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Black Nonbelievers Speak Out - Comments

GregGorey's Avatar Comment 1 by GregGorey

This is a wonderful thing. Black humanists have a lot to be proud of and it is about time that they speak out (after all, WEB DuBois, A Philip Randolph, and Frederick Douglas were humanists)!

For anyone who thinks this extra initiative is not needed, you have to realize how integral Christianity has historically been to black American identity. Mark Hatcher gave a very elegant explanation of this within his video on the CFI's playlist.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 03:50:45 UTC | #913319

RDfan's Avatar Comment 2 by RDfan

"Doubts about religion? You're one of many. People for Humanism."

There, fixed it.

It's good to see more and more "black" people involved in atheism (I use the quotation marks to denote that race is, in fact, bogus). It's a crying shame, however, that in the 21st C people still need their own special group in order to do so. I can think of few other things that ought to be completely free of arcane notions such as race than the non-belief in, one of many, imaginary sky-daddys.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 04:59:46 UTC | #913324

PERSON's Avatar Comment 3 by PERSON

Comment 2 by RDfan

Race is bogus, sure. The existence of belief in race is not, nor is the historical fact of the consequences of that belief. And that has caused people to have significantly differing histories. The past is what creates the present, nothing else. Believing it has no effect on anything is delusional. I agree the notion of race should be rejected, but who doesn't do so? Do you have any evidence there are black sceptics who don't? Or is it more that you just don't want to talk about it, or anyone else to talk about it? Ignoring things that exist doesn't make them go away.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 07:47:19 UTC | #913339

Bhaal's Avatar Comment 4 by Bhaal

I'm inclined to agree with RDfan and would add that this incessant need to be associated as "black" or "African American" or any sort of "race" is to me disgusting, counter-productive backwards thinking and does in no way help to eradicate racism.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 07:59:41 UTC | #913343

RDfan's Avatar Comment 5 by RDfan

PERSON (comment 3), by all means we can talk about "race"; I'm all for it. I'm for it in the same way that I'm for talking about imaginary things like gods. But many of us, atheists and agnostics, live our lives as though gods do not exist. That's because gods, in fact, don't exist. When it comes to race, however, things are different. Although it's well understood that race is a fiction, many people, it seems, live their lives as though it is a fact. Why do people who rightly disavow imaginary concepts like gods yet accept imaginary concepts like race?

Anyway, as I said, I approve of more people being atheist!

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 08:01:45 UTC | #913344

Michael Gray's Avatar Comment 6 by Michael Gray

Why not: "Redheaded Nonbelievers Speak Out!"??
What a load of anachronistic bullshit.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 08:19:24 UTC | #913349

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 7 by susanlatimer

Comment 3 by PERSON

Ignoring things that exist doesn't make them go away.

Exactly. I can't believe people think it doesn't exist, therefore, human notions that it DOES exist have no effect on anything.

These are black non-believers highlighting atheist thinkers from their community and from history during Black History Month.

Before we all start telling black non-believers that race doesn't exist and has no effect on anything, maybe we should listen to some of their insights.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 08:53:34 UTC | #913353

PERSON's Avatar Comment 8 by PERSON

Comment 5 by RDfan

Belief in gods exists. Belief in race exists. More to the point, the consequences of those beliefs having existed also exist. They have existed for a long time, and continue to have an effect, even where they are no longer believed and amongst those who have long rejected them. That is (or should be) the point in this kind of activity.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 09:24:26 UTC | #913360

jel's Avatar Comment 9 by jel

While we can all hope for a future in which someone's race (how ever that may be defined) is of no import, the fact is that, at the moment it does and I, for one, am happy to support this campaign.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 09:40:36 UTC | #913363

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 10 by justinesaracen

That photo brought a little twinge of nostalgia. It's on Frederick Douglass Boulevard near 118 street, a block from where I used to live, (and I'm seeing it from here in Europe).

