Black atheists search for sense of belonging

47

At funerals, Warren Hughes always finds a seat in the back where, when the preaching and praying begins, he can slip out discreetly. He doesn’t bow his head pretending to pray because he hasn’t believed in prayer, or God, since he was 30 years old.


“If I stay there and bow my head, I am sanctioning what they are doing. I don’t sanction it because I think it’s wrong,” said Hughes, who grew up in the Christian Science church. “I give no validity to mysticism at all.”

Warren Hughes is 79, and until a year ago, he had never met anyone like himself: a black atheist. In the atheists groups he has joined, he was often the only black person.

It’s been lonely, he said, but that is beginning to change. The number of blacks who identify as nonreligious increased from 6 percent in 1990 to 11 percent in 2008, according to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

At the same time, blacks remain far more religious than most Americans. They have the highest percentage of church membership of any racial group—87 percent—and the highest percentage of people who say they absolutely believe in God, Pew says.

Written By: Jeff Kunerth
continue to source article at articles.orlandosentinel.com

47 COMMENTS

    • In reply to #1 by RDfan:

      Is going from a ghettoized black Christian community to a ghettoized black atheist community considered progress?

      In all seriousness, that depends on the brand of Christianity I suppose. Some Christians are actually incredibly charitable and cultivate helpful, supportive communities. Something you definitively want when you’re living in a ghetto. Others have a faith that compromises virtually everything, from violence/discrimination against LGBT’s, atheists and people of other religions, to a vehement opposition against birth control, women’s rights etc. Things that, considering a tendency towards higher crime rates and teen pregnancies, are especially unwelcome in a ghettoised community.

      • I confess, being a non american, white male,i dont really understand the problem here, i get your point about religious organisations providing some sense of community, especially given the poverty, crime, etc, but if one needs to leave that community, for whatever reason, then one has to leave the community. What i dont get is why the guy felt “lonely” being the only black guy in his atheist groups; i`d have no problem being the only white guy in whatever group i got involved with, as long as i was treated withh respect, and theres nothing in the original post to say he wasnt. I just dont understand the need for a “black atheist” group, or an “asian atheist ” group, or for that matter a “people who like brown shoes” atheist group. why do we need to segregate ourselves into categories like that? Im not attacking you in any way, just trying to understand here.

        In reply to #2 by Sjoerd Westenborg:

        In reply to #1 by RDfan:

        Is going from a ghettoized black Christian community to a ghettoized black atheist community considered progress?

        In all seriousness, that depends on the brand of Christianity I suppose. Some Christians are actually incredibly charitable and cultivate helpful, supportive communities. Something you definitively want when you’re living in a ghetto. Others have a faith that compromises virtually everything, from violence/discrimination against LGBT’s, atheists and people of other religions, to a vehement opposition against birth control, women’s rights etc. Things that, considering a tendency towards higher crime rates and teen pregnancies, are especially unwelcome in a ghettoised community.

        • In reply to #4 by bewlay_brother:

          I confess, being a non american, white male,i dont really understand the problem here. . .

          As a non-american you cannot possibly understand. European racism is not the same as the racism Americans have towards African-Americans. Our racism is rooted in the guilt of having kept a people as slaves, denigrating them to the status of sub-human (in order to justify their barbaric treatment), then eventually being forced to live with them as equals,even mixing with their blood. In Europe you see people of other races as invaders, in America, most African-Americans’ ancestors were here long before many of the white people. It takes a huge amount of hatred to blind oneself to the reality of the true status of African-Americans. They are not first or second generation. They are rooted in this country. But, (having digressed sufficiently from the gist of your comment) I think the reason it is of some relevance is that because of this deep hatred and emotional despise of the Blacks, it can be almost impossible for an African-American to just move out into another community, leaving them trapped.

          • well first of all i personally dont see people of other races as invaders, but thats a small point.
            I appreciate the history of slavery, we had slaves in europe too, and I in no way was i trying to minimize that.

            However, the main thrust of my question, or inquiry really, was given the person had already left his community, and had been involved in perhaps mainly white atheist groups, but had not suggested those groups were racist towards him,or had not accepted him, why did he still feel “lonely” and need to find / set up a black group. I , in my limited understanding, just see that as further segregation, though i admit im naiive to the political/ racism state of the us. Im just genuinely interested and trying to understand.

            In reply to #7 by tymecortalis:

            In reply to #4 by bewlay_brother:

            I confess, being a non american, white male,i dont really understand the problem here. . .

