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Mar 14 2011

Atheists of Color?

I want to compile a list of prominent atheists of color. Not in history (I might do that sometime later), but people who are alive and active now. Can you help me?

I’m getting a bit tired of atheist conference organizers saying, “We’d like to be more diverse and have more speakers of color, but we just don’t know of any!” Ditto atheist writers/ bloggers, and the people they cite/ link to/ put in their blogrolls. I do not want anyone to be able to say, ever again, “I’d like to be more diverse and not so white-centric, but I just don’t know of that many atheists of color!” In the future, whenever anyone says this, I want to be able to point them to a list. And I want other atheists to be able to do the same.

Jen McCreight has already done this with her large list of awesome female atheists. We need one for awesome atheists of color.

And no, I don’t want to get into an argument about why we need this list, or how we should just be color blind and ignore race altogether. In a perfect world, maybe we wouldn’t need it. We don’t live in a perfect world. Among other things, well- meaning people can unconsciously perpetuate racial bias without intending to… and we need to take conscious action to counter this unconscious tendency. If you think the atheist movement doesn’t need to make a conscious effort to be more inclusive, then please read these pieces:

Getting It Right Early: Why Atheists Need to Act Now on Gender and Race
Race, Gender, and Atheism, Part 2: What We Need To Do — And Why

And if, after reading those pieces — not skimming them or reading the titles, but actually reading them — you still think we don’t need to make a conscious effort to be more inclusive of people of color, then please make your arguments ON THOSE POSTS. Not here. Comments here arguing that we don’t need this list will be disemvoweled or deleted. This post is for people who want to help compile the list. Period.

And yes, I’m aware of the irony/ pitfalls of a white person compiling this list. If a list like this already existed, compiled by a person of color, I’d just link to it and publicize the hell out it. But I asked a whole bunch of people of all races if they knew of such a list, and nobody did, and the general response was, “Yeah, that’d be useful, someone should really do that, HINT HINT.” So fuck it. I’m just going to do it.

Help, please? Let me know about any out atheists of color you know of and whose work you admire. They should be reasonably prominent, and they should be open about their atheism. I need name, URL for blog/ website if they have one, and a SHORT list of credentials: books, blogs, publications they write for, achievements, etc. Thanks!

35 comments

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  1. 1
    Ashlyn

    Hemant Mehta sold his soul on eBay!
    He’s one of my favorite godless bloggers, and his posts on other topics rarely fail to be entertaining.
    http://friendlyatheist.com

  2. 2
    Daniel Schealler

    Obviously, Ayaan Hirsi Ali – but you already know about Ayaan.
    http://www.theahafoundation.org/
    Equally obviously, Neil deGrasse Tyson – but you already know about him, too.
    http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/tyson/
    An honorable mention should go to the Friendly Atheist. I’ve visited the site a few times and it’s very good, but doesn’t quite do it for me for some reason. Still, worth a mentioning here – someone else in the comments can surely flesh out the details.
    http://friendlyatheist.com/
    Name: Ian (don’t know surname)
    Blog: The Crommunist
    Credentials:
    Ian’s credentials on his website are only published as “Crommunist is a scientist by day, musician by night, and thinker all the time.” I can’t think of a time when he has mentioned his work as a scientist directly – he makes a point of not arguing from a position of authority.
    Prominence: Low (probably). Crom started up the blog almost exactly a year ago. Not sure what his figures are like, but I get the impression that he hasn’t quite broken into Greta Christina/Jen McCreight/P ‘Zed’ Myers territory just yet.
    Name: Eddie Collins
    Perorms as: Greydon Square
    Credentials:
    Eddie is first and foremost a musician, although he either a) has a physics degree or is b) currently attaining a physics degree – hard to tell from searching for the details, everything seems quite dated.
    Prominence:
    Low/Medium – Greydon’s hardly mainstream, but at the same time I find that it’s rare to find an atheist who hasn’t at least heard of him. Within our own circle he’s reasonably well known.

    And just like that, I’m tapped out.
    Man, that’s depressing.

  3. 3
    Brian Westley

    The Infidel Guy (infidelguy.com), though he’s been rather inactive recently, has had an internet radio show for over a decade and says he’ll be announcing a special show in June 2011

  4. 4
    PZ Myers

    Here are Ian Cromwell’s credentials.
    Don’t forget Debbie Goddard.
    One difficulty here is that on the internet, nobody knows your color, unless you announce it. It’s not obvious in the name, often it’s not obvious in appearance — I’m at a university with a large proportion of Native Americans, and they don’t jump out at you as people of color.

  5. 5
    PZ Myers

    Another from CFI: Sikivu Hutchinson.

