*Apologies to Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin. Hope my African-American readers out there don’t go into apoplexy.
Back in late 2011, I wrote a post titled, “A Conversation Long Overdue” which spoke about African-American Atheists. This was sparked by a November 27, 2011 New York Times discussing this group of people. I wrote:
It’s interesting that at this time in history with fundagelical x-tians trying to grab power in Washington, cracks in the Black church’s facade (the Eddie Long scandal for example), the decline of organized religion in the West, the rise of “Higher Criticism” of the Bible with archaeological evidence refuting Scripture, and the advent of the Internet and social media, Black Atheists and Freethinkers are coming out into the light and making their voices heard.
However, as many Black Atheists and Freethinkers state, they’re still “a minority within a minority”. It’s still a challenge to come out with their beliefs (or lack thereof) due to the possibility of being ostracized by the community. Also, many have close friends and family that are Theists (churchfolk for the rest of us) they’re afraid of hurting with such news.
Another challenge is that Fundagelical X-tianity has a such a strong grip on the Black community that any irreligious thought is anathema. I liken it to the Catholic Church’s hold on Medieval Europe (without the Inquisition). Many Blacks put the church central in their lives and have a blind devotion to it. For many Blacks, the church is also the only place where they can find validity in a society that still has yet to fully validate them-despite the fact that early Blacks were brought to the church via slavery and were subjected to hand-picked (and misquoted) Bible verses designed to subjugate and mollify them, many Blacks still find that validity.
What caught my attention on this interesting topic was a series called “Shades of Black Atheism” over at the Friendly Atheist blog on Patheos-a site I hang out on. From what I can see, there are a lot of young Black people who have embraced Atheism. Interesting still are those who came out of religious households and espoused Atheism.
My take? Atheism, Freethought, and/or Agnosticism are not going to leave the Black community no matter how hard the Black Church will try to speak against it. As Black youth venture out into the greater world-away from the influences of the Black Church, and they study differing points of view and think for themselves, this trend will only continue. In my opinion this is troubling for the Black Church (take it from an insider) because the mainstays of the church-our Elders-are dying and their religious baton was not picked up by their successors. More Blacks are being less exposed to church which shows a weakening grip of the church on the community. Also, many a Black see churches in their neighborhoods as just taking up space and not really interacting with the needs of the local community. And like their White counterparts, many Black youth see the church as anti-Gay, anti-science, anti-culture, anti-etc….
These people will be heard in both the Black and greater community. We should welcome them and hear their words. Plus, those of us in the Boardinghouse of Faith need no try and “convert” or “save” them; who are we to say they’re wrong? How many things we’ve held as “tenets of the faith” were disproved? Plus, as I see Christianity itself evolving, these young (and brave) people may be right on time.
For any of you out there who are Atheist/Agnostic/Freethinker, you are always welcome here. I speak what I believe, yet no converting…unless it’s currency.