            As a non-american you cannot possibly understand. European racism is not the same as the racism Americans have towards African-Americans. Our racism is rooted in the guilt of having kept a people as slaves, denigrating them to the status of sub-human (in order to justify their barbaric treatment), then eventually being forced to live with them as equals,even mixing with their blood. In Europe you see people of other races as invaders, in America, most African-Americans’ ancestors were here long before many of the white people. It takes a huge amount of hatred to blind oneself to the reality of the true status of African-Americans. They are not first or second generation. They are rooted in this country. But, (having digressed sufficiently from the gist of your comment) I think the reason it is of some relevance is that because of this deep hatred and emotional despise of the Blacks, it can be almost impossible for an African-American to just move out into another community, leaving them trapped.

          • Perhaps my reply was as much in response to other comments on this topic as to yours, bewlay_brother. But the main thrust, as you mention is something that used to baffle me, too. For instance, why do Africans who emigrate to England speak with perfect British accents so that they’re indiscernible from a Caucasian Englishman, yet African-Americans have their own manner of speaking and a voice that is usually identifiable? I believe it is because of that separate society that has been imposed on them. Either they cling to their difference as a social empowerment, or they suffer from the negligence of a school system in the segregated neighborhoods they are raised in, that doesn’t bother to teach them to speak like the rest of American society. I know that may sound opinionated, but it is my personal observation, also being a foreigner, but having myself been brought up in all american schools and having learned to “speak like a white man”, only (I believe), because I was given the full benefit of an all-white education.

            In reply to #8 by bewlay_brother:

            well first of all i personally dont see people of other races as invaders, but thats a small point.
            I appreciate the history of slavery, we had slaves in europe too, and I in no way was i trying to minimize that.

            However, the main thrust of my question, or inquiry really, was given the person had already left his community, and had been involved in perhaps mainly white atheist groups, but had not suggested those groups were racist towards him,or had not accepted him, why did he still feel “lonely” and need to find / set up a black group. I , in my limited understanding, just see that as further segregation, though i admit im naiive to the political/ racism state of the us. Im just genuinely interested and trying to understand.

            In reply to #7 by tymecortalis:

            In reply to #4 by bewlay_brother:

            I confess, being a non american, white male,i dont really understand the problem here. . .

            As a non-american you cannot possibly understand. European racism is not the same as the racism Americans have towards African-Americans. Our racism is rooted in the guilt of having kept a people as slaves, denigrating them to the status of sub-human (in order to justify their barbaric treatment), then eventually being forced to live with them as equals,even mixing with their blood. In Europe you see people of other races as invaders, in America, most African-Americans’ ancestors were here long before many of the white people. It takes a huge amount of hatred to blind oneself to the reality of the true status of African-Americans. They are not first or second generation. They are rooted in this country. But, (having digressed sufficiently from the gist of your comment) I think the reason it is of some relevance is that because of this deep hatred and emotional despise of the Blacks, it can be almost impossible for an African-American to just move out into another community, leaving them trapped.

          • Ok, thank you, that does make some sort of sense to me.

            In reply to #10 by tymecortalis:

            Perhaps my reply was as much in response to other comments on this topic as to yours, bewlay_brother. But the main thrust, as you mention is something that used to baffle me, too. For instance, why do Africans ….

    • In reply to #1 by RDfan:

      Is going from a ghettoized black Christian community to a ghettoized black atheist community considered progress?

      Your comment is one example of why there are separate communities.

      • In reply to #43 by estevancarlos:

        This was argued and addressed on the old RD site many times and the same questions keep coming up. Achromat 666 addressed it so effectively (along with many others) that I went rooting around for his and others thoughtful responses. My attention span is pretty short right now (I need to get to sleep) and I only got to a couple of threads. I found Achromat’s comments and I’ve chosen this one for now:

        Jump to comment 63 by achromat666

        Comment 61 by RDfan :

        Maybe this whole obsession with “race” is an American or European thing. I mean, you don’t get Africans in Africa celebrating “Black History Month” or ” Kwanzaa”, do you? No. For people living in Africa, every month is another part of their history; no special celebration needed, no affirmation required, they simply are. Not so in the US. I get the feeling that in the US, whenever something needs to be done, people reach out to their nearest “look-alike, act-alike, talk-alike” person, before they feel comfortable doing whatever it is they plan to do. This usually translates to so-called “racial” or same-Old-Europe-country friends. It’s a shame that like-minded people — of whatever background — cannot just get together and get on with the program at hand. Instead, they have to forge themselves into often fabricated groups — such as “African-American”& — or made-up cultural events — such as Kwanzaa.

        Please at least attempt to make the distinction of the terms by their cultural as well as racial distinction, because that actually directly identifies the difference of the perception of the African and the African American. You are making a false equivalency between the two in terms of their history in this country. Africans are free to come to America now and they have the whole of their culture intact to practice as they please. The African Americans descended from the slaves a mere 200 or so years ago did not have that fortune and the culture referred to in this case as has been said time and time again refers to that.

