Going Godless in the Black Community November 13, 2010

Going Godless in the Black Community

Sikivu Hutchinson writes about the L.A. Black Skeptics’ first “Going Godless in the Black Community” roundtable.

Fifteen atheist/humanists from a broad array of backgrounds, ages and world views attended. The discussion ranged from critiques of the influence of hyper-religiosity in the African American community to practical strategies for developing humanist resources and social welfare institutions…

During the Going Godless discussion participants focused on the importance of instilling black youth with an appreciation for critical thought and free inquiry. Reflecting on his K-12 education in L.A. schools Black Skeptics member Fred Castro said that he couldn’t recall ever being exposed to humanist curricula or anything beyond a traditional Western Judeo Christian lens… Atlanta-based activist Black Son spoke forcefully about having imbibed a culture of bigotry from the Bible, noting that African American youth are merely recycling the oppressive images and gender stereotypes they’ve been taught by “Christian” precepts…

I can’t stress the importance of this group of activists. It’s hard enough being atheist. It has to be damn near impossible to be openly atheist in the black community. I hope more people come to their meetings — and I hope it encourages minorities in other areas to have meetings of their own.

It’s never easy to come out as an atheist, but it’s certainly easier when you have a supportive group like this.

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  • Trish Norman

    Do yourself a favour and join these people. Organise into a good support group.

    regards Trish

  • A picture is worth a thousand words. They should put this on a billboard or a bus.

  • Claudia

    Simply awesome. Any chance the discussions were recorded? I’d love to hear/see it if it was.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds good.

  • hammerud

    f there is no God nothing matters. Think about it a little bit. A person can live a life of cruelty and another may be the victim of the cruelty and at the end there is only blackness and nothing, no consequences, no making things right. Atheism leaves one with a meaningless existence. Blaise Pascal, one of history’s great minds (and, by the way, a Christian), stated “reasons last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things that are beyond it; it is merely feeble if it does not go so far as to realize that.” Since, unless you are God, you do not know that there is no God since at best you only know a tiny fraction of all that is knowable, why settle on the conclusion that there is no God and choose to go down the road of meaninglessness? The Book of Hebrews states, “But without faith it is impossible to please God for he that cometh to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Jesus said, “seek and you will find.” I sought. He’s there.

  • Lisa

    Interesting that in this atheist group composed of another visible minority, women seem to be well represented.

  • Black Atheist here.

    yes, it is critically important that free thought is encouraged in the African American community. there are actually more of us than it may seem, but we have a much, much harder time than white atheists (i won’t presume to speak for other minorities).

    it’s mostly because of MLK and Malcom and other important religious leaders in our community history. saying you’re an atheist is akin to saying “fuck MLK!” and of course that’s not what i mean to do in my atheism, but a lot of the older generation in particular reacts as if that’s what i mean. interestingly, esp among the middle class African American youth, there’s a growing culture of skepticism. it’s wonderful, and you know who is to thank for it? people like “Bishop” Eddie Long.

    African American youth today never saw the glorious religious leaders who brought us civil rights and freedom. no, all they’ve seen is hucksters and hustlers who talk about those old days, but can’t seem to do much more than talk about them. young black folks today are also aware of the fact that freedom includes sexual and reproductive freedom, and today’s black church leaders are opposed to all that, for no good reason given all the actually pressing problems the community faces. it’s still pretty hard, even among the young, to be a free thinker, but i’m not worried. it’s coming, our community will eventually embrace free thought and throw off the chains of the baptists in particular. those con artists make me more angry than any other denomination (heh, i just wrote that as “demon-ination,” freudian slip wise). you all may not know this, but there is a small and truly evil group of black religious leaders who caucus with the republicans, and who benefit from that “faith based” money the government gives them in exchange for convincing the black flock to vote for republican interests. they are some of the most despicable people in the universe and i would write what i’d like to do to them but Hemant would probably ban me if i did.

  • This is really great! We need more groups like this.

    It’s so surreal for me to see that picture, just because *every single person I know* who is black is such a fanatically-devout Christian that I’ve begun to subconsciously associate blackness with Christianity as time goes by.

    Being in the deep south probably doesn’t help.

  • Claudia

    @chicago dyke, amongst the many additional problems there are for black atheists (and really, what can you be in the US that’s easier if your the same thing as well as black?) I’ve seen it mentioned that in many places, the church constitutes one of the few stable community centers.

    I mention this because my only experience with black churches was through my best friend in high school. I feel confident in saying that her church really helped her pull through in very tough circumstances. She was the daughter of a single alcoholic mother and once her grandmother, the family rock, died, she was a very young teen essentially having to mother her little brother, a toddler at the time, with little family support in a really rough neighborhood. Her church was her rock and it enabled her to keep going and make it to college and out of the ghetto.

    It wasn’t a megachurch by any means. By the looks of it, it’s previous owners must have had a store there. I went a few times and though I would describe the experience as…intense, they were very kind and loving people and made me feel about as welcome as you can being a white atheist in a large room full of black baptists.

    I guess the upshot of this is that I wouldn’t go back and take that church away from her. This conflicts with my feeling that African Americans, even more than others, don’t need the additional burden of religion. What are your views on this? Isn’t developing strong communities a prequisite to getting rid of the bad substitute that is religion?

