I’m an Atheist. When asked, I often answer jokingly that were atheists ranked, I would be their God…
Is there something inhuman about me? See for yourself under the orange cloud.
I’m an atheist. I’m a freethinker. I may not share your faith, but facts are that, you may not share the faith of the many people I shared part of my life with. yet, we’re both proud of it.
I’m mixed-race. My father is black from Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in West Africa. My mother is white from France in Europe. I’m born in Abidjan and I grew up on both continents with regular back and forth trips between the Ebrié’s Laguna and the Alps.
For many years, as a little boy, being mixed-race was my norm. I literally grew up in a community of inter-racial/multi-cultural families in the Abidjan city of the 1970s/1980s. Nearly every single friend I had was mixed race: One African parent, the other usually Caucasian and sometimes Asian. I was surrounded with Ivorian, French, Italian, Belgian, German, Russian, Swiss, Hungarian, American, Vietnamese, Zimbabwe’s, Malagasy, Lebanese, Israelis, Chilean, and skip-a-few... Besides race, all those people brought with them a wide spectrum of believes.
To me, as a kid, racial and cultural uniformity was the anomaly, and still is to some extent. Getting out of my childhood bubble to visit my all black and animist father’s family or my all white and catholic mother’s family were experiences requiring serious adjustments. I’m not talking about racism or even secondary-racism such as being called Toubabou by those black kids or Bamboula by their white counterparts before or even after having played with them. I’m really talking about my personal perceived shock when I was suddenly surrounded with all black or all white folks. But I learned and I grew.
Although my direct family was fairly non-religious, our background was definitely Catholic. Catholicism was the norm in that small Alpine village in the valley of Maurienne where half of my roots are. There was a Catholic Church right at the central place of the village. I went to that church for many ceremonies: baptisms, marriages and funerals. My mother herself was buried there as were my grand-mother and my grand-father, my grand-uncles and my grand-aunts. As a little kid, I listened to the priest preaching about faith and sins, heaven and hell. So we were Catholic-light unlike my grand-mother from that little village in the valley of the Bandama River in the middle of Côte d’Ivoire. She was leading religious ceremonies according to her animist Ashanti faith. She was buried there, like my grand-father and my grand-uncle who raised my father per their matriarchal rules. Ironically, as a little kid, I listened to my grand-mother preaching about the nice after-life we all have. To her, Hell was a lie meant to scare people into following Christian doctrines.
You may think that I experienced two very different religious worlds as a kid. You’re wrong. It’s way larger than that. My family and friends and acquaintances circles included Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism. The Christian religions I was evolving into were rather divers included Anglicans, Jehova’s Witnesses, Maronites, Orthodox Catholics, Protestants, and Roman Catholics. There were east-Indian religions I can’t even remember the name. There were also faith more commonly called cults like Eckankar and Rael. That entire religious fauna was vibrant in Abidjan’s district of Cocody of Abidjan where the multi-racial, multi-cultural families came together living in close relations. We were going to the same school (Collège Jean Mermoz), going to the same beaches (Assinie & Assouendé) on the week-end. We celebrated the same Christian’s and Muslim’s events. Growing up, we went dancing to the same clubs and got our first inter-racial/inter-cultural love stories. Mine was with a bi-national Ivorian/Tchadian whose religious Christian/Muslim background coincidently matched that of the woman I married 10 years later and I lived with for the last 20 years.
You probably guessed it; as growing teenagers, arguing each other’s faiths and political views became a recurrent activity. Puberty sets the brain. However, things never were aggressive or violent as the media usually depict multi-cultural environment. Those were for the most useless but healthy discussions. Most of my friends had a parent’s faith to defend or to reject. I would say that what I had was curiosity. We had a huge bible at home. When I was 15, I read it in its entirety. That was quite a work given the Bible‘s writing style. But, I wanted to know, and I learned. In all honesty, I found in the Bible no reason to accept the Christian faith. I did not find it self-consistent. I did not even find it of a superior morality. What that experience taught me is that I actually am a Freethinker.
Today, I’m in the US married with two kids. We try to get them to think for themselves. We homeschooled both of them, taking advantage of non-religious homeschoolers’ associations. We avoided religious as well as anti-religious associations. Instead, we tried to expose them to as many races, cultures and religions as we possibly could. Ironically, it’s not that easy in the US' melting pot society. Nevertheless, I believe we’ve been rather successful. My kids are in high-school now. I’m happy to see that their close circle of friends has diversity of races, nationalities and religions. And, I’m particularly proud when I’m told that they dared arguing with their religious teacher in their Catholic school.