Monday, January 14, 2013

The faithful do not allow me to keep my atheism to myself

In my many encounters with theists and some atheists, I have been asked why I devote a portion of my life to talking about, debating, and critiquing religion. The subject matter is engaging and so are its  implications/applications. The religious do not allow me to keep my atheism to myself. I cannot pick up the paper, get on the internet or turn on the news without seeing theocratic factions encroaching on free societies.

There are plenty of believers who find my opposition to theism to be from a place of poor taste and I would agree if I did something like following sentence.  It would be unkind of me to visit the local hospitals and preach to the faithful as they lay in their death beds that their god is not real. Clearly, I’m in complete violation of my social license and I ought to be rebuked for such ugly behavior but very many in the ranks of the faithful are far too eager to lecture others about the goodness of their god in a time of tragedy and pain. You may believe whatever you wish but why must I hear about it?

They say that many believers are not as educated or intelligent as I. It appears they think I am behaving as some kind of intellectual snob. Who am I to say anything about what brings other people comfort and hope? Why sneer at the gods and prestidigitators of the common folk? After all, the common folk have nothing else. Their lives are in shambles, they lack access to vital things/institutions and religion/God is what fills the void. While they live their present life in the leaky basement filled with rats, disease, and pestilence, religion/God gives them hope. Within that hope, their putrid lives have meaning and importance. Their current state of suffering is only temporary and they will be rewarded with an afterlife full of abundance, happiness, joy, and goodness. God will alleviate their plight when he stretches his loving embrace from the Heavens to call his children home. While they may be broken vessels which cannot be perfected in their bodies, if they remain humble and faithful, God will see fit to mitigate their suffering as long as they ask. His mercy will rain down and the beautiful breezes of his eternal love will envelope his followers as he carries them home.

But is not there where intellectual snobbery rears its head? The people who utter such noxious screeds are not “common people”. They distinguish themselves by claiming they are too cultured and sophisticated to believe in creationism and all that jazz, and simultaneously they claim I have no right to speak on religion/god. They opt for preaching obedience in the presence of immense suffering. It's pernicious and cynical.The prescription reeks of condescension. It is espoused by those who claim to be spokespersons on behalf of the god, all while they suffer the least. If the task of the educated is to keep quiet about what makes or keeps the common folk comfortable and happy, then I shun the task. When you say it does not matter whether the religion is true or that the god is real but it is the nightlight(it’s not lit up and quite possibly, in your broken state, you have to find it) in the room of darkness and despair, the darkness and despair still dominate the room.  Asking me to pipe down over such an alarming concession is not feasible. It is an exercise in vulgar, cheap, and tasteless thoughts to suggest the very real suffering which happens daily is part of some divine plan. Such positions are spouted uncritically and wantonly by the faithful. I do not come from a place of arrogance when I demand that theists and others develop better standards for holding their beliefs. Simply because it makes you feel good or it is a belief possessed by your friends, parents, or is part of your cultural background is not good enough. It is a demand which can be met head on with honesty and dedication. The pushers of faith appeal to solipsism and that kind of vacuous nonsense up with which I will not put.

As long as the faithful continue to demand preferential treatment within the public school system (science and history), lobby to avoid taxation by the government and have the audacity to try to influence policy which dictates law, then I will be obligated to speak and do something about it. The faithful can have their faith even though I do not think they need it but if they insist on waving it around in public, I cannot remain silent. I suggest you speak out too.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Inviting a Nuisance; I can't stay out of trouble.

On Thursday, I had an exit interview for a Women's Studies class. I arrived on campus about an hour before the interview. I found a nice chair, sat my ass down, and combed through one of my books. As I was doing that, 2 women, 1 Asian, 1 Black, approached me with caution and I believed they were about to ask me for directions. I did not notice the set up until after both women scurried off. The Asian woman walks up and spoke with a soft tone such that I or anyone they approach would lower my/your defenses and the Black woman is the bullhorn and is ready to offer a rebuttle if she is prompted. I'm asked for a moment of my time and since I had some time to kill, I granted the request. The Asian woman asks me "Are you a Christian"? I replied "No". She asks "Do you belong to another religion"? I said "No". She asks "Are you spiritual"? Again, "No". She looked confused and with each passing "no", she leaned her body away from me. I wanted to clear up her confusion and I told her I'm an atheist.

