The Varieties of Black Religious Experience


The Huffington Post has an article that profiles a number of African-Americans from different religions, including no religion at all. For the atheist perspective they look at my friend Debbie Goddard of the Center for Inquiry. She says of her experiences:

I was raised Catholic and even attended Catholic school from K through 10th grades. I occasionally attended Friday night services with my Jewish father out of curiosity. In 6th grade religion class, it occurred to me that if the Catholics were right about everything, then the Jews I knew were wrong—and might burn in hell! On the other hand, how did I know the Jews weren’t right and the Catholics wrong? This made me realize that perhaps the beliefs were based on stories…and maybe there really wasn’t a God.

There are times when I’ve felt straight-up rejected by the black community because I’m an atheist. When I tried to start a secular club in college, my closest black friends told me that humanism and atheism are harmful Eurocentric ideologies and implied that if I’m an atheist, I’m turning my back on my race. Atheism is [seen as] not just a threat to religious beliefs and tradition, but also a threat to black identity and black history. As the director of African Americans for Humanism, I’m working with others to challenge these misconceptions. As the atheist community becomes more diverse, it’s getting better at welcoming people of different backgrounds and listening to people with different perspectives. I’m encouraged by the changes I’ve seen in the last decade, but we have a long way to go in both communities.

One of the exciting things going on in the secular community is the emergence of more diverse voices. Debbie, Anthony Pinn, Sikivu Hutchinson, Jamila Bey and many more are really adding to our understanding of what it means to be an atheist, humanist and skeptic. There is much we can learn from them.

Comments

  1. jamessweet says

    Way to miss the point by a mile, flatlander. You don’t have to be, but people should have the choice to be, and the color of your skin shouldn’t be a disqualifier.

    Goddard is exactly right: Both communities have a loooooong way to go, both the atheist community in being more welcoming to people of color, and the African-American community in no longer viewing active faith as a necessary qualifier. As to the latter, it makes me sad but there is not a whole lot I can do or say about it as a white man (also hetero, cis, middle class, should I go on?) But as to the former, there is a lot we can all do.

  2. raven says

    Not convinced my being an atheist makes me, or should, part of an atheist “community. “

    It’s a free country. It’s your life and your choice.

    I’m happy to be a member of the atheist community.

    Religion poisons everything. The solution to unpoisoning everything is obvious.

  3. D. C. Sessions says

    There are times when I’ve felt straight-up rejected by the black community because I’m an atheist. When I tried to start a secular club in college, my closest black friends told me that humanism and atheism are harmful Eurocentric ideologies and implied that if I’m an atheist, I’m turning my back on my race.

    As distinct from Christianity, I take it.

  4. abb3w says

    @1, flatlander100

    Not convinced my being an atheist makes me, or should, part of an atheist “community. “

    Depends what sense of the word “community”. Some senses might involve more active steps than mere theological position — such as posting comments on FTB.

  5. raven says

    my closest black friends told me that humanism and atheism are harmful Eurocentric ideologies and implied that if I’m an atheist, I’m turning my back on my race.

    As distinct from Christianity, I take it.

    Yeah, that was my thought as well.

    Xianity is derived from middle eastern tribal cultures. But it really got going in Europe, the Roman empire. You can’t get more Eurocentric than xianity. The Pope is based in Rome and every one has been an old white guy.

    Africa has been borrowing from our western culture. Nothing wrong with that, all cultures borrow from others. But lately they’ve been taking the worst we have to offer, fundie xianity with its gay, science, environmental, and woman hates.

  6. davefitz says

    “There are times when I’ve felt straight-up rejected by the black community because I’m an atheist. When I tried to start a secular club in college, my closest black friends told me that humanism and atheism are harmful Eurocentric ideologies and implied that if I’m an atheist, I’m turning my back on my race.”

    This, I never would have guessed. Very eye-opening.

  7. lpetrich says

    It’s not just Xianity that’s a honky religion, it’s also Islam. Or do they make Jesus Christ and Mohammed in their likeness?

  8. matty1 says

    Making Jesus look like the congregation is a pretty well established idea (just google Ethiopian Jesus art), religious depictions of Mohammed are obviously much rarer, though not non-existent as some claim and tend not to show the face so it’s hard to tell how his appearance is imagined.

Leave a Reply