It doesn't surprise me that such a poster would appear now in that part of Harlem. It is very gentrified these days, with a significant population of Columbia University people. The poor and working class blacks who lived there ten years ago when I lived on that street have slowly had to move on to lower rent parts of the city, and I suspect their religious views have moved with them.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 09:41:15 UTC | #913364

achromat666's Avatar Comment 11 by achromat666

It's good to see more and more "black" people involved in atheism (I use the quotation marks to denote that race is, in fact, bogus). It's a crying shame, however, that in the 21st C people still need their own special group in order to do so. I can think of few other things that ought to be completely free of arcane notions such as race than the non-belief in, one of many, imaginary sky-daddys.

I'm inclined to agree with RDfan and would add that this incessant need to be associated as "black" or "African American" or any sort of "race" is to me disgusting, counter-productive backwards thinking and does in no way help to eradicate racism.

OK, I've dealt with this at least twice already, but every thread I catch these sort of responses ignorant of the actual issue at hand:

This is NOT about special treatment. This is not about whether or not black people (or humans that as it happens are darker in color and happen to originate from Africa) are in any way deserving of attention for being atheist. It's about understanding the plight in the US in particular of a division of humanity mainly descended from a group that has nearly at every turn had faith and ignorance forced upon them when all else was taken and have found it as a group very hard to let go of because of the culture that has been created as a result. It is as it stands, still one of the most religious groups in the US and the feeling of alienation from your peers for abandoning faith by many (myself included) is indeed real and that you ignore this is downright disturbing frankly.

And to both of you listen very carefully: if the issues surrounding race had magically disappeared and the US in its own media didn't treat blacks as being different in just the way the refer to them perhaps your comments would have more weight. The idea of being black as a race, as it is being any other minority in this country is not only very real but very damning of the US of how its perceived.

Any one of you tell me you routinely to this day have the stereotype of being judged as being illiterate, ignorant, incapable, and willing to commit various crimes just as a result of your color as a direct result of the ignorance of the country you live in. That being an intelligent person to most seems a remarkable thing. I can, because I deal with it all the damn time.

Fix the issue before you dismiss it. Yes it is sad that a group of people, regardless of how they're pigeonholed or separated feel it necessary to identify themselves by the one aspect they have no control over.

So are you going to continue to ignore it, or just pretend that they (we) aren't judged by it? You're willing to rail against ignorance in every other form as it regards religion but seem woefully ignorant or uncaring of the plight of freedom from religion for a people that have very much been enslaved by it.

Address, don't dismiss. Pretending it isn't a problem just because you don't deal with it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 10:54:02 UTC | #913383

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 12 by AtheistEgbert

Identity politics is a double-edged sword, and I'm afraid it's a self-defeating force in the long term, while in the short term it may achieve success. Equality and liberty ought to be about the individual and not the group.

New atheism flirts with identity politics, but Hitchens warns us rather wisely to avoid it. We ought not to identify ourselves as atheists fighting for atheist rights against the religious, rather, we are individuals fighting for the equality, rights and liberty of all.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 11:47:39 UTC | #913390

Paul the Pretentious's Avatar Comment 13 by Paul the Pretentious

Achromat: First: love the name.

Second: Wonderfully said.

Every single time an article gets posted here about black atheists, there's an influx of people who regard it as ignorant racism. "So what if their skin is dark? That's just stupid. Why segregate them just because they have more pigment in their skin than other people?"

The thing is, I don't think these people realize that black is more than just a color. To say that someone is a black atheist, is to say that they grew up in a community which elevates the virtues of blind faith in a Supreme Being, and religiosity in general, to ridiculous heights.

Let's try a thought experiment with another phrase: Afghani atheist. Nobody would be incensed or offended over this distinction. I suspect that, given the nature of religious dominance in Afghanistan, atheistic thinkers in the West would applaud any individual to openly state their disbelief, in the middle of a country that has been for so long controlled by theocratic monsters. We understand that being an Afghani and also being an atheist is risky business; you could be killed for it, if your peers thought you deserved it. Muhammad did proscribe the death penalty for apostasy.

There is a real, distinct, black community. Skin is the partition by which it was created; and inside that partition a particular set of characteristics has developed, and one of them is religiosity. Overwhelmingly, black people remain more religious than any other group of people in America. When I see people so angry and upset and mad about the existence of groups like AAH, I can't help but think that they don't actually KNOW any black people.

