Friday, September 30, 2011

#23- Things Fall Apart

As a boy in Haiti I learned of the exploits of Christopher Columbus.  Our books were made by Haitians educated in universities that had European biases.  I learned that soon after the Europeans go to the Caribbean and the Americas people started dying in droves. I have a low opinion of Columbus and colonizers.  I see them as barbarians and evil.

Chinua Achebe
My English teacher in my senior year of high school assigned the book "Things Fall Apart" by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe.  This book was mind opening.  I learned of Nigerian culture right before the white Christian missionaries got there.  Once again when colonizers came life changed and people died.

This made me hate the process of proselytizing with a great passion.  This sentiment stayed with me and would go on to affect my thoughts on sharing my personal belief in Jesus.

As I got into church more there were always talk of sharing our faith with the "lost" of the world.  I found that to be highly arrogant and insulting.  I enjoyed diversity in culture, language and in thought therefore I wanted to preserve this.  Even though I knew there were different denominations and religions out there I sincerely thought that everyone knew of Jesus by now and would make up their minds to follow him when they were ready.  I also viewed God as omnibenevolent and I felt that He wouldn't punish people for ignorance or indifference.

The church used guilt to disarm me of my sentiments about telling strangers about my personal beliefs.  They used to say that "if I am ashamed of Jesus in front of men then Jesus would be ashamed of me in front of God".  They were mobilizing a street ministry team that would go and put their faith in action.  My stomach churned because I was afraid of being found out as a coward.  I didn't want to go on those trips and avoided them.  I felt that random talks with complete strangers was tantamount to those pesky Jehovah Witness weirdos that came around now and again.


The only mission trip that had my interest was the ones to Haiti.  This was because I felt like I could help my people directly by giving them the essentials of life.  At my church there was always the catch of promoting Jesus while helping the poor in Haiti.  I didn't like that but it was of no matter because I could not afford the cost of the trip.  Upon the return of those who went to Haiti there was always banter of people coming to Jesus and leaving the "satanic" ways of vodou.  I don't I would have done much other than sharing food and manpower during those trips.


#22- New Christian Cool

Now that I had accepted Jesus I slowly felt the need to make some changes in order to avoid being fake. I eventually stopped having sex as I made a vow of celibacy for 1 year with God.  I went to church more for me and less for friends.  The first few months away from girls were the toughest but it got better because I had bigger fish to fry.


I found a church that I found satisfactory.  I had visited this church previously when I was doing my rounds.  This was and probably is the largest Haitian church in Miami. The name of the church is Haitian Emmanuel Baptist Church.  Inside the building the church was divided into the older more "Haitian" crowd and the younger more "Americanized" crowd.


The older side had a rigid structure and was fabulously boring.  They were old school and were proud of it.  This is were the parents of the kids of the younger side did their "beniswa l'Eternel" or praise and worship.


The leadership were almost all exclusively old, austere men who exuded a sense of  the Haitian need to be in power.  The ladies were little more than garnishes.  Some of them wore the handkerchief on their heads and bleated the obligatory "amen!" when prompted.  


I attended service at the older side as much as I could because I thought I could hang with the French and Creole being spoken.  That church gave me a sense that my Haitian identity was waning and I was alarmed by that.  Moments into the sermon I would be choked by boredom.  Sleep clouded my eyes and questions cascaded down my brain as I wondered why it was that they did their business the way that they do.  There was a heavy dose of Haitian culture there and I knew that I could not get a good and straight answer from those stuff adults so I migrated to the youth side.

#21- Conversion Story

I still have that tract in my shoe box of memories
I repelled Pastor George's appeal to accept Jesus as my lord and savior because I needed time to think about it.  Time went on and it weighed on my mind.  I knew it was not something to be taken lightly.  I already believed in the god that my uncle told me about.  I had never prayed to him before but since he was omniscient and I was a really good person I figured it was all good.

Different things had happened in my life at that time and other things were beginning to happen.  At this point I was sexually active and I knew that sex was a dangerous endeavor.  I wanted to wait for the right girl but that was impossible with my body demanding pussy.  All in all I did feel bad enough about having sex and considered God in the mix.

I started considering the pros and cons of being a Christian.  I didn't want to be a Christian because Black people were only Christians because of the colonizers who influenced them.  But I slowly forgot about that and Jesus had gotten a face-lift.  I started to see Jesus as a sympathetic and pacifistic figure who wanted your best interest in life.

Somehow I got a hold of some Jack Chick tracts and started to read them.  I read them in my room and I was captivated by the one called "This Was Your Life".  At that time I decided to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior.  I did it then because I felt that I didn't do it in a pressured way and it was of my own free will.  I figured that it couldn't hurt and said the magic words...

"Dear God, I am a sinner and need forgiveness. I believe that Jesus Christ shed His precious blood and died for my sin. I am willing to turn from sin. I now invite Christ to come into my heart and life as my personal Savior."


