Coming out as an atheist: an experience worth recounting

Coming out as an atheist: an experience worth recounting April 5, 2016

Written in cursive is the admission I leave my fellow lads,

That I have taken it:

The ‘STEP’.

–  Atheist Declaration’ by A K William

I quoted these lines from a poem I had written a few days after I declared Atheism – I was 18 years old at the time. I could have barely imagined the response: targeted verbal assaults, spiteful ill-conceived judgments and lastly, endless moral attacks. But nothing could prepare me for what I had to bear for having challenged my beliefs: loneliness.

It was really in those moments of loneliness that I understood what it meant to challenge society’s norms and stand up for your beliefs.
In Ghana, religion tends to be a significant factor that encourages close-mindedness. I was born into a Christian family where both my parents were devout Christians. I myself was an eager and relatively faithful follower of the Christian faith. It molded me into the calm and collected person I am today. I enjoyed the teachings of my Holy Bible, as well as the Bible discussions every Sunday. But it was during the summer of 2014 and years preceding then that really set my mind into questioning what I followed.
As I grew older, I grew more internationally minded, and so did my views on gay rights, infidels, and other religious systems with their stigmas. My religion condemned the very nature of being homosexual and the interacting of infidels with us. I grew more and more disheartened as I brooded over the lack of empathy shown by members of my Christian-dominated home, society, and school. I empathized, asking myself what if I was misunderstood like the freethinkers, what if I was “born gay”, what if I was Muslim- would I be able to bear the prejudiced treatment simply because of some other religious group’s belief?
From then on, my thoughts and beliefs no longer resonated with my childhood teachings. I spoke to close friends and teachers, asking for their thoughts and started sharing my views with them. It later became more apparent to me, that as I thought more logically, the concept of having absolute faith in God, irrespective of logical inconsistencies or doubts, was one I could not resonate with.
I continuously sought credence from the Holy Bible until I could no longer continue to ignore what I believed; I could no longer agree with the idea of a supreme deity, miracles, sin or the Final Judgment. It was only soon after my declaration that waves of my devout Christian classmates and family began to flood my presence with questions and reprimands.
It was a lonely journey from those moments on and upon reflecting on it, it has made me realize that the fear of change is only speculation: I still cared greatly about my integrity and honor as a student leader and prefect. I retained my good values and gained more purpose; I had a reason to stand up for those who were misunderstood by my society and speak out their views and opinions. I became more empathetic with those I had never understood and thus, became a more open-minded person to different kinds of people.
I made new friends, who shared my views and I became the voice of empathic reasoning among my schoolmates. I began speaking out against radical proselytizing by teachers and students in my school, and I realized that as I continued to stand for what I believed in, others were speaking out too. I felt like a true leader in those moments and I continue to be one today for the same causes.
Would I have taken this decision again: to declare Atheism and challenge my society’s bias? I actually would, because it allowed new perspectives to be voiced out in my school society: a society that has been changeless on its perspective on others for a long time.
Full poem below:
Atheist Declaration

Written in cursive is the admission I leave my fellow lads,

That I have taken it –

The “STEP”:

 

Atheist Declaration. The Power of Truth.

My eyes are so open; I’m no longer blind.

Bible verses no longer fuel

My ambition for solace;

Only life does now, since it’s worth living

Without engineered blinds.

 
“Capture the rest!” my mind tells me.
“Liberate their minds!” He commands.
I say no. Belittle their beliefs and mock the plights in their faiths.
I am free.
 

Thank you always for my education (growing up)

You’ve served me well; planted in me

A good and moral character.

 

But no longer shall you blind me.

I can see now.

After 18 years of blindness, I can see.

My fear is no longer to take another step blindfolded;

It’s to take another step with my eyes wide open.

And that indeed was the biggest step ever taken.

The biggest step, with my eyes finally open.

– A K William

A K William, 19, is a first year accounting student at the University of Kent. His interests are writing poetry, playing American football for the University of Kent Falcons and listening to artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Lianne La Havas and Duane Stephenson. William has launched his own blog, and can be contacted at ak.william96@gmail.com.

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