I would like very much for there to be no need for such groups as AAH. Indeed, I'd prefer that there be no need for any secular support group.

But the need is there. Some people will say, "How do you expect to do away with racism if you let groups like this exist?" My response is simply that atheists in general are the most thoughtful and intelligent people on the planet, and among the least likely to be racist. But if you only knew about atheism via the news, without actually having met any atheists, you might be inclined to think they're a bunch of rich old white guys. So again, there is a need for this kind of group.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 11:52:56 UTC | #913391

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 14 by Steven Mading

Comment 2 by RDfan :

"Doubts about religion? You're one of many. People for Humanism."

There, fixed it.

It's good to see more and more "black" people involved in atheism (I use the quotation marks to denote that race is, in fact, bogus). It's a crying shame, however, that in the 21st C people still need their own special group in order to do so. I can think of few other things that ought to be completely free of arcane notions such as race than the non-belief in, one of many, imaginary sky-daddys.

You are an atheist. You don't think God exists. Yet you use this non-group identity of a non-thing in order to decide to visit this website, for example, in addition to whatever other atheist-things you might do. Why? Well, for the same reason I do. Because even though God is a bogus proposition, the fact that a great many other people do believe the proposition and use it to drive so much of their politics and social policies ends up having an enormous effect on those of us who don't.

It's the same thing with these groups of black atheists. Yes, the idea of a "races" called "black" and "white" is pretty bogus, especially to those who understand what's really going on in the genes and know that the genes controlling skin tone are no more biologically important than the ones controlling hair color. BUT, the fact that other people do put stock in the idea does affect people a lot.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 13:00:06 UTC | #913417

notany's Avatar Comment 15 by notany

One of the problems I have with "we are all the same" is that it infers that everyone is really like me, white.

If this is true, then why don't they act like me? Shouldn't they wear their hair, dress and talk like me and believe in what I believe in? And about that music...It would be a lot easier for me if everyone was white.

Maybe we could get black people to practice being white once a week, how about an official proclamation of White Tuesday?

Yep, that's arrogance. It is my default setting. When I examine this more closely, I ask myself why would anyone want to be just like me? Really, I'm rather screwed up. Where does this thinking leave me? I hope it leaves me with an ability to hold genuine respect for ... others.

In other words, I support African Americans for Humanism.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 13:12:55 UTC | #913422

GregGorey's Avatar Comment 16 by GregGorey

I think many of you are ignorantly writing this effort off. The reasons why this campaign is required is because, for many black Americans, there is no such thing as identity without the Black Church. Throughout my life, I have had many black friends who the idea of losing the church is unimaginable. This is because they do everything from receiving loans from it to meet their spouses there. There is also the fact that many black Americans, would be completely exiled from their community for coming out. Saying "well, x and y are exiled from their community also" doesn't somehow make this go away. We are not having a crapping contest, we are trying to help people and certain groups (like the Clergy Project) require a special initiative. Also, race is completely real and somehow saying it isn't does not make someone who is severely suffering because of their lack of faith feel any better (are they supposed to read this and say "since blackness isn't less real my community will quit exiling me"). It may be a social or cultural construct, but that doesn't somehow make blackness any less real. I feel like many of the arguments made could also be used to eliminate virtually any kind of identity if it were consistently applied. Instead of whining, I think we should follow John Dewey's advice and focus on the fact that there are people suffering out there and no amount of semantics can get around that.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 14:32:44 UTC | #913441

aroundtown's Avatar Comment 17 by aroundtown

I could not care less what color the person is who is seeking to challenge and breakaway from the lunacy of religion. If they are out there and need a supporting nod then I say that's a positive project. We need to align under the common cause of dragging the oppressive affliction of religion out into the open and focus on accepting everyone regardless of race in that endeavor.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 15:39:45 UTC | #913451

Rosbif's Avatar Comment 18 by Rosbif

Ah, the race question again.

