My nephews are each 9 years old. They have known now for about a year or so that I don’t believe in God. Except for a few brief conversations including one where J exclaimed, “I wish Auntie believed in God so she could be in heaven with me,” I thought they had gotten the concept.
Then about a week and a half ago I was babysitting them when something on the TV came out about the Devil. I can’t even remember. But that’s when D said something about me and devil worship. So they didn’t get it. Using 9 year-old logic combined with their religious indoctrination, they had concluded that if you did not believe in God, you must be a devil worshiper.
After explaining to them that being an atheist means you don’t believe in God or the Devil, and seeing the look of skepticism on their faces, I realized that just how ingrained religious thinking is in our community. It was actually impossible for my nephews to look at the world outside of the lens of religious teachings which for them, is spotty at best.
Also, in another incident, I got into a discussion with the youth of Gardening The Community who keep a food stall at the Mason Square Farmer’s market where I would volunteer about me being an atheist. They had known me for at least a year so they knew I wasn’t a bad person yet is was still hard for them to wrap their heads around the concept of being good without God.
It is because of this, I make it a point to be vocal about my atheism. Young Black children who are looking for real, concrete answers that they are not finding in traditional Christian teachings need to understand that there are other options. They need to understand that their doubts about the existence of God does not make them bad or immoral people. I believe it is our obligation, a non-believers, to create safe spaces and act as examples for those young people.