Rome Bethea is an administrator of an atheist Facebook group: Atheists. Here, I ask him some questions about background, views, and hopes.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let’s dive little bit into your background. What was family life like? Was religion a big part of it? What were some individuals in your life that you note as influences on you with regards to theological beliefs? Whether or not you held them, those that were of influence.
Rome Bethea: Growing up in Detroit I was raised a Baptist Christian, my whole family is Baptist actually. We weren’t really a church-going family until I was about 10. My mom would take me, my sisters, and a couple of my cousins that spent the weekend over at a church called Universal Praise Center. I was even apart of their choir.
I didn’t really like going to church but whatever mom says goes. A couple years had past and she let me leave the church. After that, I haven’t found a church home until I was 16. Called New Haven’s rest I went two times and I remember this day like it was yesterday.
The bishop said he saw that they have a couple of new faces and would anyone like to get up and introduce themselves. I got nervous as the mic got closer and closer to me. Finally, it’s on me. I say my name and how good it is to be around good people.
The bishop put me on the spot and asked me have I been saved? I told them the truth and said, “No.” So the whole church started talking together and told me to go sit in this chair up front and get saved.
We go through the whole, “So I accept Jesus,” stuff and when I got up they told me to come back next weekend to be baptized. I came back and got baptized December 19, 2009. I kept with that church until I realized they’re no good. The first lady was telling people’s secrets and the pastor was hitting on women. So I left but still believed in (the Word) up until I was about 21.
Jacobsen: Can you recall a pivotal moment or series of experiences that instantiated a lack of belief in God or gods?
Bethea: I went jail over unpaid driving tickets and I called my mom and she said this is a good time to read the Bible and get right with the Lord, so that’s what I did, well tried to do. But as I read the Bible I started to see verses that the church never said anything about.
God being Okay with slavery, women must be quiet and submissive and cannot teach men. I thought maybe I’m just thinking too much on it. And I tried reading it from the first page to the last, hoping hopefully I can make sense of this and I see in Genesis it says God made the sun on the 4th day and that’s where I believe I started to question it all.
It doesn’t take and a rocket scientist to know a day cannot pass without the sun. Lol. That’s when I started to watch YouTube videos on religion. And my friend from across the street, Darnell, was showing me how the Bible contradicts itself and has no historical data for things the Bible says happened on Earth
Like the Chinese were keeping track of their stuff around the same time Noah’s ark supposedly happened. The fact that we had rocks and trees older then what the Bible claims the Earth to be just set everything in stone for me, really.
Jacobsen: What books would you recommend for those that are first questioning your faith?
Bethea: Yes, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, of course. And The End of Faith by Sam Harris. Great books.
Jacobsen: What individuals would you also recommend?
Bethea: David Silverman, it’s cool and funny but he doesn’t play around and stay on point. Richard Dawkins again and I’m sure I don’t have to say why lol also Michael Shermer, once you made it this far you should be an atheist by now lol.
Jacobsen: Would you consider some of the more toxic aspects of some branches of atheism in the late 20th and early 21st-century?
Bethea: I know some people may come off the wrong way but if you stop and think about it they don’t mean any harm. You have people fighting for gay rights, people fighting people of color. They’re just fighting to be equal. They might come off the wrong way but sometimes to be heard you must scream.
Jacobsen: What do you consider the good aspects of religion? How does the nonbelieving community compensate for those to provide a better community?
Bethea: I think some people are good people but just don’t know any better. I know a handful of churches that give back to the community but it’s also a lot of them putting money into these banks that’s trying to kick poor people like myself out of our neighborhoods. I think it some good people in religion. But all together we need to kill religion and just be good people.
Jacobsen: How did the group Atheists start?
Bethea: I actually just started helping with this page but I’m doing my best to spread the word and get everyone back thinking.
Jacobsen: What are your hopes for its growth? What are your hopes for the atheist movement in general?
Bethea: I’m hoping to get as big as we can! I want all 7 billion people on the same page as us (atheist) but, baby steps.
Jacobsen: Thanks for the opportunity and your time, Rome.
Bethea: Thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed with you. Hope that helps and wish you the best with everything.