Nothing special happened.  No angels.  No visions.  No fireworks.  I did have a sense of accomplishment however.  I could now call myself a "Christian".
Jack Chick (according to Google)


Thursday, September 29, 2011

#20- Christianity Creeps In 3



  Armed Forces


One day some military people came to our school to recruit and promote their branches.  There was a representative from the Army, Air Force, Marines, and Navy there.  I remember being impressed by their uniforms, especially the Marines one.

The Army representatives came to our class to speak.  I remember the lady being Hispanic or mixed and being very attractive.  I focused on her almost exclusively.  She told us about how nice Germany was and that they made a lot of money, got 30 days paid vacation, and that we could buy nice cars.  She spoke in a way that insulted my intelligence because she focused on material things that she thought would attract high school students.  I wanted to know more about the day-to-day life of a service person because of the very real possibility of going to war.  The dangers or negatives of military service were conveniently omitted.

It was due to that presentation that I started to think about heaven.  The military recruiters represented the same government and got paid the same money (depending on rank and time of service etc.) and yet were trying to outshine the other for best place to sign our lives to.

For some reason I used that as an analogy to religions.  Muslims, Christians, and Jews (I barely knew much about the 1000s of other choices out there) all claim to have the path to God and heaven.  They were willing to disparage each other but yet there was only 1 God who was super loving and knew all things.

Was there one truth or way or multiple ways to heaven?  Something was up.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

#19- Christianity Creeps In 2

1.  Real or Fake?


People are accustomed to giving religious people special treatment.  Whenever someone styles themselves as churchgoing or a person of god people see that as a virtue or a valiant goal.

I was in the midst of dealing with Christianity in High School.  My image of Jesus had been tamed to one of a hippie.  Christians sold their message as one of peace, love, and forgiveness all of which was groovy and agreeable.  I thought that I was around churches and church folks enough to get the gist of their message and beliefs.  Even though I wasn't a Christian I had no fears because I strive to be good and my reputation was sterling.

The leader of the school's Bible study group was a classmate of mine.  He was mature and was highly respected for his overt religiosity.  One day he confided in me that he was in fact a pervert who preyed on girls when the opportunity presented itself.  This was no surprise except for the coolness in which he told me.  I, and most of the boys, were always under constant pressure to get ass so this was not super surprising.  I had fallen into the trap of thinking that Christians were above "worldly" things.  This had happened before when I spotted two friends of mine emerging from a bedroom noticeable disheveled from sexual shenanigans.  This couple was active just after we had come from church.  The girl passed herself off as holy and I drunk the cool aid for a while because she was in the choir etc.

2.  Science vs. Christianity


Having suffered a tough break up the summer before my junior year I was looking to bounce back strong.  I became interested in a beautiful girl who's best friend was interested in me.  After I straightened out the confusion I pursued my interest with reckless abandon.

The young lady was the daughter of a pastor and very religious.  I remember discussing dinosaurs and science with her.  She vehemently opposed what I was telling her and I was shocked how someone in High School could not have be aware of these science facts and notions.  The ones she knew about she dismissed in preference for the Bible stories.

Because I wanted to win her I went to church with her to see what the big deal was.  Her church was lively with all the pomp and circumstance of a classic Haitian Baptist establishment.  Things got interesting when I went to a Sunday school type group and expressed my views on things.  The people made me feel alien as if they had never been schooled in what I was telling them.

Pastor's kids were infamous for being the most degenerate of believers at that time.  It was due to the high pressure of living up to the standards of their parents and family.  I was on my best behavior for as long as I could but I wanted see if I can see the "wild child" in her.  There was none.  We never dated but that trial did leave its mark.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

#18- Christianity Creeps In

Pastor George offered me Jesus in front of my house and I did not shake his hand.  I didn't do it because it was the kind of decision you make casually and I knew it was an emotional buy.  He succeeded in reforming Jesus' image to one of a good guy.  In fact I thought of Jesus as a hippie.  He was what people refer to today as a "bleeding heart liberal".  That term is supposed to be an insult but at the time that's what I thought of Jesus: as a kind dude.

1.  Proctor and Gamble

Satan's Corporation



One day when I was an upperclassmen, I was given a flyer by a member of a Bible club that met in school.  They met in one of my teacher's room who was a pastor.  It stated that the president of Proctor and Gamble had declared that he is a member of the Church of Satan and that Christians could stop him. The president of P&G supposedly appeared on the Phil Donahue show and boasted about this.

I went home to examine the list of goods made by P&G to see if I could do without them.  To make a long story short P&G made everything and I could not see myself telling my parents to go without those goods.

P&G is second only to China in making stuff.
The reason that I even cared even though I wasn't a Christian is that my uncle had told me of the Devil or Satan and I had accepted the concept of duality without critical thinking.  When it came to Satan the only clue that I had that something was not as they preached was when I read the beginning of the Genesis story for my self.  God didn't want Man to eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which would cause the first humans to become like gods.  Apparently that's all it took to be godlike.  But what caught my attention was how it was the snake (or Satan) who encouraged inquiry and I understood the metaphor of Adam and Eve's eyes opening up once they ate the fruit.  They became ENLIGHTENED!!!

But I thought "Wait a minute.  God wants people to stay dumb?!"