        The US has a really big issue coming to terms with it, and many would simply choose to take the road you refer to. But simply changing the terminology doesn’t change the predicament, for blacks in this country or numerous minorities. Yes, the US is separated by cultures and race as well as many other bothersome designations that in fact have no place. But it refuses to confront them head on and what you see is the result.

        I mean, from an Evolutionary perspective, all Americans can trace their roots to Africa, not just the most recent ones who got their in the Slave Trade. And, many “blacks” in the US are actually, like Obama, of joint heritage and yet they choose to ignore this fact and instead fall in with the “black” label when, in fact, they may as well choose to call themselves “white” or, better yet, just stick with being called human.

        I’ve already said that there is no difference in race overall and all humans are descended from Africa. This is not the issue, and simply referring to everyone as human is the goal rather than the path. We’re obviously not there yet in the US and other places and that’s the point. Until the country as a whole gets past the hang up, the issue will not change, and the division and stereotypes will persist. Fix the problem before dismissing the terms that so offend.

        Also, the label “black” tends to flatten out the great variety and differences that exist in Africa and in those Africans who ended up in Europe and the US. There is probably more genetic (and cultural) difference among Africans than there is in any other part of the world. And yet all this is flattened out by the label “black”, a label which presupposed sameness or similarity. Ultimately, we are all individuals, both genetically and in terms of what we think. This too is flattened out by often unhelpful labels such as “Asian-American” or “Latino-American” or “Irish-American”.

        I’ve already covered this in my first response in stating the cultural as well as racial designation of the terms Black or African American. The culture that is oppressed in this case are the slave descendants, which is unique to that group in this country. That is your distinction. Saying the labels are unhelpful does not address the issue that is still a problem in this country. It doesn’t make the stigma disappear.

        And once again, this is not helpful to the discourse. You’re making a huge mountain out of the mere mention of the terms (which I personally have lived with my whole life and likely find it far more offensive than you do) and not addressing the issue of the theistic condition that the OP is attempting to address.

        You don’t like the label? Fine, you’re not alone, and you aren’t subjected to it at all times. But it’s there, and until the issues surrounding it are resolved, it’s not going anywhere. Not using the words aren’t going to solve the problem, but the sentiment is both understood and appreciated. Now,can we move this thread past this?

        • That was a random pick. Achromat was in on many earlier discussions and as good as that post was, I might not have chosen the best one. (I really need sleep.)

          I also found this by MD Hatcher:

          Pretty much everything that I was going to say has already been said, but there are a couple of points that I want to add.

          The “African American” in African Americans for humanism refers less to race than it does to culture. Now I am all for fostering a society that is blind to skin color, but it would be extraordinarily naive to assume that one’s skin color and/or ethnicity has nothing to do with his culture. This is especially true in America, a country that was founded in the middle of African slavery, and utilized said slavery to build the foundations of this country, both economically and, unfortunately, culturally.

          As a result of the isolation of Jim Crow, pre-Civil Rights segregation, and post Civil Rights discrimination, the isolation of Black American has created a sort of cultural genetic drift… a memetic drift if you will. Though we have more commonalities than we often think, there is no question that Blacks tend to have more in common with each other than we do with other racial groups. This makes it much easier to relate to the stories that are told and questions that are asked.

          For example, the CENTER of the black community is and has been for a long time, the Church. For a long time is was the only place where we could get our education, politics, child care, marriage counseling, dates, etc. It’s roots in the Black community makes their reverend more important than their senator. This is something that, in my and many other Blacks’ experience, is something that people outside of the culture don’t get. Hispanic America do have a similar experience admittedly, which is why you find so many in Black Atheist groups.

          The group is not about division, or elitism. It is simply a tactic to best feed the needs of people who are going through a very confusing time. When I first started going to humanist gatherings, there were predominantly old, rich, white guys. I couldn’t ask them how they dealt with growing up poor with the only place you can go being church, even though you don’t believe it. I wanted to talk to people I could relate to, and that is what AAH seeks to do: provide a safe place where people can feel comfortable in their self exploration and quest for knowledge… with people who can relate to them.

          Hopefully the world will progress to a point where neither African American nor Humanist groups are necessary because there would be no need to make the distinction. Unfortunately, we ain’t there yet.

        • In reply to #44 by susanlatimer:

          In reply to #43 by estevancarlos:

          This was argued and addressed on the old RD site many times and the same questions keep coming up. Achromat 666 addressed it so effectively (along with many others) that I went rooting around for his and others thoughtful responses. My attention span is pretty short right now (I need to get to sleep) and I only got to a couple of threads. I found Achromat’s comments and I’ve chosen this one for now:

          Jump to comment 63 by achromat666

          Comment 61 by RDfan :

          A most fruitful “rooting around” indeed. This perhaps happens more than we know- old battles being refought to some extent unnecessarily.

  1. So Bewlay, when was the last time you discussed about the wage disparity beween African Americans and Americans of European descent? When was the last time you discussed about the merits and harm of the pop culture consumed by AA kids in the ghetto?