Meanwhile the Black woman is sitting in a chair next to me and playing on her iphone but when she heard me say I'm an atheist, she suddenly sprang to life (is there an app for that?). She screamed, "REALLY, WHY"? At that point, I was a little bewildered. Her loudness prompted a crowd of students and custodial workers to tune in to the festivities. By that time, the Asian woman was looking at me as though I was about to burst into flames. I explained to both women that I'm an atheist because I have/had not seen or been presented with any compelling evidence in favor of their God. the Black woman says "well scientists believe.....", and before she could finish, I said "I don't care what scientists believe. Simply because some may believe, that in and of itself is not evidence in favor of the existence of that god". She said "okay", and for a brief moment I thought the discussion may be fruitful. She asked me if she showed me the evidence for the existence of her god would I then believe. I held out my hand, smiled and said "give it to me". Instead of presenting me with evidence she said "The Bible says....", and I had to put a stop to her.

Why should I privilege the Bible over other "religious" texts? And the Bible is the source of a claim, not the proof of/for it. Confusion rears its head again. The Asian woman is about to perform an exorcism on me and the Black woman is flustered but trying to put forth a cogent reason but failing. She reaches for history, prophecy, and in both cases her claims were so murky and fallacious, I told her to "fix the fallacies". I told both women, I have read the Bible from cover to cover. I enjoy reading the Bible, just like I enjoy reading the Odyssey. Then I was told I read the Bible incorrectly. Can one of you good people tell me how it's supposed to be read? (I didn't say that to them) Both women were so uncomfortable that they both said "it's clear you are strong in your beliefs" (I had not stated a single belief I possess), and they RAN OFF. I had a nice chuckle to myself and the crowd enjoyed it too. The custodial workers told me that those women approach people in the building all of the time. I'm aware of the men who preach in Woodruff Park and yell to students and faculty about our impending doom and how we're destined for hell, but they usually don't walk up to you and if they do, a well placed finger and a "fuck off" does the trick.

This exchange is an example of Christian/religious privilege. Believing in a god, no matter how you define it, can be used as a social license to annoy other people. I understand they were trying to fulfill their obligation as stated in 1st Peter 3:15, and they have a legal right to be on campus, but when you cannot satisfy the demand put forth to you, that's when you should tip your cap and move on with the show. I'm in the Bible belt and both women assumed I believed in some "higher power". They thought they'd have a friendly venue to spread their version of good news and they did have a friendly venue........but they were met with questions and a demand for evidence. When they could not offer it, they decided to press the point with fallacious appeals, obfuscation, and bullshit, but they are can do it because their position is the majority one to hold and they expected compliance and received tempered resistance. Of course I play a role in this whole deal too. I could have told them to buzz off sooner and I incorrectly assumed they were just "lost". But then you would not have this post to read.

Moral of the story; when you cannot prove your case, SHUT UP.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Racism still exists in America? White people, come get this man.

Yes. I did not think I would have to ask that question but as I continue to study and have conversations with people I find plenty who think racism has disappeared into the night. The prevailing ignorance is centered amongst a number of factors, but I want to focus specifically on one; the election of Barack Obama in 2008. In my interactions with a lot of White people, and experiences imparted to me by a number of Black and White colleagues, the notion of “we have overcome” pops up. What I mean by that is that the election of ONE Black man to the highest political office in this country (and perhaps the world, depending on whom you ask), has brought us out of racism. We finally slayed the beast known as racism and everything is okay. Now we can hold hands, talk about how much we all love Martin Luther King, and maybe play a little Gladys Knight in the background. Sounds silly doesn’t it? The era of post-racial America has emerged (read sarcastically) but the endeavor is wholly short-sighted. The goal should be a post-racist America but I doubt it will ever be achieved.  

The following is brought to you by the letter R. Think Sesame Street.