He does't look so evil, right?
My mother pushed education as the premier thing in life and here is Satan, who is supposed to be the acme of evil, encouraging humans to be smart and be inquisitive.  Satan (the snake) even bested God when he told them that they would NOT die when they ate the magical knowledge fruit.  To add insult to injury, the tree with the antidote (Tree of Everlasting Life) was within reach and God kicked out the first couple for being curious.
Humans came from Africa yet Adam and Eve are white.

#17- High School Phaze 4

I learned that men and dinosaurs did not exist at the same time in school.  The Bible fails to mention dinosaurs in the creation story.
I knew just enough science to be dangerous.  In middle school my science teacher blew my mind by telling me that human beings just recently arrived on Earth relatively speaking.  He pointed to the clock on the wall and said that if the world was a 24 hour clock we've only been here for 5 minutes.  I also noticed the glaring lack of attention paid to dinosaurs in the conversation of churches and holy books.


During my tour of churches I went to a place where they played a dystopian movie that freaked me out.  It was all about the end of time Bible-style.   It was the first time I encounter notions like "Anti-Christ", "mark of the Beast", and "rapture".  There was a feel that these events were either happening now or would soon happen.  Even worst is that we couldn't do anything about them or that these things were supposed to happen in order to Jesus to come in the last minute to make it alright.


At this point in my life I was a believer in God by default because of the exposure given to me by my uncle in Haiti.  I liked the idea of an all loving god and could accept the notion of an evil counterpart who was always player-hating on the good people.  Duality permeated the movies and writings of people so I thought nothing of it.  Not to mention that since it came from my beloved uncle it was good as true.  I felt that my uncle knew it all and that he would not intentionally mislead me.


All I knew was that God was the ultimate good and was a friend and protector of those who did good deeds.  I was a good person so I had no fears or problems.


Pastor George was the first person to shove Jesus down my throat.  I never thought about why people were obsessed with Jesus when it was obvious that God superseded him.  Pastor George emphasized that I had to accept Jesus as my "Lord and Savior" in order to go the heaven.


My thoughts were as follows:


Maybe he wasn't so bad after all.
1.  I was already a super good person.
2.  I knew all about God from my uncle.
3.  Jesus?  You mean that white man that Malcolm dissed in jail?
4.  There was no way for God to be "good" and send me to "hell" at the same time.
5.  Damn this guy is pushy about his Jesusness.


The damage was done.  I started to imagine Jesus as a poor victim of circumstance.  I heard about the common descriptions of Jesus and I started to see him as a good guy in the cosmic war of Good vs. Evil.

#16- High School Phaze 3

My Islamic faze waned slowly but I continued to listen to Hip Hop.  Mobb Deep was instrumental in me acquiring the New York accent and a new found "swagg" that finally put me on the High School map.

It does look like he is naked!
I still visited churches now and again including the church that would eventually become my home church in the near future.  I hung out at churches mostly to be with friends and to hunt for fresh leads in the never ending chase for booty.

There was a famous couple from school that I befriended that had a penchant for church.  Though they were active the girl was able to put on an austere face when needed.  I went to church with them out of the normal boredom and curiosity that usually plagued me.  It was at that church that I met their pastor.  His name was Pastor George.

Pastor George was an older man who was considered a "spiritual father" to my couple friends.  He was the kind of guy who'd pick you up at 3 am from some corner with no questions asked.  He was from one of the Caribbean islands, wore thick glasses, was balding, and had a unique accent.  He played the electronic piano at church and exuded passion for his work.  It was true what my friends said about him; he was a true nice guy.

As nice as Pastor George was I didn't want to be in a room alone with him.  I'm not sure if I was aware of priest molesting boys yet but I was made aware of how religious zealotry made friendships awkward when the other party does not share the same view or level of passion.

Pastor George came to my house to pick me up from my house and that is where he started to put on the pressure on me to convert when he found out that I wasn't devout.


Waste of trees. 
Even as a youth I enjoyed verbal sparring.  When Jehovah's Witnesses came around I remember how they were shunned and avoided like the plague.  They looked like weirdos but I engaged them to find out their angle.  One encounter featured a young girl who dressed in those dreadful clothes.  After the adults gave me their cartoon pamphlet I turned to the girl and asked her if she really wants to do this door-to-door work or would she really want to do something constructive and near her age.  Her eyes screamed to be rescued and she could not tell me her feelings because the adult stared down at her ominously.

Pastor George was so nice that I felt guilty for wanting to speak up and tell him how the white man brainwashed him etc.  But by that time I was less angry at "The Man" because I recognized that most of that kind of talk was racist banter by the Nation of Islam type of people.  I gave Pastor George as much attention as I could muster.  What got to me the most was his sincere fear that I was going to hell if I didn't accept Jesus.

Monday, September 26, 2011

#15- High School Phaze 2

Georgia Boys


1.  Jesus es mi amigo


My amigo Steven was a childhood friend who moved to Georgia with his family.  I went to visit him one summer and he went all Jesus Freak on me.  He told me about how his life went wayward and that Jesus had fixed him good.  I remember how passionatley his spoke about his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I was like "whatever floats your boat, man".  I was intrigued about what happened that he ran into the arms of the oppressor's god.  I didn't spend time going into the evils of the religion because it seems like it would break his heart.