    Obviously, different people have different priority, and I think it’s understandable that it is easier to communicate with people on the same wavelength rather than people who you have to explain to every second sentence.

    • Hi adiroth

      Well, those discussions are important and need to be addressed. I think all Americans should be concerned about them, not just the black ones.

      The fundamental problem I see here, though, is that there are still forms of racial segregation in the US, and surely we’re only going to solve them if we unite because of our similarities rather than remain divided because of our differences. Single race groups may seem tempting but I think they preserve, not destroy social inequalities.

      In reply to #5 by adiroth:

      So Bewlay, when was the last time you discussed about the wage disparity beween African Americans and Americans of European descent? When was the last time you discussed about the merits and harm of the pop culture consumed by AA kids in the ghetto?

      Obviously, different people have different priority, and I think it’s understandable that it is easier to communicate with people on the same wavelength rather than people who you have to explain to every second sentence.

      • Hey, prayforme, I think it is imperative that people are allowed to sort out their identity in their own term & let them redefine themselves until they feel comfortable enough to engage with the rest of the community. As we’ve often read, coming out as an atheist is quite traumatic for some.

        Honestly, atheist groups generally have poor community outreach. There’s rarely any atheist groups with community support scheme that resembles what mainstream religion has. What you said about confronting racial & social inequity is true, it needs to be fought, but why has it become their duty more than yours? Why aren’t you the one reaching out to them and invite them to the greater so-called “atheist community” which is absent in most places? Internet forums can only do so much you know.

        Atheist groups are often depicted as majorly white, over educated mobs, and my general experience with a lot of groups can confirm that. However, the fact is that not all atheists fit the same category. Like any other groups, there is also a mixed bag of prejudices that exist among non-believers, such as ageism, elitism & ethnocentrism. It is easy to see why joining the rest of the atheist groups seems daunting to the African American groups.

        Anyway, have you examined how the skeptik-eque attitudes of atheists in meet-up groups differ from other cultures? Imagine a group of Japanese exchange students being there or a group of people from other culture being there, or perhaps people from different socioeconomic/educational background, do you think they would feel comfortable joining in?

        In reply to #6 by prayforme:

        Hi adiroth

        Well, those discussions are important and need to be addressed. I think all Americans should be concerned about them, not just the black ones.

        The fundamental problem I see here, though, is that there are still forms of racial segregation in the US, and surely we’re only going to solve them if we unite because of our similarities rather than remain divided because of our differences. Single race groups may seem tempting but I think they preserve, not destroy social inequalities.

        In reply to #5 by adiroth:

        So Bewlay, when was the last time you discussed about the wage disparity beween African Americans and Americans of European descent? When was the last time you discussed about the merits and harm of the pop culture consumed by AA kids in the ghetto?

        Obviously, different people have different priority, and I think it’s understandable that it is easier to communicate with people on the same wavelength rather than people who you have to explain to every second sentence.

    • I havent, because those issues are unknown to me, but i`d be pleased to read any information youd like to give me.
      However, it seems to me, that the poster was at least on one issue on the same wavelength when he joined atheist groups. But equally, it also seems tome important to hear the views of people not on the same wavelength as ones self in order to understand their position better andfind common ground. Which is why i asked the question in the first place, to better understand, from people in the US, why its such an issue. It was a genuine question, not a criticism, and a answer of “you couldnt possibly understand” is pretty unhelpfull and just furthers stereotypes.

      In reply to #5 by adiroth:

      So Bewlay, when was the last time you discussed about the wage disparity beween African Americans and Americans of European descent? When was the last time you discussed about the merits and harm of the pop culture consumed by AA kids in the ghetto?

      Obviously, different people have different priority, and I think it’s understandable that it is easier to communicate with people on the same wavelength rather than people who you have to explain to every second sentence.

  2. Tymecortalis

    I have met many, many Africans and black British people who don’t speak with a ‘perfect British accent’. This is not a judgement but an observation which counters your rather broad generalisation. I would even go so far as to say I’m pretty sure I could distinguish white British voices from black British ones with a fairly high degree of accuracy.

    Your main argument seems to be that black people are segregated in the US so they should continue to segregate themselves. I firmly disagree and posit that if all atheists, regardless of race, join together to promote secularism in America, that it might just help to erode racial barriers.

    My argument stems from the idea that segregation furthers segregation. Do you disagree with this?

    • Your point is well taken. I didn’t mean to generalize. What I failed to mention in my comment was that because of this difference in culture, many African-Americans feel put out and on the defensive when in an all white group.

      In reply to #11 by prayforme:

      Tymecortalis

      I have met many, many Africans and black British people who don’t speak with a ‘perfect British accent’. This is not a judgement but an observation which counters your rather broad generalisation. I would even go so far as to say I’m pretty sure I could distinguish white British voices from black British ones with a fairly high degree of accuracy.