  6. 6
    Simon

    Apart from those mentioned above (all well deserving) here’s some more in no particular order:
    -Jamila Bey, journalist – spoke at African Americans for Humanism conference: http://www.centerforinquiry.net/dc/events/african_americans_for_humanism_conference
    will also be speaking at AA conference 2011
    -Donald Wright, author (will speak at AA 2011 conference)
    -Norm Allen, former director of CFI’s African Americans for Humanism
    -Leo Igwe (you didn’t say they had to be from North America): http://www.iheu.org/taxonomy/term/443
    -CFI’s African representatives full list here: http://www.centerforinquiry.net/about/branches
    -Mercedes Diane Griffin Forbes blog here: http://www.dgspeaks.com/
    -Ernest Parker leader of African Americans DC Group (CFI affiliate) http://meetup.com/aah-dc/
    And last but not least if we’re going to include folks with Native American ancestry, FFRF’s Dan Barker comes to mind :-)

  7. 7
    Ebonmuse

    This article names three: Alix Jules (chair of a diversity committee on the Dallas Coalition for Reason), Anthony Pinn (research director for the Institute for Humanist Studies), and Ayanna Watson (founder of Black Atheists of America).
    http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2011-01/atheists-diversity-woes-have-no-black-and-white-answers
    Also, Alom Shaha:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/jun/05/god-atheism-islam
    And Jamila Bey:
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/tellmemore/2010/10/08/130433662/so-i-m-not-the-only-black-skeptic

  8. 8
    Matt

    Ayanna Watson
    CEO & President of Black Atheists of America, Inc.
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Black-Atheists-Of-America/125054104194048
    http://www.blackatheistsofamerica.org/

  9. 9
    Valhar2000

    There is Wrath James White:
    http://wordsofwrath.blogspot.com/2007/08/atheism-and-humanism.html
    I don’t agree with everything he has to say, but he is an atheist and he can string words together with the best of them.
    Plus, I’d like to see one of those christian rednecks on Youtube try their “I’ll beat some sense into ya, damn atheists!” routine on this guy!

  10. 10
    Jesse Christopherson

    Also Regarding Norm Allen: he is currently on the board of directors of Paul Kurtz’s new Institute for Science and Human Values (ISHV) and is editor-in-chief of Human Prospect: A Neo-Humanist Perspective.

  11. 11
    Jeffrey Eldred

    Infidel Guy has a historical list: http://www.infidelguy.com/article75.html
    I’m not a historian, but Langston Hughes probably counts:
    http://www.jstor.org/stable/274384
    I’m not a historian, but WEB Du Bois probably counts:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._E._B._Du_Bois#Religion
    Mark D. Hatcher is a college student who made the first atheism club in a historically black university (Howard University) and got Richard Dawkins to come for an event.
    Jermaine Inoue works for Black Atheists of America and seems to put together songs
    John Beezy is probably the most well-known black atheist on youtube

  12. 12
    Alom Shaha

    Good luck with this. I am familiar with your work on this and tried to draw attention to the issue in the UK (see http://bit.ly/auDlad) but was met with surprising hostility from many in the atheist community (including being told there’s no such thing as “the atheist community”). My suggestion for the list? Kenan Malik: http://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/why-i-am-an-atheist/

  13. 13
    Karen Boyd

    Here’s a couple that I know from my time working at the British Humanist Association:
    Maryam Namazie, human rights activist and secularist. Spokesperson for the Council of Ex-Muslims in Britain.
    http://maryamnamazie.com
    Labi Siffre – songwriter (“Something Inside So Strong”, “It Must Be Love”), poet, just frickin’ awesome.
    http://www.intothelight.info
    Ariane Sherine – comedian, journalist, started the Atheist Bus Campaign.
    http://www.arianesherine.com/

  14. 14
    Mercedes Griffin Forbes

    Mark Hatcher (founder of Secular Students at Howard) should be added to the list. This is the first secular student organization at a Historically Black College.

  15. 15
    Mercedes Griffin Forbes

    Thanks for taking this on Greta! :)

  16. 16
    Debbie Goddard

    I’m in the midst of a speakers bureau for African Americans for Humanism for this reason. We’re creating new website space for AAH; that will be one of the resources offered.

  17. 17
    Jack

    Who could forget Sanal Edamaruku and his hilarious debunking of a death-cursing tantrik?

  18. 18
    John the Drunkard

    Greta;
    Ralph Dumaine has a mass of links and names at:
    http://www.autodidactproject.org/guidathe.html
    You’ll need to scroll about halfway down the (very large) page to get to
    Black / African-American / African Atheism (further relevant links on black intellectuals in my general bibliography)
    Good project idea.