As I was sitting in the doctor’s office, an older, early 50s, White male came in and sat next to me. The television in the waiting area was tuned in to Fox News and this particular gentleman became very chatty. The usual chit chat about what you do professionally, how long you’ve been in Atlanta, etc, are formalities but what has increased is the need to tell me what you think of Obama. The gentleman continues with “I don’t mean this to sound racist, but I don’t like Obama”. “It’s not a Black thing, but I feel like he doesn’t understand my country.” First, do you KNOW the man to say that? Has Obama come to your home and slapped you across the face? Second, YOUR COUNTRY?? Third, what’s up with the qualifiers? Maybe he thought I would beat his ass. I responded with a simple question, “Why?” The man claimed that Obama does not share the correct vision for America. He said Obama does not understand America is built upon individual liberty and ingenuity. The man is correct with respect to ingenuity. America was very clever in enforcing and legislating chattel slavery, specifically with the slave codes of 1793 as one example, to the continued disfranchisement of Black people in the North and South, and even to the segregation of military forces which inspired numerous calls to action by Black leaders in 1940 with regards to treatment, placement in posts, benefits, etc. The individual liberty belief is laughable, historically inaccurate, and flat out bullshit but conservative (and I mean that in the worst way you can imagine) White male historians, and those who wish to present historic fiction, love to push the individual liberty myth. The man went on to opine that he knows a number of Black people, whom he calls friends, who know the REAL truth about America and share his passion for this country. I nodded and thought to myself “this man represents a large number of Americans, and we are fucked.” I did not have time to knock down every single one of his statements but I did leave him with one question; how can you talk about this country being built on individual liberty when slavery was codified into law which dictated public policy?


Recently, an Arkansas representative made some racist ass comments about Black people being better off because of slavery. Benevolent slavery if you will. John Sununu, a senior advisor to the Romney campaign, suggested that Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama was done solely because Obama is Black. If that’s true, Powell should have endorsed only half of Obama but let’s not be too technical. Such commentary is meant to undervalue Powell as a man and to render his remarks as complete hogwash. The move is part of a concerted effort which has historical antecedents that aims to devalue Black life. This is not the first time nor will it be the last that some racist ass White dude says some foolish and racist shit about slavery or about Black people. The historical record reflects such attitudes in newspapers, law, public policy, misuse and abuse of science/medicine, literacy tests, etc. If you are shocked by the seemingly upfront and boisterous attitude by these racist people, I suggest you do some research. Go on over to the Auburn Avenue Research Library here in Atlanta, and you will see exactly what I am talking about. It’s not new and the only thing that has changed is the cast of characters and the technology that is used to present the beliefs. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Why I no longer say the N word; Musings from a Black Atheist

I struggled with this blog post for a few weeks. I was not sure how I wanted to articulate my thoughts, and feelings about such a destructive word. I know context matters, but in the case of that word, no context can excuse the usage of it. I am disheartened every time I see a Black person use the word, and create all kinds of justifications to excuse current and future usage. When White people use the N word, some Black folks defend White folks and say “it’s just a word”. No it’s not. Recent history tells us just how deep the N word has permeated our society. I cannot walk down the street, go to the grocery store, or walk into an elementary school lunchroom, and not hear the N word. I think it is time for a major change.

In order to change the culture, we must destroy everything with the N word on it. We need to get federal and state funding for programs to situate chronic users and consumers of the N word back into civil society. I would have loved to see President Obama and Mitt Romney talk about this pressing issue. I present this to you because I love my country and my fellow human beings. I want their mental health and physical health to be as sound as possible. Some folks need to be protected from themselves. I thought long and hard about this, plus I did the research. The N word is crushing our economy, our shared humanity, and our sense of self. I propose a federal law to outlaw the N word and harsh punishments ought handed out to states and cities who create safe havens for N word users.

I no longer say the N word. I find the word to be a tool of dehumanization. When uttering the word, I reveal a dark part of my character, and I become uncivil as do all others who use the word. Today is the last day I use the N word. Nutella will be banned from my vocabulary, my twitter feed, and my home. I hope you join me, and do the same. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Black Folk Don't do Atheism? Wrong. I'm Black and I 'do' Atheism

