricorns are determined, ambitious, and goal oriented, so that tracks. We are humble souls on this enigmatic cosmic voyage, travel with humor, not hubris. And of course compassion, we won’t go far without compassion.

“The idea of the likes of Rush Limbaugh, or Donald Trump lecturing anybody, on family values. I mean, sorry but, one thing about my marriage is, it’s never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star after cheating on my spouse, with him or her. So, they want to debate family values, let’s debate family values, I’m ready.” Pete Buttigieg

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