What it is like being an atheist in college

The Wichitan

Markell Braxton-Johnson
Being an atheist in college can sometimes be difficult waters to navigate. I have been an atheist since I was a freshman in high school, but before that I was a faithful Christian. I won’t bore you with the story as to how I became an atheist, but what I will say is that it was only after I came to Midwestern State did I truly feel comfortable telling others about my lack of belief.
 
It wasn’t that I was embarrassed about the decision I came to, nor was it because I feared I had the wrong answer. The main reason I found it difficult to “come out” as an atheist, especially in college, was because I never wanted to be militant about my atheism. I never wanted to be that guy that used every chance he got to let people know that he didn’t believe in god. It’s a fine line to walk, but it is critical that us minorities let others know we exist.
 
With anything that is contrary to the status quo, there comes many misconceptions. This is no different with being an atheist. There’s the unfortunate misconception that atheists only reject god because we had some past traumatic experience that led us to turning away from god. While that may be true for some atheists, this wasn’t the case for me, or was it the case for the atheists I know.
 
Most atheists become nonbelievers simply because the evidence for god(s) is/are insufficient. We can’t be angry at god because we don’t believe in god. Another misconception is that atheists are immoral. This misunderstanding about us comes from the assumption that god gives humans morality and tells us what is right and wrong. I’ve always found this one strange because it’s a tacit admission that without religion, people would rape, steal, and kill one another without a second thought. All I can say to refute this is to ask my fellow religious peers if there was a foolproof way to disprove the existence of god, would you go out the next day and kill someone you didn’t like? Would you steal things that did not belong to you or spread malicious falsehoods? Of course you wouldn’t. Believe me, you can be good without god.
 
As an atheist, I take great pleasure in increasing the good will and human solidarity that happens in our country and on our campus. I don’t need religion to feel this way. I don’t need religion to see other students and the community-at-large (regardless of their faith) as brothers and sisters—siblings who all share a common humanity and a healthy desire for good to triumph over bad.
 
Being an atheist in college you come to accept that the majority of people around you are religious. More specifically, in America, in Texas, and at MSU, most people are conservative Christians. This makes things a little more uneasy for me.
 
I am a black atheist, which means I’m a minority within a minority. According to Pew Research, “less than one-half of a percent of African-Americans identify themselves as atheist,” and while I haven’t run a survey of students at MSU, I would imagine the numbers are the same here.
 
Even though atheists may be a small part of the college community, I know there is room for us here at MSU. That’s the great thing about being an atheist in college. Despite being a vastly outnumbered group, we can engage in open-minded discourse and make our voices heard.
Markell Braxton-Johnson is a sports and leisure sophomore. 
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