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Feb 01 2012

Interview with Nicome Taylor, Black Skeptics L.A.

Nicome Taylor is a member of Black Skeptics Los Angeles

What is your current identification (atheist, agnostic, etc.)?

Currently I identify myself as an atheist, although growing up I considered myself to be Christian up until the time I begin to research the origin of my beliefs.

What is your cultural/religious background (i.e. were you raised in a religious household)?

Coming from a Southern Baptist background, I was not familiar with atheism at all. I was raised in a household where I attended church regularly as a child, but primarily on religious holidays such as Easter and Christmas. Attending church on Easter was an essential part of my family tradition. During these times, it was a must that we acknowledge what I then believed to be the “Savior” of humanity-Jesus. Questioning specific scriptures in the bible was something that I’ve always done in my moments of silence, but whenever I would question any elders about specific immoral scriptures I was given a soft apologetic response or was told not to question God. Questioning God was prohibited growing up and perceived as a sign of rebelliousness. I later discovered that the only way to be clear on all that was to be understood about the bible was through questioning the unknown and properly reading the context of scriptures and the origin them.

How have atheism or free thought shaped your world view as an African American?

I have always been an outspoken person. Being able to express my atheist views as a Black woman has been a little challenging considering the majority of my friends and family are believers of the Christian faith. It was not challenging out of fear of acceptance, but out of fear of being deemed offensive because of frame of thinking. I have always been out spoken when it came to certain subjects, but being vocal on a subject where you think you stand alone within your thoughts was not something I looked forward to. My world view has changed drastically since I’ve allowed myself to think freely about life and the way things work together and separately. It has made me more aware of the importance of being knowledgeable about the things I believe and why I believe them. Rejecting the idea of me being “blessed” for the things that are vital in sustaining human life eventually allowed me to view the world as it is. How could I thank a God for getting a new car, job, home etc. when there are billions starving for food? Something is terribly wrong with that picture.

As an atheist/freethinker what are some of the main issues you’re concerned with?

One of my primary concerns is clearing up the misconceptions that many people have when it comes to understanding atheism. The means for others to know that you can be “Good” without the belief in a “God” is something that I value, considering that believing in a God doesn’t necessarily lead to doing good. Breaking down the barriers between thinking religiously and rationally is one of the solutions in resolving the issues at hand. It is not so much about what people choose to personally believe, but how those beliefs affects others and trickle down into societal issues, classifications, tolerance and religious warfare.

How can atheism and/or secular humanism be promoted to appeal to larger numbers of African Americans, particularly younger ones?

Promoting the freedom of critical thinking is a great start. Many African Americans have a silent notion that thinking outside of the box is not acceptable. In many cases, we are taught to honor our mothers and fathers and in doing so, upholding the morals and values that your parents instill in you is necessary for maintaining that honor. Many morals and values in the black community come from religious doctrine. If one attempts to stray away from their religious faith, he/she risk the social disconnection from family members and peers. Being that humans are social creatures by nature, many African Americans fear losing the bonds which were created by various means: one of the most common means being closely related to the belief in God.

If more people were comfortable with speaking out about the skepticism they experience with religious dogma, I think we would see a lot of changes within our communities. Living amongst a society where technology has taken many of us in the direction that allows for self-education, awareness and communication between others will lead to a great measure of progression.

Reaching out to a new generation has become a lot easier due to social media. The more comfortable it becomes for people to express and share their honest thoughts about their views openly, the better chance we have at attracting an audience that seeks truth. Any means of progression begins with education and properly identifying the historic harmful effects of religion.

What has your “coming out” experience been like with your family and community members?

Since my apostasy, I have received much support from close friends and some open-minded family members. Those that know me on a personal level inquired about my outlook in a very humble manner. Many of them stated that they have had the same or similar thoughts about their belief system. Somewhere along the discussion a debate usually takes place, but I see it more as effective dialogue than anything else. Being black is one thing, but being black and atheist is something totally different. In the black culture, it is more accepting to believe in a different God than no God at all. I believe this is due to the personal attachments that many undergo within their belief and practices. Being that I am an only child who had to learn the means of survival of the fittest at an early age-after the death of my mother has allowed me to become bold about separating facts from fantasy. Dealing with life from a rational perspective gives me the strength needed to live my life according to my own creed while continuing to maintain a good sense of morality as opposed to buying into religious myths and bribing an omnipotent, omnipresent, unseen supreme being.

As a black woman why do you think it’s important for African American to question and/or forgo organized religion?

The importance of African Americans questioning organized religion is necessary because of the historical origin of religion itself. In my opinion, it’s backwards to have a preconceived belief system without exploring where the concepts, ideas and authors of these concepts came from. If we fail to acknowledge and research our history, we lack the understanding of it. It is crucial to the black community that we step outside of the things we were brought up to believe and not allow ourselves to live in the same traditions that is ultimately responsible for where we are today.

