The Infidel Frederick Douglass


By Sikivu Hutchinson

The 19th century human rights giant was no passive consumer of religion or religiosity. Douglass frequently criticized the complicity of organized religion in the barbaric institution of slavery. He often locked horns with black church leadership who faulted him for not “thanking” God for the progress the country and the abolitionist movement made in dismantling slavery after the Civil War. In 1870, Douglass said “I dwell here in no hackneyed cant about thanking God for this deliverance,” and “I bow to no priests either of faith or of unfaith. I claim as against all sorts of people, simply perfect freedom of thought.” Douglass’ rebuke of the knee jerk dogma of religious observance was made in response to the passage of the 15th amendment during an Anti-Slavery society convention address in which several speakers waxed on about God’s divine intervention and influence upon Emancipation. Then, as now, a group of Negro preachers came out of the woodwork to wield their “God-given” moral authority like a bludgeon. Outraged by Douglass’ opposition to teaching the Bible in schools, they quickly passed an anti-Douglass Resolution that said:

That we will not acknowledge any man as a leader of our people who will not thank God for the deliverance and enfranchisement of our race, and will not vote to retain the Bible…in our public schools.*

Buried in the over-heated rhetoric about the critical role of organized religion in the African American experience is seminal criticism of Christianity by Douglass and other forerunning African American activist thinkers. So Douglass’ example is important for two reasons. One it highlights the intellectual resistance to the received norms that prevailed during the post-bellum period. Secondly, it allows African American skeptics, freethinkers and others to claim a parallel humanist tradition amidst the theologically tilted legacy of black liberation.

*From Herbert Aptheker, “An Unpublished Frederick Douglass Letter,” ed. Anthony Pinn, By These Hands: A Documentary History of African American Humanism.

Planned Parenthood Counters Super Bowl Anti-Choice Ad

Planned Parenthood has released a “pro-woman” ad with athletes Al Joyner and Sean James. The ad is designed to counter the controversial CBS-approved anti-choice ad sponsored by the ultra right wing evangelical group Focus on the Family that will run on Super Bowl Sunday. CBS has come under fire from progressive groups for refusing to accept ads from gay and liberal-progressive groups while showing preference to conservative ad companies. Althouth the word “abortion” is not used in the ad, the Focus on the Family spot features Christian football player Tim Tebow with his mother, reflecting on her “pro-life” decision to have him. According to Alternet.org CBS executives not only green lit the ad but worked closely with Focus on the Family to develop it.

Planned Parenthood ad:

Women’s Media Center petition against ad:

Critical thinking and religions don’t mix

Wow, I feel so much better knowing that at least some of our unknown and oft forgotten ancestors were not deceived! How people of African ancestry can continue to believe in the judeo-christian god speaks of a willingness to be told what to think, do and believe rather than to take the lead in our own lives and create a new and improved culture for ourselves as a people. A willingness to step over the critical thinking process, in lieu of wishful, blissful thinking, is the source of many of our people’s social ills. You name the negative issue affecting our community and I can trace it back to a break down in the critical thinking process. It is this very lack of logic and reason that keeps us chained to an imaginary super being in the sky.

No Gods, No Masters

“The slaves…scoff at religion itself—mock their masters, and distrust both the goodness and justice of God. Yes, I have known them even to question his existence. I speak not of what others have told me, but of what I have both seen and heard from the slaves themselves. I have heard the mistress ring the bell for family prayer, and I have seen the servants immediately begin to sneer and laugh…they would not go into prayers; adding if I go she will not only read, ‘Servants obey your masters,’ but she will not read “break every yoke and let the oppressed go free.”

–Daniel Alexander Payne, founding bishop of the AME church, 1811-1893

To be black is to be congenitally religious, pious, Christian, intractably devout, God crazy, God loving, God fearing, and God obsessed. This is the conventional wisdom and “commonsensical” myth that has been perpetuated since slavery. Yet, contrary to myth, a black skeptical tradition exists and is quite robust in contemporary United States. In her groundbreaking novel Quicksand, Harlem Renaissance author Nella Larsen’s protagonist Helga stated the following:

“The white man’s God–and his love for all people regardless of race…was what ailed the whole Negro race in America, this fatuous belief in the white man’s God, this childlike trust in full compensation.”

This space is committed to highlighting the work of black skeptics, freethinkers, atheists, agnostics, humanists and other heretics. To those who would dare to buck the black orthodoxy of blind faith.

We Are All Africans, By Kwadwo Obeng

Exposing the Negative Influence of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic Religions on Africans (Two Harbors Press; May 2009; 978-1-935097-31-0). Positioned for a diverse audience, We Are All Africans challenges the teachings of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions from an African perspective. Readers of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faith will discover an honest evaluation of their religious teachings and the effects on society.

Two Harbors Press: 978-1-935097-31-0

http://www.weareallafricans.com/