Contemplating her own history in the church and reports on the increasing number of young people without religious affiliations, Essence's Janelle Harris says she's going to hold on to her beliefs, even if they don't make sense in the eyes of others.

… NPR just ran a story about the growing number of "nones," the atheists, the agnostics and other folks who just don't identify with any organized religion. It's becoming more common in our community, particularly in a generation that has had the privilege of post-secondary education and, as a result, has become critical of the Bible, the church and Christianity, the predominant practice. With our new enlightenment and degrees dangling from so many of our walls, what worked for our grandmamas now seems archaic, hinged too much on emotions from struggle and not reasoned enough intellectually. Factor in headlines about Reverend Scandalmonger pimping a member of the congregation, dodging the IRS or otherwise sullying the reputation of ministers, and personal experiences that make holy rolling saints seem akin to on-the-corner sinners, and the exodus is understandable.

I think God wants us to think intelligently about our faith and the way we operate in it, not just for our own posterity, but also so we don't fall into a flock following a whole bunch of crazy. Some doctrines, for example, are purposefully interpreted to oppress women and are sometimes, bless the Lord, perpetuated by women. I wish someone would try to convince me to stay in a dysfunctional relationship because I'm supposed to be subservient to my man (which is what one minister told my aunt when she was preparing to divorce her husband after he struck up an affair with their next door neighbor). That's where the balance of thinking analytically, not just feeling spiritually, comes in. Being smart in your faith.

My hope for those defecting and those thinking about doing it is that they'll find a place where they can make their own sense of who the Lord is, to not let the regimentation of religion box them in and box them out of belief. If, after prayer or maturity, you don't feel like God is speaking to you in a certain area, be free in that. Borrow from other faiths and religions to create a program that works for you and remix as needed. God is a power source, and I'd hate to see anyone give that up for any reason, especially because someone else imposed their own finger-wagging rules on them …

Read Janelle Harris' entire piece at Essence.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.