People like Steve tend to make others uncomfortable sometimes.  His parents weren't very religious so when the coast was clear I sheepishly asked his mom how she felt about the conversion.  She was very wary of the church and didn't feel comfortable about his new faith but they were supportive nontheless.

2.  Maximus


If I ever had a big brother it would have to be Max.  I met Max one summer during a visit to Atlanta.  He was super cool even though he was a few years older than me and took me everywhere.

My aunt took me to a church in a remote area one day.  It was a Saturday and these people had service that day instead of Sunday.  This was my first contact with Seventh Day Adventists.  The seem stricter than your average Christian and were enamored with the Sabbath.

One afternoon while tagging along with Max, we stopped by a home of a friend of Max.  I was left in the living room and I noticed that the TV was off so I turned it on in order to pass time.  Max came back and chastised me for turning on the TV not because I was being rude or forward but because it was the Sabbath.  I was baffaled by his displeasure but the TV went off.  I think I decided then that some people took their religion way too seriously.  I wasn't sure if the SDA were a nefarious cult or what but I couldn't figure out how a cool guy like Max would be down with such strict rules.

#14- High School Phaze

King David's namesake


My mother was pregnant with my youngest brother as a freshman in high school.  I volunteered to look up some names and pick a strong Black name fit for a god or a Black king.  I checked out a book of baby names from the library and perused it.  It was segregated by sex, origin, and meaning of names.  I was delighted to find out that my name registered as:

REGINALD (German)- "Advisor to the King; mighty; powerful"

I already knew my last name meant "Beloved" and that gave me all types of pride.  It was my destiny to be a powerful leader who was beloved!  This was bittersweet because I wanted to ditch my "slave" name and don a more appropriate African/Muslim name.  I felt both proud and guilty about keeping my name but since I didn't official convert yet I figured I'd be ok.

I wanted to call my brother "Shabazz" or "Rakim".  I called him that while in the stomach trying to get my mother to buy into the idea.  Those names were bitter in her mouth and she predictable jeered me for it.

She eventually settled on the name "David" based on the Bible.  I was livid.  She couldn't have chosen a more plainer name and she chose a name from the book of our oppressors.  I protested as much as I could but it was of no use.  My mother had never read the story of David but was satisfied that he was a king and a popular character in the Bible.

She added insult to injury by baptizing him in a Catholic church per tradition even though she'd been frequenting Protestant Baptist establishments.

#13- Middle School Muslim 4

Noble Drew Ali

Christianity was spread by violence and treachery when it came to my people the Haitians so I wanted no parts of it.  Malcolm stood up to "The Man" and told him to his face that the image of Jesus as a white man was fubar.  There was an underground movement of Muslim activity that I wanted to be part of.  If Islam was good enough for El Hajj Malik El Shabazz then it was good enough for a young "god" like me.

Wu Tang Clan
Wu Tang Clan were just getting started.  Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest, and others were kicking vicious vernacular my way.  They used words like "kid", "god", "Earth", "cypher", etc. that had my mind spinning.  I hungered for this new funky esoteric super Black knowledge.  It turns out that a lot of people from New York were influenced by some for of teaching by the schools of Noble Drew Ali and the Moorish Temple Science.  Of course I didn't know that at the time but it was very appealing since I couldn't rebuke Luigi's cool knowledge and facts.

Middle school is also when I learned that Haitians had options in the religion market besides Christianity and Voodoo (the proper term is Vodou).  I met my first Jew in elementary school and he seemed cool.  So I was developing a new awareness of the diversity of thought all around me that was never thought to me by my parents and other influential outlets.


Decision Time
Noble Drew Ali in the middle of some Moors

I remember not being the only one who was considering converting or following or learning this Black religion.  A girl named Sandrine considered converting.  That was important because there was a rumor that Islam was harsh on the ladies and I was a latent feminist.  Islam spread to all different parts of the world including to North Africa.  Word on the streets was that they did it through violence.  I was unable to confirm or deny these allegations but the combination of female subjugation and proliferation via violence kept me from exploring further.

#12- Middle School Muslim 3

Ms. Shreier was a gutsy broad by today's standards.  Teachers today can't teach or show what I was exposed to it seems.  Even though she was Jewish she was the person who showed us life altering movies such as "Malcolm X" and "Schindler's List".

After I same Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" my life found purpose.  I thought that Malcolm was me in a previous life. I still think of him as my role model.

Luigi's words were upsetting but so was the movie.  The White man was the devil.  There was proof even in his HIS STORY books.  My Haitian people suffered from him and so did the Indigenous people of the Americas.

I got into Wu Tang Clan and other Hip Hop artists.  I used to read the booklets that came with the CDs and tapes and noticed that most of them gave praise to "Allah".  It was then that I contemplated becoming Muslim since it was evident that I was not to follow the White man's devilish ways.

There was a super Christian nerd named Victor who I berated and gave him all types of hell for being Christian.  Victor was not all innocent; he burned all his older brother's rap tapes because they were "of the Devil".