      Your main argument seems to be that black people are segregated in the US so they should continue to segregate themselves. I firmly disagree and posit that if all atheists, regardless of race, join together to promote secularism in America, that it might just help to erode racial barriers.

      My argument stems from the idea that segregation furthers segregation. Do you disagree with this?

      • Thats pretty much what i understood from your comment. Is that the case even when they are treated fairly in the group, with equal respect, as I imagine was the case in the athiest group from the article? theres nothing in the article to suggest otherwise?

        Also are there similar issues with other non-white groups in the US, or even white minority groups, like italian-americans or irish-americans.

        In reply to #13 by tymecortalis:
        many African-Americans feel put out and on the defensive when in an all white group.

        In reply to #11 by prayforme:

        Tymecortalis

        I have met many, many Africans and black British people who don’t speak with a ‘perfect British accent’. This is not a judgement but an observation which counters your rather broad generalisation. I would even go so far as to say I’m pretty sure I could distinguish white British voices from black British ones with a fairly high degree of accuracy.

        Your main argument seems to be that black people are segregated in the US so they should continue to segregate themselves. I firmly disagree and posit that if all atheists, regardless of race, join together to promote secularism in America, that it might just help to erode racial barriers.

        My argument stems from the idea that segregation furthers segregation. Do you disagree with this?

        • From my experience, the way American’s feel towards other races not African-American is different. American racism against Hispanics and Asians, for instance, seems more what I loosely classified as European racism against “invaders”, a jealousy if they are prospering and if they are on welfare, taking benefits they feel are reserved for themselves. Against Muslim Middle-Easterners, it’s fear. As someone who comes across as an educated Hispanic, I’ve found it easy to mix with whites. But being included into that circle, I have often had to endure, with a grin-and-bear-it attitude, racist remarks made against Blacks, Filipino, Hispanic and every other people. Once I’ve recognized the unbridled bias they feel for people of other races, I can no longer feel comfortable and soon part ways. I’m sure that a Black Atheist might encounter some slip of the tongue even in a group of enlightened people. It is amazing to me how thoughtlessly Americans spout their disdain for the darker races. In the community I live in, which is predominantly white, there is a supermarket down the street where more than one neighbor has told me, quite openly, that they wouldn’t shop there “because of the clientele.” The people who patronize the store are mostly of Black and Hispanic culture. One of the neighbors stated she just doesn’t “feel safe on that end of the street” even though the neighborhood is the same and the only people of color are those those that travel there because of the low prices. I look at them and wonder, so what do they think I am? I actually like the store because I see a variety of people there and feel comfortable. In fact when I shop at stores in white neighborhoods I feel ill at ease. If I bring something to the store to compare with what I’m shopping for, I panic when I realize I now have to put it back in my pocket, sure that if someone saw me I would be accused of shoplifting. Though this fear might seem unfounded in my case, as I don’t look stereo typically Latino, it still persists. So to answer your question, yes there is a profoundly sad reason why a Black Atheist would feel the need to meet with people of his own background and experience here in America. In Europe, I don’t think the problem is as severe, as people of different races seem to assimilate more readily there.

          In reply to #14 by bewlay_brother:

          Thats pretty much what i understood from your comment. Is that the case even when they are treated fairly in the group, with equal respect, as I imagine was the case in the athiest group from the article? theres nothing in the article to suggest otherwise?

          Also are there similar issues with other non-white groups in the US, or even white minority groups, like italian-americans or irish-americans.

          In reply to #13 by tymecortalis:
          many African-Americans feel put out and on the defensive when in an all white group.

          In reply to #11 by prayforme:

          Tymecortalis

          I have met many, many Africans and black British people who don’t speak with a ‘perfect British accent’. This is not a judgement but an observation which counters your rather broad generalisation. I would even go so far as to say I’m pretty sure I could distinguish white British voices from black British ones with a fairly high degree of accuracy.

          Your main argument seems to be that black people are segregated in the US so they should continue to segregate themselves. I firmly disagree and posit that if all atheists, regardless of race, join together to promote secularism in America, that it might just help to erode racial barriers.

          My argument stems from the idea that segregation furthers segregation. Do you disagree with this?

  3. I’m sure many African Americans do feel put-out and defensive when in an all-white group! I’m suggesting we put our efforts into ensuring there are no all-white groups! The only way to not have all-white groups is for black people to join them.

    I also feel, and this is very much personal opinion, without evidence, that black people may find that white atheists are generally less racist, and more welcoming, than their religious counterparts. Atheists try to form reasoned opinions, and racist ideas don’t stand up to reason.

    • I agree with both points wholeheartedly. And the US is not just populated with blacks and whites, but asians, eastern europeans, native americans … and so on; at least a proportion of these other minorities must be atheist , surely the aim should be to encourage multicultural groups.