Check out the following video. (

Black folks in the US, if you believe the polling data (Pew, 2008) and Black women in particular report believing in a god/spiritual/creator. Black folks usually claim to attend church services more so than other groups and Black women lead in that category as well. The video does suggest that atheism is lacking in the Black community and I agree. People tend to believe as their parents do as well as their own community. Quite often we uncritically accept the thoughts and musings passed on to us because we trust the messenger and there may be some kind of benefit associated with accepting the message. I do not offer the previous thoughts as a excuse for why Black folks appear to accept Christianity, the god hypothesis generally or any spiritually/supernatural oriented claims, but the words are offered as an explanation for holding such beliefs. I think the explanation could apply to other types of beliefs people hold with respect to psychic predictions, mediums, astrology, homeopathy, etc. When critical inquiry is not encouraged or in some cases discouraged in regards to beliefs in a deity/supernatural claims, people will go on believing those beliefs. I'm not suggesting in any way that the promotion of skeptical inquiry alone would prevent people from believing at all. There are people that want to believe because they want to believe. What I am saying is increased visibility and outspokenness may eventually strike down the whole "Black Folk Don't Do Atheism" theme and some people and organizations are doing something about it. There are many groups, such as Black Non-Believers of Atlanta run by Mandisa Thomas and Black Atheists of America run by Ayanna Watson just to name a few. They are saying "we are here, you can come speak to us, you can help out in whatever way you can" etc. Change does take time. I'm often baffled when some accept the previous sentence with respect to biological evolution but devolve into disappointed idealism when change is not immediately on the horizon within other areas. An example of this kind of chatter I have seen is "why are Black folks are still Christians when the Bible was used to promote slavery". This line is trotted out as though the target will drop the belief within a few seconds and that just does not happen. It took me 5+ years to completely rid myself of Christianity, supernatural claims, the apologetics which went with it and my own attempts to intellectualize the material to present a slightly more sophisticated view than what Toure presented in the video. If you want people to be skeptical of their beliefs, lead by example, allow yourself to be open to discussion and understand you may not see the fruits of your labor. Sounds disconcerting and you may wonder what the damn point is if you do not see the results. I happen to think that is the wrong goal. You are there to plant the seed and to continue the work done by others which does not necessarily entail you standing back in awe of the finished product. I know Black folks will not give up their religious/supernatural beliefs overnight or within my own lifetime (28 years of age now), but I do expect to see more Black atheists and skeptics within the next 20 years. It's why I do this blog and what I spend most of my time tweeting about. If I have gotten 1 person to question her/his beliefs (the irrationally held beliefs or any others), then I have done my job and they do not have to tell me personally in order for me to continue what I do. I want others to think critically in all facets of their lives and to hold beliefs which are rationally justified when it concerns big questions. There are many others like me.  I am Black, and I do Atheism. Proud, unapologetic, outspoken, and I am visible. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

God's plan: George Zimmerman plays the "God Card"

I did not think George Zimmerman could supply another reason for me to despise his existence but he did last night with his interview with Fox News host, Sean Hannity. I was wrong. Once again he apologized to the Martin family and expressed not having any regrets for his actions the night of the shooting wherein he invoked "God's plan". Someone had an "oh shit" moment and Zimmerman later claimed “I do wish there was something, anything I could have done that would have put me in the position where I didn’t have to take his life. And I do want to tell everyone…that I’m sorry that this happened.” Uh how about not following him in the first place? Or exiting your vehicle? I do not believe Zimmerman nor do I think his apology is sincere. Given the Miami Herald's report which stated Zimmerman lamented over his parents not spelling his name "Jorge" instead of "George" tells me a lot about this man and his character. He only cares about himself, saving his own skin and furthering his hero complex.

Zimmerman and his attorney, Mark O'Mara, who gets a lot of accolades and praise from television legal experts as being "savvy" and "cunning", need more money for Zimmerman's defense fund and playing the God card is a good way to get credulous people to send you money. All you have to do is appear humble, clean cut, speak clearly, talk about your faith, have a softball interview and say the magic words, "God's plan". Believers were called to the battlefield to dismiss Zimmerman from the ranks and to defend "God". The usual "my god does this/that, is loving, caring" popped up all over the internet which was not very surprising. Whatever definition of god you operate with or whatever it does, given the available evidence, that god did not intervene the night Trayvon Martin was killed in such a way to preserve his life. No personal gods intervened, no spiritual truths were revealed, nor was any cosmic consciousness gained. The kid is dead at the hands of an overzealous self serving asshole. Trayvon Martin will never get the chance to lead the kind of life he wanted. He did no wrong and was minding his own damn business. Martin's death has caused pain and suffering in his own family, friends, and other concerned citizens. More people are skeptical (which may aid more cynicism and solipsism regarding appropriate action/involvement) of the police and the justice system. Instead we are subjected to his killer roaming around making nonsensical statements and playing cards of convenience to garner sympathy and money from the public.