What kind of visibility would you like to see from black atheists/agnostics/freethinkers in the African American community?

I would love to see more non-believers/skeptics come out of the closet and share their experiences and outlook with the rest of the world. Progression is at the voice of those who choose to identify with others that share like-minded thoughts and ideas in pressing forward. Billboards, radio stations, talk show interviews and local meetings would gear towards the awareness needed in seeking change. Speaking openly about the issues within our communities and providing support for those who struggle with coming out will benefit the community as a whole. This will help create a growing platform of spreading knowledge for those who are on a quest for it.

10 comments

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  1. 1
    Anthony K

    How could I thank a God for getting a new car, job, home etc. when there are billions starving for food? Something is terribly wrong with that picture.

    That was also a big hurdle for me as a child raised in a Catholic family.

    You talk about wanting to see “more non-believers/skeptics come out of the closet”. Do you think there are many de facto atheists/agnostics/skeptics in the black community who simply mouth the words at church to fit in? I suspect this is the case with most communities in which religion plays a social role, where as you say it’s easier to believe in a different God than no God at all (the cultural community I was raised in was much the same), but I honestly don’t know. I look at my cousins, and I wonder if I’m the only one who escaped religion entirely.

    1. 1.1
      nicometaylor

      I definitely think there are more skeptics in the black churches then known-I know of a few of them personally and they have their reasons. It’s difficult for some people to come out the closet for a number of reasons. Some fear that whatever business endeavors they have planned will create a lack of support from those within their communities. For others, it could be the changes in their social relationships that they dare not tamper with. There are also those that fear the very thought of this sort of change because it ultimately may interfere with their outlook on life. What would their lives be like by detaching themselves from all they’ve know?? A lot of people are terrified of accepting that their belief system is a lie especially if they’ve deemed it so personal and closely related to their values, morals and traditions. One of the things that a lot of churches provides in the black community is the sense of community through fellowship, events and the music aspect of it. Many struggle with wanting to be accepted, but knowing the likeliness of that is slim to almost none-unfortunately. This is the reason why many that partake in the secular movement strive to support those who have difficulties in coming out in which ever way possible.

      You may be the only one as of now and possibly the only one that will forever be within your family. I think if more people took the time to think about why they believe what they believe along with researching the things they genuinely what to know, you would see a difference. It’s no guarantee that they will see things from your point of view or change their position, but it’s difficult if people don’t even care enough to even look into the matter. So if they don’t care to do so, who are we to force them? By no means am I saying you are, but I think you get me point.

      Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it.

      1. Anthony K

        So if they don’t care to do so, who are we to force them? By no means am I saying you are, but I think you get me point.

        Yup. They know I’m an atheist, they accept it, and I accept who they are. (Families often have enough to argue over without throwing religion into the mix.)

        Now, if only I could get them to come around to my more leftist political views…

        Thanks again!

        1. Nicome Taylor

          Lol… You are right about that. There is enough to debate over as it is. I still think I make the best banana pudding ever, but that’s a story for another day. :-) At the beginning and end of the day you have to accept people for who they are even in the lines of disagreement.

          You are always welcome,

          Take care

  2. 2
    Upright Ape

    Excellent interview.
    I heard Greta Christina give a talk recently. She said “atheists are gorgeous”. This is what we see time and again: self-professed atheists are outspoken, independent, courageous and often highly knowledgeable on a broad spectrum of subjects.
    It is not that these qualities are by themselves associated with lack of belief. Rather, it is that social pressures which make coming out so difficult select for the most “gorgeous” ones to self-identify. It is even more notable in communities where religiosity is so strong such as the African American community. This is precisely what we see in this interview.
    Best of luck.

    1. 2.1
      nicometaylor

      Thank you so much Upright and I appreciate the compliment, support and feedback. I’m sure you are aware of the courage needed to speak openly about this topic. Some may question why Blacks feel the need to identify as a “Black Atheist” and that is because so many African Americans are associated with some sort of religious dogma. As we can see, this is not the case even though many of us remain a minority within a minority group of people.

      Best of luck to you as well…

  3. 3
    frankb

    Nicome’s experiences reveals the advantages of the internet. One can anonymously search the world for like minded individuals and share ideas in privacy. Coming out to family and friends can be done at a time of one’s choosing.

    1. 3.1
      nicometaylor

      Yes Frankb… I am thankful for the expansion of the internet. Where would technology be without it? Even for those that wish to remain anonymous within their realm of search. Sometimes just knowing that you are not alone with the way your brain rationally processes information is all the comfort needed in dealing with it.

      Thank for your response…

  4. 4
    fredericksparks

    Great job, Nicome!

    1. 4.1
      nicometaylor

      Thank you much Frederick. I truly appreciate it my dear.

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