Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Atheists: Yes we do exist.

You may have heard or seen the following statements or some variathon of them; Atheism is a white person thing or Atheism is for white people. You may think "what the hell is wrong with that person to spout such an ignorant statement", and I think the thought is right but let's examine a few things. Due to a lot of purposeful misinformation, widespread delusions, outright lies, and intellectual laziness, atheism is perceived as a white only exercise. The fact that I and other Black atheists exist, proves the earlier statements to be false but the perception has become a reality and it's something we have to fight against. Within the black community there is a widespread and deep belief that not believing in a god, or advocating for science is akin to "acting white". The same can be said if you enunciate, wear clothes that fit you, or read some damn books. Those thoughts are not only expressed by young people but by older people too. Some older Black folks think their words, thoughts and actions are above reproach, simply because of their age and any thinking that challenges them is disrespectful. Having "too much knowledge" and the willingness to use it, express it and correct others when they are wrong can be detrimental and can lead to familial separation and social suicide among other things.

Note: "acting white" is used by people that place white intelligence in it's own special category above their own intelligence. They see themselves and their thinking as inferior and anyone who does not buy into the inferiority is attempting to "be white". To them, white people are seen as the readers, thinkers, non-believers, so if you are any one of those things, you are "trying to fit in" or "curry favor with white people". You are viewed as a traitor to your own race.

Black folks(in America) trend the highest when polling when asked do they believe in god. I take the polls at face value. Many of our recent historical figures, such as MLK Jr, are usually quoted with some reference to their particular religious belief. Sports stars, such as David Tyree, then a New York Giants wide receiver who made a spectacular catch in the Superbowl that ended the New England Patriots perfect season, has publicly expressed that his belief in God has helped him in hard times and helped him win the Superbowl. Steve Harvey, a comedian and radio show host has publicly condemned atheists as "not having a moral compass". He has counseled Black women with "relationship books" and tells them to avoid men without faith. Many pastors, reverends, prophets and "prophetesses" are heralded because of the position they have within the church. They are afforded respect and absolute deference to many things and can say and do just about anything and receive little to no push back. None of the aforementioned names may mean anything to you but my point is this; the power of celebrity, specific positions within a church or even demonstrable intelligence in academia or entrepreneurial success can/will be used as justifications for believing in God. Certain figures will be juxtaposed to you as a way of saying "they believe and look at them. You have no excuse to not believe". Those are powerful moves to a non-skeptical mind. We like to give authority to others in a multitude of areas when they've only demonstrated reason and competence in one or two fields. (perhaps that can be applied universally)

Why do I say I exist? I think there is power in numbers and I think my voice is meaningful. I want to be heard and I want to contribute.  I happen to wear atheist shirts because I want others to know that I am not ashamed. Part of the problem with "atheism is a white only thing" is that some Black atheists refuse to speak out. That's right, some of this is SELF-IMPOSED. You cannot be accounted for if you choose to remain silent and as the saying goes "closed mouths don't get fed". Now some of the silence is due to a lack of an environment in which to express the fact that they are an atheist without being peppered with negative judgments about their lives, mental/emotional states and their thinking. Some of the silence is "not wanting to proselytize" like the believers do and there is some refusal to gather because that might look "too churchy". I call bull shit on the last two. I think the we all benefit from the healthy skepticism that each one of us can offer toward religious/spiritual claims and dogma. We can also gather and do fun things together, like go to the movies, have some damn drinks, bowl, clean up the community, and PREACH the message of rational thought, advocate for science and trash anti-science and pseudo-science, healthy skepticism and critical thinking to other people. Social networking has been a useful tool in reaching out as well but when/if you can GET OFF THE NET and talk to people. I do understand that everyone is not like me and some are non-confrontational. Different people have different personalities but contribute where you can.

This post isn't to say that the Black atheist experience is more deserving of attention or is better than or harder than any other but it is to say IT IS DIFFERENT AND DISTINCT in some ways. I'm sure my post is non-comprehensive and incomplete in some way. I can say I've met other Black atheists. We exist and we are here to stay. I think we should speak out, not just about atheism, but also about women's rights, advocate for responsible and informed voters/voting, get involved in the political process and bring use the skepticism we have for religious/spiritual claims to all important aspects of our lives and our community. We should be outspoken about good solid reasoning and high standards of evidence for gigantic claims.

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