Whether you are a believer, non-believer, spiritualist, or just confused about your own existence, you have entered strange and unfamiliar territory by clicking on this blog. To have a blog that represents a group dedicated to religious scepticism in a Caribbean context is out of the ordinary. A small number of us have personal blogs that do this, but the uniqueness in this venture is that it is the concerted effort of persons from across the Caribbean with a relatively substantial amount of support. It is the experience of non-believers everywhere to feel isolated and alone in their position and we are always happily surprised when we are able to say truthfully, “ahh! You too?” make a new friend, and as you can see, form societies.
I woke up one morning in October of 2011 to the realisation that I no longer believed what I had believed all my life. Jesus Christ was no longer Lord and his Father was not worthy of glory. The journey began with me having a religious experience when I was 15 years old that set me on a deeply religious path, progressed to me being a preacher and potential Catholic priest, to eventually losing faith in the intrinsic goodness of humanity, the divinity of the Catholic Church and seeing no good reason to believe in gods. We’ve trained ourselves to interpret our lives as narratives. This, along with the fact that I have developed a love for literature, led me to write a blog series that went into detail about my journey In and Out of God.
It was some time before I adjusted my life to this realisation. I continued to go to Mass on Sundays, pray the rosary, and give retreats. All while I was the editor of the Vision¸ the youth supplement in the Catholic News in Trinidad and Tobago and working as the Social Media coordinator of their communications arm. For some 5 months I kept up the façade of faith and no one - save my mother - noticed any changes in me. It was she who first asked what was going on with me and, unable to bear the burden of cognitive dissonance any more, I told her and my father everything. Over the weekend the news spread like the bubonic plague and by Monday, almost everyone knew about my first decisive step on the road to hell.
If you are above a certain age, I think it is safe for me to assume you have experienced being misunderstood and misrepresented and some of you on larger scales than others. While I tend to steer clear of generalisations, it is fair to say that sceptics (not necessarily atheists, but anyone willing to be critical of religious belief) experience the same to a greater degree. A study done in the UK to gauge the levels of trust the population gave to certain demographic groups in society revealed that atheists were the least trusted group, less trustworthy than rapists. Another similar study done in the USA to find out which groups in the population were believed to embody the ideals of the American dream the most, atheists, expectedly, came out last.
Now, if these were the results of studies done in places where secularism has had a public face for some time, one can only imagine what we would find if similar studies were done in the Caribbean. The reactions to atheism vary anywhere between the extremes of outright rejection and the less popular alternative of acceptance. Conversations around secularism and scepticism hardly ever occur in the settings necessary for it to have significant influence on the larger population. It is not a topic of discussion nor do we consider it when constructing policies. This needs to change.
The Caribbean is rich with potential in every area of life I can think of. But when I read about archaic laws being summoned to charge homosexual tourists for expressing their love; when I hear political demagogues quote Bible passages to rally a less-than-knowledgeable crowd to their unjust cause; when Haiti is vilified and blame for their economic status and tragic devastation by earth and wind is placed on the “curse” of Voodoo; I get irritated. It is my hope that this blog will “stand in the gap” on behalf of the Caribbean to bring it to the feet of Reason.
Welcome to the Caribbean Freethinkers’ Society. Enjoy your stay and please do not refrain from entering into dialogue with us as time progresses.
Kwame Weekes, Assistant Editor