      In reply to #15 by prayforme:
      The only way to not have all-white groups is for black people to join them.

      I also feel, and this is very much personal opinion, without evidence, that black people may find that white atheists are generally less racist, and more welcoming, than their religious counterparts. Atheists try to form reasoned opinions, and racist ideas don’t stand up to reason.

    • In reply to #15 by prayforme:

      I’m sure many African Americans do feel put-out and defensive when in an all-white group! I’m suggesting we put our efforts into ensuring there are no all-white groups! The only way to not have all-white groups is for black people to join them.

      I also feel, and this is very much personal opinion, without evidence, that black people may find that white atheists are generally less racist, and more welcoming, than their religious counterparts. Atheists try to form reasoned opinions, and racist ideas don’t stand up to reason.

      I’ve been following the discussion with a great deal of interest. I think it’s hard to break into any new group when one doesn’t fit the standard profile. It takes a great deal of courage, even when the in-group is probably more favourably disposed to individual differences than the wider community would be.

      Once the process has started, more will have courage to join up. Good luck.

    • In reply to #15 by prayforme:

      I’m sure many African Americans do feel put-out and defensive when in an all-white group! I’m suggesting we put our efforts into ensuring there are no all-white groups! The only way to not have all-white groups is for black people to join them.

      I also feel, and this is very much personal opinion, without evidence, that black people may find that white atheists are generally less racist, and more welcoming, than their religious counterparts. Atheists try to form reasoned opinions, and racist ideas don’t stand up to reason.

      I agree with you. My opinions about racism are based on the experiences I’ve had with “christian” white people. We need more people like you to break the barriers religious societies have erected. Even on this topic I sense a complacent form of racism in comments like, “Is going from a ghettoized black Christian community to a ghettoized black atheist community considered progress?” Not all Black communities in America are ghettos. Some are quite affluent.

  4. I also think the US is on the cusp of something special. For the first time in history, you have elected a mixed race (or black, as your white-centric media insist) president. Perhaps America isn’t quite as racist as it seems. You have an opportunity to fight against race inequality and that means resisting all segregation where we find it.

    • In reply to #17 by prayforme:

      I also think the US is on the cusp of something special. For the first time in history, you have elected a mixed race (or black, as your white-centric media insist) president. Perhaps America isn’t quite as racist as it seems. You have an opportunity to fight against race inequality and that means resisting all segregation where we find it.

      Whoah! You just drove a nail into the powder keg, prayforme. Quite the opposite, I feel that it wasn’t until Obama became president that racism has re -emerged to the forefront in America. Before the past two presidential elections, many of the people who openly voice racist dislike for Obama and all the racist connotations imputed to his programs for the poor seemed to be on the fence, outwardly at least. Now, it is once again, OK to be racist in America, from deriding his “Obamacare” (spoken with a smirk), to the “Obamaphone” (spoken with a sneer).
      But, politics aside, it would be secularism that unites the people of America, because through anti theism, by discarding religious elitism (the idea that our beliefs elevate us above others), we put ourselves on an equal footing with everyone else.
      Perhaps the “something special” is that people of color may realize that the idea of equal rights was just a veneer. But the true good part of it is, I believe, is that as Bill O’Reilly pouted after the election results were reported this past November 2012, “the white establishment is now the minority.” [Guardian] (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2012/nov/07/election-2012-bill-oreilly-white-establishment-minority-video)

      • *In reply to #27 by tymecortalis: Right on. The 2012 G.O.P campaign (especially the primaries) was viciously, overtly and shamelessly racist. There have got to be millions of people who haven’t stopped foaming at the mouth since Election Day Nov. 2007. It is hard to believe that some of the things said to or about the President, his wife and his kids would have been said except that they spring from, intend to arouse, harness or direct racial hatred. No one ever rose up un a State of the Union and called out Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush 1 & 2, or Clinton as liars but they all deserved it a lot more than Obama. *

        In reply to #17 by prayforme:

        I also think the US is on the cusp of something special. For the first time in history, you have elected a mixed race (or black, as your white-centric media insist) president. Perhaps America isn’t quite as racist as it seems. You have an opportunity to fight against race inequality and that means resisting all segregation where we find it.