Victor had not good answer for me when I asked him why he was worshiping a White Jesus when he knew that the White man was evil incarnate.

Word came down that some other kids had converted to Islam.  I remember this girl that I wanted to holla at said that she was considering becoming Muslim and that pushed me over the edge.

Right before I consider seeking how to take the Shahada I wondered how my mom would take the new radical me.  I tried to tell her that the White man played a dirty trick on us but she was having none of it.  She permed my sister's hair around the time I saw Malcolm X and I told her that it was not our natural stay and that we were brainwashed to wanna be White.

Whispers arose about how Islam was spread by violence and that they subjugated women so I decided on holding off on my conversion until I investigated this fully.  I wanted to be like Malcolm very badly but even he was fooled so I wanted to rep this new me with right knowledge should I decide to convert for real.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

#11- Middle School Muslim 2

NEWS TO MY EARS

Hip Hop or rap was all the rage in the mid '90s.  There was no way to avoid it.  If you wanted to be cool you had to be up on the latest lingo, codes, clothes, news, artists, dances, etc. or risk being on the fringes of cooldom.

Somehow I got my mitts on a Snoop Dogg "Doggystyle" album.  I probably listened to in on a "Walkman" that played "tapes".  Anyhow that album is the shiznit as you are well aware but it robbed me of a bit of my innocence AND I LOVED IT!!

Snoop told us about "punk ass niggas", "bitches", "hoes" and "tricks".  This was news to me because I was raised to respect people in general especially women.  But apparantly there were a scandalous breed of females out to get me and Snoop was serving notice to watch out for them.  This is why Hip Hop was considered the "Ghetto CNN" because that album transported me into a dangerous world that I could escape by removing my headphones.

EASTER CHOCOLATE BUNNY

I love chocolate.  I was also greedy.  When Easter came around my 7th grade English teacher Ms. Schreier

NOTE:  Ms. Schreier was Jewish.  Keep this in mind for later ;-)

 passed out small chocolate eggs to all willing students.  The guy behind me tapped me on my shoulders.

"Hey, you want my eggs?"

"Hell yeah!"

I am now ashamed at the speed I devoured those pellets of sugary goodness.  As I binged I remember the look in his face.  He had a smirk like he was watching a freak show.  His name was Luigi and he was one of the cool kids.  He told me that he didn't celebrate Easter and that's why he gave me those eggs.  I knew Luigi was Haitian and all Haitians were some sort of Christian so what gives?

"I'm Muzzlem" said Luigi

"You're a what?"

"I'm a Muslim" he repeated.

He then told me that the "White man" took my ancestors from Africa, beat the shit out of us, raped us, and we took on his name and his religion, Christianity.  He asked me why am I worshiping a god that didn't look like me.  I had no answer.  Everyone knew that Jesus was white.

(At this time I didn't know too much about Jesus other than he was a super-pacifist Hippie and he was WHITE)

Even when I read my first books with now illustration as I child I always pictured the characters as White by default.  I didn't know I was a mental slave at that time.

#10- Middle School Muslim 1

History= HIS Story

Middle school was all about survival and attaining rank with peers.  It is a time of self discovery.  It was around that time that I began to use profanity and wanted to give away my virginity as if it was a burden.

2 teachers left an impact on me for the purposes of the blog.  Mr. Butcher (I think that's his name) was a history teacher and was teaching us about the American Revolution in New England.  To make a long story short the British got their assess handed to them by a bunch of... insurgents.

I was one of the few people who was paying attention to the lesson and a question popped into my head:

"What are the British 8th graders learning right now since the story involves the 2 countries?"

Mr. Butcher calmly told me that the English tell a WHOLE DIFFERENT story when it comes to how they lost the American colonies.  He told me that ALL HISTORY books are like this.  For some reason I thought of the Bible in my head.

"ALL HISTORY books?" I repeated.  "ALL HISTORY books" he confirmed.

That messed with my brain in a good way.  I came from Haiti and wondered what the French told their kids about us.

#9- The Neighbors 2

Right across the street were a family with 3 boys.  David, Michael, and Teddy were boys that I played street football with whenever the opportunity presented itself.  Their parents were a bit on the strict side.  I remember noting that the mother looked older than the dad.

Their family went to church almost everyday.  Our fun games would be interrupted by Bible study or some trip to their local church.  I remembered how their body language and facial expression would change as the hour approached for these ecclesiastical chores.  I felt a weird vibe from them because I never met people who went to church as frequently as they did.

I didn't know it then but I think they were either Jehovah's Witnesses or Seventh Day Adventists.  Michael addressed the Jewish god as "Jehovah" and loved to bring up "logic" when we argued on the streets about football.  It was then that I found out that I loved arguing, knew I was good at it, and even knew I was cocky at it.

In my opinion and experience one should take it easy on a humble opponent but Teddy and Michael talk just as much trash as I did and I loved to destroy them in football and in verbal combat.  At any rate I never ventured into their religious world because of the type of people they were.  I seems like their parents thought that they were "good boys" and were fully oblivious of the deviousness of their characters.