  19. 19
    Jeffrey Eldred

    If we include the Indian Rationalist Association, than Sir Raghunath Purushottam Paranjpye definitely has to be on the list. I’m sure there are more to be made from that organization, if only we knew their names.
    There are plenty of East Asian atheists, but I’m not sure we need better representation in that demographic. Should they be included?
    Does anyone know any Hispanic atheists?

  20. 20
    Zachary Moore

    Alix Jules is the Chair of the DFWCoR Diversity Council.

  21. 21
    Ghouldilocks

    Here’s two blogs that I know of:
    http://blackfemlens.blogspot.com
    http://blackskeptics.blogspot.com

  22. 22
    Doug Reardon

    Neil De Graff Tyson

  23. 23
    Daniel Schealler

    @Doug Reardon
    Neil deGrasse Tyson has already been said.
    Penalty consumption!

    That’s an *awesome* drinking game!
    I recommended it for anyone’s next skeptics in the pub (or whatever) gathering.

  24. 24
    Eclectic

    I was wondering why it took so long to mention Ariane Sherine; after Ayaan Hirsi Ali, she’s the first one I thought of. Not so famous, but I can mention vlogger JeansTake.
    I assume we’re not including historical figures like India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru?
    Regarding hispanics, one source I found is a N.Y. Times article by Laurie Goodstein, “For Some Hispanics, Coming to America Also Means Abandoning Religion“. But that doesn’t give me a lot of contact names.
    There’s a “hispanic atheists of all ethnic groups” facebook group (facebook.com/group.php?gid=87996230953; I’m not linking because this stupid blogging software marks as spam any comment with more than two links in it).
    Here’s a non-notable atheist living in Bogotá: http://www.atheistnexus.org/profile/Rosa
    Greta, one useful thing you could do at some point is collate the suggestions here into a followup article and ask for round two suggestions; it’s easier to think of names that have been omitted if they’re presented more systematically.

  25. 25
    Brian Engler

    Unless I missed his name earlier–in the field of entertainment, Greydon Square. I had the pleasure of hearing and meeting him at TAM 6.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greydon_Square

  26. 26
    Clytia

    Wrath James White – I read his blog which I love, even though he doesn’t post very often – http://godlessandblack.blogspot.com/
    He’s a published author – http://www.amazon.com/Wrath-James-White/e/B003TT0O78/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

  27. 27
    llewelly

    Hector Avalos

  28. 28
    llewelly

    Someone already mentioned Norm Allen, but let me second that mention.
    Norm Allen‘s specialty is skepticism and black history, and I strongly recommend the two books mentioned in the linked interview with D.J. Grothe. Oh, and I would love a Greta Christina interview of Norm Allen.
    Another Norm Allen interview.

  29. 29
    Kinana of Khaybar

    Ramendra Nath
    Taslima Nasreen
    Wafa Sultan
    Ibn Warraq
    Salman Rushdie
    Mina Ahadi
    Arundhati Roy
    Sabri Husibi
    Afshin Ellian
    David Suzuki

  30. 30
    Kinana of Khaybar

    p.s. Ibn Warraq is an agnostic, but seems to me to be close to an atheist.

  31. 31
    Marvin

    I love Neil deGrasse Tyson as a science educator, but I don’t think he necessarily belongs on a list of “atheists of color.”
    First, whenever he’s labeled an atheist, he vehemently denies it and insists on being called agnostic instead, insisting he has no interest in atheism or atheist activism.
    Second, he routinely describes atheists as the kinds of cranks who spend their time crossing out “In God We Trust” on their money. (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s an actual example.) He’s made it clear many times that he doesn’t particularly respect atheists as atheists and doesn’t want to be associated with atheism.
    So while I think he’s brilliant speaker and educator, and would probably be an atheist by my definition of the word, I don’t know if he’d want to be on Greta’s list.

  32. 32
    Jack

    No one’s mentioned Siviku Hutchinson yet?

  33. 33
    Ysor

    I am surprised no one has mentioned Amartya Sen.

  34. 34
    Kinana of Khaybar

    Homa Arjomand
    http://www.nosharia.com/

  35. 35
    Ian Andreas Miller

    Yes, please include Dan Barker! We need more Natives in our secular/atheist movement!
    Since I am so eager to include Natives, I might as well include myself:
    Ian Andreas Miller
    Diaphanitas
    http://diaphanus.livejournal.com/
    Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
    The movement has done a lot for me and other people like me, and I wish very much to give back to the movement as much as I can. At this point, I think it is my job to be a representative of atheistic Natives. An atheistic Native is not as mythical as the gods in which we do not believe!

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