        Whoah! You just drove a nail into the powder keg, prayforme. Quite the opposite, I feel that it wasn’t until Obama became president that racism has re -emerged to the forefront in America. Before the past two presidential elections, many of the people who openly voice racist dislike for Obama and all the racist connotations imputed to his programs for the poor seemed to be on the fence, outwardly at least. Now, it is once again, OK to be racist in America, from deriding his “Obamacare” (spoken with a smirk), to the “Obamaphone” (spoken with a sneer).
        But, politics aside, it would be secularism that unites the people of America, because through anti theism, by discarding religious elitism (the idea that our beliefs elevate us above others), we put ourselves on an equal footing with everyone else.
        Perhaps the “something special” is that people of color may realize that the idea of equal rights was just a veneer. But the true good part of it is, I believe, is that as Bill O’Reilly pouted after the election results were reported this past November 2012, “the white establishment is now the minority.” [Guardian] (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2012/nov/07/election-2012-bill-oreilly-white-establishment-minority-video)

  5. @Nitya

    Yes, I agree with you. I imagine it does take a lot of courage to join a group in which most people are of a different profile. I guess I’m trying to advocate the sentiment that, in the USA, atheists have a big battle on their hands and should join forces where they can. This is, for once in America’s history, a civil liberties battle which transcends race.

    Atheist groups should make it clear that they welcome people of all backgrounds and that, in American culture, the desire for secularism is more important than racial differences.

    Maybe, just maybe, secularism can be achieved by groups who represent ALL Americans. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing?

  6. There is a new meetup group for atheists in London called London black atheists. They are inclusive to all races but specifically try to encourage black atheists out of the woodwork to join in the collective cause of opposing religious indoctrination and discrimination. Here is a link to their about page on their website which might help you understand the usefulness of such groups in the long run.

    http://www.meetup.com/London-Black-Atheists/

    They recently hosted an excellent passionate talk by Nigerian atheist activist Leo Igwe in hackney, east London which highlighted the difficulties faced by atheists in Africa and African communities in England. They had a very good turn out including the leaders of the British humanist association, national secular society, central London humanists, Alom Shaha and many other well known atheists.
    I think that the more people who are encouraged to think rationally and join the cause the better.

  7. I think you are all missing the point of the article. Black atheists have joined together not because of the negative feelings of others but because they miss the positive social connections that they have had within their black churches. What we as atheists have to realize is that ethnic groupings and religious communities satisfy real emotional needs. It is non-rational but not irrational to feel most comfortable within your own ethnic or even racial group. This doesn’t make you a racist or a bigot but admits the emotional side of human relationships. It doesn’t mean that you exclude others but still admit your humanity began within a community of people with similar histories and backgrounds.

  8. why did he still feel “lonely” and need to find / set up a black group. I , in my limited understanding, just see that as further segregation,

    OK, we will put you in a room with ten 80-year-old grandmothers knitting in rocking chairs and see how you like being the only younger guy. Birds of a feather flock together.

  9. In reply to #1 by RDfan:

    Is going from a ghettoized black Christian community to a ghettoized black atheist community considered progress?

    In reply to #1 by RDfan:

    Is going from a ghettoized black Christian community to a ghettoized black atheist community considered progress?

    I neither come from a ghetto nor am I going to one. Just because we are black doesn’t mean we grew up in ghettos. You’re just trying to be insulting.

  10. In reply to #4 by bewlay_brother:

    I confess, being a non american, white male,i dont really understand the problem here, i get your point about religious organisations providing some sense of community, especially given the poverty, crime, etc, but if one needs to leave that community, for whatever reason, then one has to leave the community. What i dont get is why the guy felt “lonely” being the only black guy in his atheist groups; i`d have no problem being the only white guy in whatever group i got involved with, as long as i was treated withh respect, and theres nothing in the original post to say he wasnt. I just dont understand the need for a “black atheist” group, or an “asian atheist ” group, or for that matter a “people who like brown shoes” atheist group. why do we need to segregate ourselves into categories like that? Im not attacking you in any way, just trying to understand here.In reply to #2 by Sjoerd Westenborg:In reply to #1 by RDfan:Is going from a ghettoized black Christian community to a ghettoized black atheist community considered progress?In all seriousness, that depends on the brand of Christianity I suppose. Some Christians are actually incredibly charitable and cultivate helpful, supportive communities. Something you definitively want when you’re living in a ghetto. Others have a faith that compromises virtually everything, from violence/discrimination against LGBT’s, atheists and people of other religions, to a vehement opposition against birth control, women’s rights etc. Things that, considering a tendency towards higher crime rates and teen pregnancies, are especially unwelcome in a ghettoised community.

    Why do we segregate in atheist groups v. Christian groups? Aren’t we all just people? The black community is OBVIOUSLY different. We have extremely high levels of religiosity. Why? Those are the types of things we discuss at these meetings. Do you feel that you could meaningfully contribute to why the black community is the way it is? If so, go to one of the groups. The fact that you said “i dont get is why” is enough. Have you ever thought to ask or is “not getting it” more comfortable to you?

  11. In reply to #5 by adiroth:

    So Bewlay, when was the last time you discussed about the wage disparity beween African Americans and Americans of European descent? When was the last time you discussed about the merits and harm of the pop culture consumed by AA kids in the ghetto?Obviously, different people have different priority, and I think it’s understandable that it is easier to communicate with people on the same wavelength rather than people who you have to explain to every second sentence.

