The Root, a site with articles from an African-American perspective, is in the middle of a fantastic and fascinating series called “On Black Atheism.” Jenée Desmond-Harris has interviewed several black atheists and their responses are must-reads for everyone interested in how our community can become more inclusive to minorities.
Rice University professor Anthony Pinn:
TR: Could the civil rights movement have happened without Christianity?
ABP: We give Christianity too much credit. Like Martin Luther King Jr. argued, the vast majority of churches weren’t involved. We also forget there was a humanist and atheist presence within the civil rights movement. So the question is, could it have happened without determined people? No. Was it a movement that was completely dependent upon Christians and other theists? No, never.
Director of Development at American Atheists, A.J. Johnson:
TR: What are the best and worst ways that religion factors into African-American political views and political activity? How is faith leveraged to motivate or to manipulate?
AJJ: Where to begin? Personally, I loathe the rampant homophobia in the African-American community. Somehow these people don’t understand that they are being bigoted and prejudiced. We use the same book to tell gays they are not OK that says slavery is just fine. Frankly, the hypocrisy is thick!
TR: If Christianity — and religious belief overall — declines in the African-American community, how, if at all, will it impact the fight for social justice moving forward?
MDH: I have always been under the impression that people weren’t good people because of religion, but good people seek religion because they are raised to believe that it is necessary to be a good person. Without religion, we will still have the same amount of good people; however, we will lose a lot of the infrastructure that churches have built over the last century. With the emergence of secular black communities, organizations and activist movements, the church will find itself struggling to stay relevant in the progressive world.
Host of SPARring With Jamila: The Sex Politics and Religion Hour on the Voice of Russia Radio, Jamila Bey:
TR: Are African Americans better or worse off as a result of religion, and why?
JB: We are worse off. Religion has enslaved us physically. Religion continues to enslave us mentally. It keeps us away from scientific advancement. It tells us that we know, which gives us no reason to explore and discover. Religiosity kills your brain cells, son. It kills your brain cells.
More interviews are still to come — there’s no shortage of African-American atheists, and it’s great to see them getting this spotlight.