I mention their possible denominations because I was still under the impression that everyone worshiped the same God, feared the same Devil and were pretty much all Christian.  Boy, was I wrong!

#8- The Neighbors

The Episcopalians


My immediate neighbors attended a church called St. Paul Episcopal.  I liked the place because they served food after service.  The place had a few teens and a low population of eligible girls to pick up.  So I was restricted to paying attention and waiting it out for the grub after the sermon.

The Episcopalian crew is Catholic-Lite in my humble opinion.  The pastor was a super boring man with the most monotone voice ever.  Since he was the leader he literally set the tone to the place and that meant that I had to find some refuge to the mind numbing boredom to choked me.  One day I actually stopped daydreaming to notice the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis.  The first couple where prohibited from eating from the Tree of Knowledge.

That blew my mind because it seemed like God did not want us to gain knowledge.  This was disappointing since I loved to learn.  Little did I know how right my suspicions were.

Happy faces and boring places
I was especially captivated by the incense that was constantly being flung around.  It smelled good but I had never seen that done before and I wanted to know the purpose of it.  I think I asked but I discovered that 90% of what was done at that church was done because of tradition and that was enough to quell the curiosity of the parishioners.  I was in the midst of a bunch of automatons.  I remember staring at the pastor from afar as he smoked his cigarette.  I tried to guess how a man can be so dreadfully boring.  His smoking bothered me because I assumed that as a "man of God" he should represent good health habits.  His carcinogenic habit made me suspect that he had troubles he was dealing with.

#7- Adolescent Years

After Haitian Baptist


I think my mother eventually got the drift and stopped attending the booji Haitian church.  We kinda bounced around the church scene for a while.  If you were wondering about my step-father I will tell you what happened to him.  He is Catholic and remains that way-at least in his mind.  He NEVER went to church with us and that was OK because he is such a sour puss but I didn't understand how much the denominational differences had something to do with it.

One Easter holiday I was in the kitchen rummaging for food when I asked my mother for a dish with meat in it.  My step-father who behaves like a neanderthal grunt dinosaur snarled that it is "Good Friday" and eating meat was not permitted.  He said it with a threatening tone as to not be crossed.  I remember looking up at my mother and thinking:

"What did the barbarian just say?"

She explained that in the Catholic tradition believers were forbidden from eating meat during the 3 day Easter celebration.  A few things were of interest to me at that time:

1.  Why do they call it "Good Friday"?  A man, Jesus, was beat up in the most egregious way and they considered this GOOD?  I had a vision of me going back in time with to belts of ammunition strapped across my chest Rambo-style and laying waste to the Romans as they attempted to beat up Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild.

Note:  I had not read the Bible at that point.

2.  I wasn't Catholic so why could I eat meat?  He never went to church with us and I had some appreciation of the difference between Catholics and Protestants and having been unwittingly transformed to a Protestant I naturally...protested.  I started to realize that there were more differences between the two sects then I realized.  My step-father used to hang crosses made from palm tree leaves on his rear view mirror.  I guess he got them at his local Catholic church because I knew him to be a man of few talents.

My mother and I went to different churches.  I would have stretches where I'd stay home and watch my siblings.  She was tired of having to march the herd to church and would often go solo.  This was great because I had become an avid fan of that game that my parents once described as "sovage" (savaged)-American Football.

Eventually I would meet people who would invite me to different churches and I'd go to keep from dying of boredom, avoid watching my siblings or escape chores.  My mother didn't really care and that was great because it gave me some great exposure to different church cultures.

# 6- Hurricane Andrew

Before Katrina there was Andrew.  Days before the storm that would eventually flatten much of South Florida hit our neighborhood the news stations were busy alerting the public on the latest closings, shelter locations, and evacuation plans.  As the threat approached my mother got the brilliant idea to go to church.  I was beside myself in wonder of how she could think of such a thing while the monster storm approached.  I did my best to explain the gravity of the situation but she would have none of it.

As I rode the church bus I contemplated running away to my elementary school which was turned into a shelter. I saw myself being interview as "the brave boy who escaped a fundamentalist home in the nick of time to make it into safety".

I remember clearly how State Road 7 was so "blanche" (vacant) that I wagered that I could have taken a 2 hour nap unmolested.  Upon arriving at the church we were swiftly given our share of dried goods and can stuffs.  It was in one of these brown bags that I came to know that delicious cereal otherwise known as Cinnamon Toast Crunch.


I was gripped by anxiety so I don't remember much of the afternoon but I'm pretty sure that rounds of prayer and adoration were done after the food was dispensed.

Once back home I did my best to prepare.  My mother cooked and my step-father announced that he would be working at the hospital that night and would not spend the storm with us.  I spent the afternoon and night transfixed on the television until the power went out.

When we woke up in the morning and opened the door it seemed like the storm to every sliver of cloud with it.  The sky was peculiarly naked.  There was some damage in our neighborhood but the storm flattened the town of Homestead.  Hurricane Andrew was at that time the costliest storm in US history.

#5- Coming To America

Switch to Protestantism

My family and I emigrated from Haiti to the USA permanently in 1988.  Needless to say we had a lot to get used to.  I had to go to school where my superior education was retrofitted based on my age and not my skills.  My English was at a survival rate.  I desperately wanted to fit in the American culture as soon as I could.

