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. 

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