  • I wonder if the black churches support social-conservative causes like banning abortion, against gay rights, against stem cell research, against teaching evolution in biology classes, pro drug war.
    There must be a lot of ex-religious black people, although perhaps they don’t identify themselves as atheists. The “new atheism” seems predominantly white so black people might think of it as a white thing.
    Chicago Dyke doesn’t look very black in the picture, if that’s her physical reality.

  • thatblackgirl

    Argh! This makes me wish I lived in L.A. (if only to go to these meetings). And I want that shirt that the person second from the right is wearing.

  • GentleGiant

    Laura wrote:

    I wonder if the black churches support social-conservative causes like banning abortion, against gay rights, against stem cell research, against teaching evolution in biology classes, pro drug war.

    Some (a lot?) of them do, a lot of the pro-Prop 8 campaigning came from black churces (along with the Mormon church).

  • To “represent” in a minority community is very difficult (I’m Filipino=traditionally Catholic). Kudos to Silvia and her efforts.


  • Chicago Dyke, I’d say there’s hope with groups like this and hip hop artists starting to make good Atheist music.

    Greydon Square finally made me appreciate hip-hop. I’ve occassionally been using his ex-tian to describe myself. That’s catchy as hell and he’s smart as hell. I haven’t been listening to new music much lately but he’s great.

    I think the younger generation is starting to say we can think for ourselves and rebelling against religiousity doesn’t have to mean being a mindless thug. In fact, it involves thought and positive action.

    I love that one guy’s (on the right) scarlet A t-shirt i even if I couldn’t wear it: We are all Africans. Kind of says it all.

  • Rational Warrior (Rat.War.), I think is a better rapper than Greydon Square. I made a vid for him, he’s that awesome.

  • what does “black” look like, Laura? yes, that’s me. http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_VSjdKAQpeMw/TN3qhTGpOsI/AAAAAAAAIRg/Zy-7kwBRmB0/s1600/for-colored-girls-soundtrack-375-1.jpg

    it’s mostly poverty, imho. poor people around the world are more likely to be superstitious, and the black community is greatly oppressed in this country in educational and economic terms. but it’s cultural too, and it makes sense to use churches as safe spaces in which the community can gather. in some neighborhoods that’s all there is.

    i’m sorry so many are run by con-artists, that’s really what counts most to me. i’d be a lot quieter about the black church if i had not learned so much about it in Divinity school, or if it was actually “making a difference” in the community more often than not. but it’s not. it’s mostly a parasite on an already impoverished community. if the leadership were to transform itself into socially active agents of justice, that would be much better. but at this point it’s pretty unlikely that will ever happen.

  • Thanks, AtheistAtom. Just ran over and liked several of his on YouTube. I liked “Controlled” and “Extinction Agenda” even better than the one on your page.

    I liked Greydon’s voice better but Rational Warrior’s songs were even deeper and I like deep.

  • gwen

    now I want to move to LA! We need a black atheist group in the bay area! I feel like I live in an island of 3, now that my mother has died. 🙁

  • gwen

    Hi Chicago Dyke! 🙂 Another black atheist here! My parents were atheists and so are my children! :)…ex-hubby, not so much!

  • Kamaka

    @ hammurudthearrogant.com

    (I)f there is no God nothing matters.

    Ah, the universe is a big, weird, awe-inspiring place. Every day I am amazed at the beauty of the world, and am grateful that my fellow humans and I have the chance to experience it all, for however brief brief a time. If your fictitious supernatural entity is the only thing that gives meaning to your life, I pity you. You have voluntarily divorced yourself from true enjoyment of this life for the false promise of a “better life” to come.

    Think about it a little bit. A person can live a life of cruelty and another may be the victim of the cruelty and at the end there is only blackness and nothing, no consequences, no making things right.

    Life ain’t fair. Shit happens. Adolescent fantasies of justice and revenge..we all have them while lying in bed. Dream all you want of ultimate “fairness”, it’s not how the world works. You, too, could be hit by a bus tomorrow for no good reason. Grow up and learn to accept things as they are.

    Atheism leaves one with a meaningless existence.

    Speak for yourself, godbot. This unfounded statement of yours just drips with arrogance. How dare you claim your delusional world-view is some penultimate perception of reality.

    Doing good shit for people because a supernatural entity supposedly demands it and keeps track of your “good works” like Santa does, this somehow gives meaning to life?

    Let me clue you in to something. People don’t need an angry, mind-reading, vengeful god to behave correctly, nor to take joy in life.

    This is very, very simple. This life is it, when you are dead, you are gone, never to return. This is all the motivation any atheist needs to do their part to make the world a better place. We are filled with compassion at this thought, that we should do what we can to make this life as wonderful as can be, for all of the people in our lives shall so soon be gone.

  • @ Kamaka,

    Well said!

  • @thatblackgirl contact Agnes Zakiya on facebook. She has A TON of those shirts. All u have to do is donate $15 bucks. I got mine and it’s awesome : D

  • Artie Johnson

    As I prepare to out myself to my Family during Thanksgiving, I went to a group of atheists here in NYC. I wasnt the only Balck person in the group, I was almost asked immediately to help start a group in Harlem, as there are obviously Black non-believers out there, but leadership, and putting a familiar face on it is important.

  • I wonder how many Atheists are coming out over Thanksgiving prayers…..hmmm

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