My friend from across the street attended a local church and I went to summer Bible school with him.  It was more of a camp really and I barely noticed the indoctrination.  I mention this only because of my mother's lack of reluctance in letting me hang out with my new friend.  She was very protective of me and promoted a strong "us against the world" sentiment because adjustment was harder for her than it was for me.  As a parent today I would let my kids go to a church camp only under my watchful eye.  I want to make sure I know what they are attempting to teach my girls.

For whatever reason my mother started to attend protestant churches.  One church had a pastor who was a great orator and reduced me to tears after giving the audience an incredible guilt trip about sin.  I wept sincerely and I remember my mother being surprised at how I was moved.  She has always had a hard time understanding that I was very clever and understood that which was around me most of the time.

Snobby Haitians of Broward

My mother started to attend a Haitian Baptist church in Broward County.  I remember seeking out peers to do what boys do at church; talk about and trade video games.  I remember being picked up by the church bus to be broght to the campus in what seemed like an affluent neighborhood.  I was smitten by Broward County because the neighborhoods seemed nicer and the Haitians more, well upperty.  

It was there that I noticed the architectural and procedural differences between my experience with the Catholic church in Haiti with my uncle and the buildings of Haitian Missionary Baptist Church.  I was assigned to a Bible study class before the main service and I excelled at it.  I was perturbed by the low level of intellectual engagement the class presented but I was happy to be around fellow Haitian peers to see how much I fit in.  One girl caught my eye but I know it was in poor taste to holla at her at church.  She drew my attention because she was smart, articulate, and was noticeably the teacher's pet.  I undertook to surpass Ms. Smarty Pants and started to pay attention to the readings.  The stories were mundane but I did notice the word "Shittim" in the Bible.

I had been particularly good around those times so I was very excited to learn that they would be giving the holy wafer to the faithful that day.  As the holy wafer and deminutive cups of red stuff came closer to my row I was squrimming with excitement.  I could finally take part in the ritual guilt-free withought worring about the cracker turning into a blade.  As the container of the cracker was about to reach me the usher skipped me and didn't allow me to partake.  I was also passed on the holy drink.  When I inquired for the reason that I got snubbed I was told that "I was not old enough" to partake in the festivities.  Keep in mind that this ritual is suppose to represent eating corpse and drinking blood!!!

My lovely rival received her full compliment of cracker and juice.  I was FUCKING PISSED!!!  I read between the lines and saw through the favoritism that is pervasive in the church institutions.  I was just as good as her in all manners of the word and I was rejected.

The Blood of Jesus
I excused myself from the assembly dejected to make my way to the rest room.  I passed by a door that was slightly ajar.  It was the kitchen of the church and the place where the holy cracker and red stuff was prepared for distribution.  To my great surprised that "red stuff" that I longed for was none other than Tropicana Fruit punch and the cracker resembled something from a convenience store.

I was puzzled at why they made these items to be such high fetishes.  I was still irate at those people for blatantly disrespecting me but at least I new I could enjoy the "blood of Jesus" for a few dollars and cents at my local supermarket.

This is how my mother and I switched to what I later understood to be Protestantism.  I doubt that my mother really knows the difference or cares.  At that point of my life I figured that Jesus was Jesus and that everyone in the world were some version of Christian and that is all that mattered.

It was at that point that I thought I started to hear "the voice of God".  The people of that church where the phoniest I've seen in a long time.  They pretended to be friends but exuded such a foul energy.  I was unable to tell my mom such things because she made herself go to her Happy Place while at church.  I doubt she'd give me the time of day.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

#4- Frequently Asked Questions

1.  When did I become an atheist?
     
>August of 2009

2.  Do I hate God?

>No. I don't believe in a god. Yahweh is the deity that I am most familiar with and he is evil by deed and word.

3.  Am I afraid to go to hell?

>No.  Hell was one of the first concepts that I let go on my way to freedom.

4.  Was I a Christian?

>Yes.  I said the magic words (sinner's prayer) when I was about 17.

5.  What does my parents think?

>  My mother thinks I'm crazy.  Actually she said I changed ever since I came back from the war.  I guess for her it is a matter of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

6.  Am I afraid for my safety?

> Yes.  The more face time I get the more likely I will draw the attention of some zealot.

7.  What does my partner think of my atheism?

>  She likes it.

8.  Did you really try to understand the Bible?

>  Yes.  It isn't not hard to understand.  I had the Student Bible and it was a piece of cake.

9.  Did you read the entire Bible?

> Pretty much.  I highly recommend it.  It will make more people atheist.

10.  Did you read the entire Qur'an?

> Yes.  I was challenged by a friend and accomplished it around March 2010.

11.  Where do we come from? How did life begin?

> We are still trying to figure those things out.  We have made great progress towards the answers however.  Take a good science class and you will learn a lot.  I recommend Geology.

12.  How do you feel about evolution?  How do you feel about voodoo?

>  Evolution is a fact.  Voodoo use to scare the shit out of me.  Now I see it as just another religion.

