African American Freethinking


As a relatively rare woman in the humanist/atheist/freethinker etc. movement, I have an interest in the demographics of said movement.  There are many, many thoughts as to why there are so few women and so few people of color and I always find it fascinating to hear the stories of difficulties coming to terms with being different.

Mercedes Diane Griffin Forbes at Unscripted has written a very interesting post on her transition from Christian to humanist, the particular challenges and benefits of humanism to African Americans, and how the complete integration of Black Life and Religious Life is a contributing factor to the difficulties African Americans face.

I asked myself, “Why were people so hell bent on worshipping a god that justified their enslavement?….in worshipping a god that justified the stealing of their land and the displacement of their people?” “Why could so many I encountered not even conceive of a morality not based on religion?” Racism affects the very reality upon which one values him or herself within the given societal paradigm. Living in America, it is easy to become consumed with self-hate and defeat. So many of Black and Brown people give up on their lives before they really ever begin! Because of this, the promise of life ever-lasting can be extremely appealing and religion continues as a most effective mechanism for perpetual bondage, keeping the masses intellectually and emotionally enslaved.

Culture can be broken down into three main concepts. The cultural seed, which is the determinative and explanatory aspect of a culture that puts into perspective the cultural manifestations of a people in reference to their historical and cultural evolution; the way a people must think in order to manifest its cultural seed; and the will of the culture, purpose, and collective behavior of a people.

I believe humanism can be the new cultural seed, upon which we build a stronger sense of our humanity, a deeper understanding of our connection to each other and to the world in which we live. The more I learned and the more I observed, it became obvious that the very seed from which African American culture had been shaped was fertilized by Christianity. And as is always the problem with toxic fertilizers, it cannot simply be washed away because it now a part of the fruit itself. Black life and church life have become synonymous, and the only way to adjust for this is by planting a new cultural seed, one fertilized with concepts of freethought!

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