Through his cultural background and experience as an African American bishop, Pearson was able to explain some of the fundamental issues surrounding the debate. Pearson explained, “In the African American community for you to say there is no God, is to say your mom, your grandparents, your culture – are all wrong.” Pearson explained that African Americans relied heavily on faith when they were repressed as slaves in the U.S. “Religion has done a lot for our culture,” Pearson said, and continued to explain how African American beliefs are based on a mixture of Christian beliefs, African spiritualism, and animism.
In response to Ms. Bey’s first question, Pearson explained some of the issues he has had with traditional Christianity. “Christianity is a Jewish religion, and many aspects have been borrowed from other belief systems.” Pearson described the similarities between Christianity and other religions, and how he was shocked to find these parallels within scripture.
Furthermore, Pearson explained his largest problem with traditional Christianity – the concept of Hell. One word translated as Hell is Gahanna, which was a literal garbage dump in Jerusalem, where waste was burned, not a metaphysical torture chamber. Semantics aside, he pointed out a fundamental flaw in the concept. “Is Hitler in heaven, or hell? If he’s in hell, is he in the same hell as a boy who [never heard about God]? Where’s the justice in that?”
|You're (not) going to hell!|
On this note, Jamila asked, “If there is no need for Hell, and all have been saved, what is the need for any religion at all?” Pearson explained that he wanted to spread the word that, “… what you believe only affects your life for sure, that we can all walk in agreement.” This is reiterated in Pearson’s philosophy of Inclusionism – “We don’t have to go along to get along.” He related this to his experience of organizing this event with ISSA. “I honestly felt love from atheists,” Pearson told the audience. Speaking about a current officer, Pearson said, “Clint almost sounded like a Christian on the phone he was so nice,” to which Ed Clint jokingly retorted, “Take that back!”
Pearson revealed that he agreed with Jamila on many aspects of the debate by saying, “Does the black community need God? Not any more than the white community needs God or doesn’t need God. The Hispanic community, Native American community or the Asian community, too.”
Pearson represents a new kind of Christian - one who's life isn't dictated by fear. A Christian who doesn't look to God for morals because he knows that they're something we all have, regardless of our ideologies. This kind of religion, a religion without fear and guilt – religion that permits critical thinking - may be the first step our culture needs to embrace free thought. "Instead of saying there’s good and evil, there are actions and consequences. That creates your reality."