#3- The Good, The Bad, The Dezod

Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time!. . . But He loves you!

Church Service

If there is one man that I worshiped it is my beloved Mon Oncle "Manno" (Uncle Manno).  He took great care and even though he whooped my ass when I did wrong I never doubted that he loved me.

One Sunday I went to a Catholic Mass service with my uncle.  I remember being in total awe of the church.  The stain glass art was arresting and the church exuded a calm awe.  My uncle was Catholic which was unbeknownst my me.  I remember looking into his face as he bowed his head and meditated.  I can see there was a sincere search going on in his mind.  His face also showed pain and I was sensitive to that.  He explained to me the notion go "Bon Dieu" (Good God or God), "Satan", and "Péché" (sin) and that this Bon Dieu was benevolent and omnipresent.  The notion of God that stuck in my head from that day on is the notion that God was pure good and that the Devil is pure evil.  It was a pretty simple concept to grasp.  He said that Bon Dieu is always watching over me and is aware of when I was doing "dezod" (mischief).


I was alarmed because I was always doing dezod.  I didn't know it back then but I was just being a normal, curious boy but my kinsmen made it seem like I was worst than I really was.


Holy Cracker


Around the time I was I was processing this fascinating and alarming information my beloved uncle announced that he would be eating the white waffle offered to the believers.  I followed him and got in line.  He warned me to make sure that I knew I was free from sin or else there would be dire consequences.  


Can you imagine having to run through all the dezod I have done that week all in a matter of minutes while the procession was heading towards that priest?  I had to make a hasty decision on whether or not to take the "Holy Cracker" or not.  I had a vision of the cracker turning into a sharp razor blade and cutting my throat because I was indeed sinful according to the invisible Bon Dieu who was able to see all my deeds.


This stressed me greatly.  I ended up taking the cracker and I felt even more guilty because I enjoyed the way the wafer melted in my mouth.  I wanted more but I knew that would make me look greedy.


My uncle and his first born in Haiti
This is the event that planted the seeds of the concepts of sin, God, Devil, and omnipresence in my tender yet critical mind.

#2- Blood was drawn...

An innocent lad made to play the game.
When I was a very young man in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince I went through a Catholic ritual around the age of 8 years old.  It was my confirmation.  I remember dressing in all white.  I had shorts, a long sleeved shirt, and a brown tie on.  I really didn't understand the whole thing but all I know is that my family was very happy and excited about the whole process and there would be a party at the end of the ordeal.

All week at the all boys Catholic school that I attended we were to learn and recite long and dreadfully boring Catholic drivel that I was to recite in front of a priest during the big event.  I did not get the recitation down but I had to do my best.  We lined up in the streets and went to a cathedral where I saw the priest for the first time.  I remember this man's face til this day.  He had a classic Haitian look.  His haircut was even, he had a mustache with a fat turkey neck.

We lined up and went to the man wearing the funny white dress 2 or 3 at a time.  I stood in the middle and repeated to jargon that was drilled in my head as best as I could.  I was afraid that I would have to do it all over again but I was glad to be flanked by two classmates that knew the material better than me.

I'm not quite sure when this happened but there was a time inside the church that I sat next to my mother practicing my lines.  It during this practice session that my mother sunk the nail of her thumb into my soft, boyish wrist drawing blood.  Time seem to stand still as I was in total shock of what could have caused my mother such anxiety to hurt me.  I was angry and confused because while I wanted to get the lines down I wanted to please my mother desperately even more.  Even so I was shocked at my mother's reaction and wanted to know about this thing that was so important to her.

This was my first recollection of what became know as "religion".

#1- The Purpose of this Blog

Being Haitian in America has it's disadvantages.  Being atheist and Haitian puts me further down in the popularity polls.  I am a minority in a minority.  I decided to write this post because religion has taken a strong hold on my focus ever since I came back from my deployment in Iraq in 2004.

By no means do I assume that I am the sole Haitian atheist but I make it a point to emphasize both sides of my self in order to motivate that person who is on the fence to make that decision towards atheism.  I aim to educate, inspire, and answer questions while I lay out the events that lead me to my current position in regards to religion.

This blog is also therapeutic to me.  I sincerely believe that religious training is a form of abuse.  Some of this is milder than others.  I was not raped by a priest or nothing like that but I have lost time, friendships, and money on this journey.  Overall, I am happy but very concerned about the state of our world.  I pledge to do what I can to leave the world in a better condition than how I found it.

I dedicate this work to all those unbelievers who are keeping their true self hidden in order to cope with their reality; especially the Haitian ones.  You will learn why soon.

Prologue- Social Suicide

I walked into my "bout cham" (small effeciency) stunned.  I just came from a meetup with the local atheist group and had a paradigm shift.  I felt a strange sense of relief and a secret thrill.  I had been properly defined.  I sat down and updated my Facebook profile promoting the fact that I was at a Florida Atheist Secular Humanist meeting.  I knew that posting this would be tantamount to social suicide.  Valerie was the only person who commented positively on my post.  My life had just changed.  Oh my God, I accepted the fact that I was an atheist.