    It is easier being amongst people that you don’t have explain everything to.. but why is everyone in this thread talking about ghettos? I was raised in an middle class family with a college educated father and yet my issues are still relevant as a black atheist.

  12. In reply to #6 by prayforme:

    Hi adirothWell, those discussions are important and need to be addressed. I think all Americans should be concerned about them, not just the black ones.The fundamental problem I see here, though, is that there are still forms of racial segregation in the US, and surely we’re only going to solve them if we unite because of our similarities rather than remain divided because of our differences. Single race groups may seem tempting but I think they preserve, not destroy social inequalities.In reply to #5 by adiroth:So Bewlay, when was the last time you discussed about the wage disparity beween African Americans and Americans of European descent? When was the last time you discussed about the merits and harm of the pop culture consumed by AA kids in the ghetto?Obviously, different people have different priority, and I think it’s understandable that it is easier to communicate with people on the same wavelength rather than people who you have to explain to every second sentence.

    Then help with the inequities. If we show up to predominantly white groups, will you help us with problems in the black community? Is that important enough to you? Will you talk to black pastors and go to black churches? Will you help us figure out why religiosity is so high in the black community and help determine action steps to counter it? Will you help us cope with being called “white” for being atheists?

  13. In reply to #11 by prayforme:

    TymecortalisI have met many, many Africans and black British people who don’t speak with a ‘perfect British accent’. This is not a judgement but an observation which counters your rather broad generalisation. I would even go so far as to say I’m pretty sure I could distinguish white British voices from black British ones with a fairly high degree of accuracy.Your main argument seems to be that black people are segregated in the US so they should continue to segregate themselves. I firmly disagree and posit that if all atheists, regardless of race, join together to promote secularism in America, that it might just help to erode racial barriers.My argument stems from the idea that segregation furthers segregation. Do you disagree with this?

    It’s not segregation. It’s a descriptor. I don’t know of a black atheist group that doesn’t have non-black members. Having the descriptor is a sort of advertisement that black atheists are out there. Lots of people are shocked to even meet a black atheist.

  14. In reply to #15 by prayforme:

    I’m sure many African Americans do feel put-out and defensive when in an all-white group! I’m suggesting we put our efforts into ensuring there are no all-white groups! The only way to not have all-white groups is for black people to join them.I also feel, and this is very much personal opinion, without evidence, that black people may find that white atheists are generally less racist, and more welcoming, than their religious counterparts. Atheists try to form reasoned opinions, and racist ideas don’t stand up to reason.

    And yet this thread is full of people talking about black people being “ghettoized”.

    • In reply to #37 by BridgetGaudette:

      And yet this thread is full of people talking about black people being “ghettoized”.

      Not sure where that came from. Th original article appears to be missing. Perhaps there was reference in that to ghettos,

  15. In reply to #17 by prayforme:

    I also think the US is on the cusp of something special. For the first time in history, you have elected a mixed race (or black, as your white-centric media insist) president. Perhaps America isn’t quite as racist as it seems. You have an opportunity to fight against race inequality and that means resisting all segregation where we find it.

    Wow.. and there is goes. Someone had to say it.

    • In reply to #38 by BridgetGaudette:

      In reply to #17 by prayforme:

      I also think the US is on the cusp of something special. For the first time in history, you have elected a mixed race (or black, as your white-centric media insist) president. Perhaps America isn’t quite as racist as it seems. You have an opportunity to fight against race inequality and that means resisting all segregation where we find it.

      Wow.. and there is goes. Someone had to say it.

      Thanks, Bridget. I think your comments help put this dialogue into perspective. People often don’t realize they are racists. “I once lived in North Carolina and have lived in New York. I’d rather deal with the open bigotry of the South than the complacent racism of the North.” – I said that.

  16. Video suggestion ~ Skepticon 5:
    Racial Diversity and/in Our Fight Against Theism*

    • by Anthony B. Pinn PhD, Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies, Rice University

    I just saw this today and thought it was really good. Prof. Pinn was a preacher in a black church before college and finally turned his back on when he was doing his PhD at Harvard. Those familiar with Dan Barker of the Freedom from Religion Foundation will recognize a surprisingly parallel experience.

    There are comments here that I think might be reconsidered or improved if Pinn’s video had been a prerequisite. I cringed a bit here or there. I’m not black but I’m drawing on life experience, not theory or political correctness, to claim a right to make this observation.

  17. In reply to #45 by susanlatimer:

    More links to old discussions can be found at oldricharddawkins.net if you type in African American atheists in the search bar so we don’t have to start from scratch. The questions are fair, and have already been asked and answered and whatever needs to be added or subtracted would be useful input.

    Any arguments that ensue would be enriched by the earlier discussions.

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