Zimmerman is not a victim nor is his wife. They both lied about their finances to the court. I am not easily fooled by clean suits, a shaved face and a calm demeanor. He could have acted in a much different way than the night of the shooting. He is the adult. His sympathizers are misguided and often claim he's being railroaded. Identifying the facts and applying the law justly and fairly is not a railroad job.

Here's a final thought: I wonder what Zimmerman would think of "God's plan" if he were convicted of second degree murder by a jury of his peers.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Why I don't keep my atheism to myself

Religious/spiritual folks often opine on the frequency of which atheists comment on religious beliefs. Outspoken atheists are branded(in a derogatory way) "militants", "angry", "malcontents", "not having anything better to do with their time", etc. I think of such descriptions as "shut up" tactics deployed by members of religious/spiritual sects who would rather not hear any criticisms of their beliefs. I also think they are ill prepared to account for the reasons why they believe what they believe if they are questioned and commentary, even when the words are not directed at them breeds a response of resentment, contempt, and anger. Notions such as "live and let live" and "let people believe what they want to believe" are often tossed out as effective quips when one is annoyed or a criticism has hit very close to home. I submit to you that those two statements are thrown in the wrong direction. I cannot keep my atheism to myself precisely because of those statements and many many more. The religious/spiritual folks do not "live and let live". Their theocratic nonsense is pushed into every corner of society. History, the sciences, morality, philosophy, law, medicine, critical thinking, reproduction, parenting, education etc. If you can name it, they intend to be a part of the conversation and they offer their musings with some of the most tasteless and callous remarks you can think.

I could keep my atheism to myself if religious/spiritual people would keep their beliefs out of public policy. If they were not interested in advancing theocratic ideas into public school science classrooms, I'd shut up. Since they cannot provide sufficient evidence for their hypotheses, creationism/intelligent design, they opt for litigation. They distribute pamphlets full of misinformation with the hopes of preying on scientifically illiterate people. Some even want to invade the classroom as teachers which would create a robust response from science advocates to eliminate scientifically illiterate people from the ranks of teachers. If they(professional religious/spiritual folks) were not in the business of advocating for false hope and gleefully taking money from credulous people, I'd mind my own damn business. If religious/spiritual people were not trying to govern over a woman's body and her medical choices/decisions, I'd "live and let live". If they were not out terrorizing women at abortion clinics or creating burdensome hurdles(often with legislation) when she takes responsibility for her actions and decides to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, I'd hush up (there are some atheists who engage in that behavior too). Some think their god belief is the justification for dictating to women what they should wear and even if they can operate a motor vehicle. If she does not obey, she can receive lashes. There are people that willfully strap bombs to themselves, women, and children and march them or themselves into a crowded area, detonate the bomb and kill as many as they can within the blast radius. I have seen pastors advise their members to engage in business deals due to "divine inspiration". The business fails, the owner becomes insolvent, and they go back to the pastor and he says "my son, this was not your time, but God will make another way for you". The reply misses the reality of the situation but keeps the believer coming back to the same poisonous well from which he received the poor advice. There are many religious/spiritual folks who believe their belief in a god, however they semantically encode it, is a social license to demand their direct approval of how two consenting adults fuck each other. They believe their arbitrary rules supersede everything. There are atheists in countries who cannot be outspoken because of retaliation by ignorant fools. 

My outspokenness is partly due because these folks do not mind their own fucking business. I also speak out because I care about other people and I want to see a reduction in harmful ideas which I think affects the actions of those individuals who hold the beliefs. If you keep it to yourself, off my lawn, off my car and out of public policy, we may have no issue. I do think theists are wrong and I do not hold back on that point. Not every believer, whether spiritual or religious in nature behaves as I have described in the above comments but far too many are silent about those that do behave in such horrible ways. I will not keep quiet and I urge you, if you can to speak out as well.