They're not atheist because they're black and they're not black because they're atheist (or naughty Jews - note for Mr Romney). But their history has kept them shamefully apart from the whilte folks.

The relgious ones have their own churches because the white churches have no soul. The early xtians were obviously punished by god and sentenced to life without rythm, but the African were not xtians until xtians took them from their forest spirits and made them slaves like the bible says.

Why on earth are any of them xtians?

It's bad enough being an outcast becasue you've got dark skin, imagine how outcast you'd be in America if you had no god AND dark skin.

We're All Africans!

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 16:43:59 UTC | #913469

Rosbif's Avatar Comment 19 by Rosbif

I've always disliked the term African American

We don't refer to European Americans, or Scandinavian Americans, or call the large Italian population Romano Americans or even Latin Americans, which would be more accurate than its use for the Hispano Americans which have a far more recent injection of African blood from the Moores.

Should we call the Indians, who clearly don't come from India, Asiatic Americans or Ancient chino-Americans?

How about all of them being simply Americans.

Sisi ni Waafrika wote

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 16:57:50 UTC | #913473

Bhaal's Avatar Comment 20 by Bhaal

Comment 11 by achromat666

Comment 13 by Paul the Pretentious

I understand this is a complex issue involving both race and community as well as religion. Because of this I will let you know where I'm coming from. I am a "white" swede living in Sweden. I was raised in a secular society by atheist parents who taught me the value of critical thinking as a means to navigate the world and learn more about it.

Clearly I am ignorant of a lot of things about growing up in a close knit religious community, be it black, fundamentalist Christian, religious cult or anything else. While I have much to learn, I do feel this gives me a unique position peering in from the outside.

I acknowledge that racism is a real issue and something we all need to take seriously and deal with. That said, mixing culture, religion, community and race together and calling it "black" might not be the best way to deal with it. Propagating this stereotype with ad campaigns like this one is definitely not helping to take race out of the equation.

I will admit that the ad campaign will probably do its job of enlightening people living in African American communities about atheism and secular humanist values. This is always a good idea and I'm not against that at all. I do wish it was done in another way that didn't promote segregation. A lot of atheists hesitate to come out as atheists in their communities for fear of being ostracised. This is a real problem, not just in African American communities and I don't see the need to single them out, to group them together as a separate entity divorced from the rest of society. I feel that inclusion is a much better way of promoting atheism.

An atheist is an atheist no matter where they are from or how they came to the conclusion that there is no god. An Afghani atheist is the same as a black atheist, there is no ethnic or cultural difference in the non-belief in gods, it's the same no matter where you are from. You can certainly be an atheist living in, or with a cultural background in, Afghanistan but you would be an atheist just the same if you weren't. To label people by their ethnicity or cultural background is not a good idea and akin to the labelling of children by their parents religion, or people by their religious background. Whether you say Afghani atheist, black atheist, Christian atheist or Muslim child they are all wrong.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 17:04:19 UTC | #913476

achromat666's Avatar Comment 21 by achromat666

I acknowledge that racism is a real issue and something we all need to take seriously and deal with. That said, mixing culture, religion, community and race together and calling it "black" might not be the best way to deal with it. Propagating this stereotype with ad campaigns like this one is definitely not helping to take race out of the equation.

The problem is that one cannot remove race from the issue. I did not ask to be called black, or African-American, or any other label. My father grew up in the 1940's in North Carolina. My grandmother lived to 101 and lived through some of the worst of the racial troubles of the past century. To say that things have improved is a great understatement but to say that everyone is treated equally is a grave injustice. The labels are a result of the overall issue, which reflects the attitude towards the differences of people as opposed to their similarities. In the US, everything is literally divided by those differences, as if everyone didn't possess the same basic needs.

This isn't propagating a stereotype, it is the identity of the group. to change that identity, you have to change the perception this country has of its people, which is a far larger issue than whether or not someone is a black atheist. I agree with the previous poster who stated that semantics are only going to complicate things, but moreover whether or not you agree with the position or not, I have at no point ever stated that such labels are a long term solution. They are not a solution at all. They are a reminder or a truly dark chapter that needs to be remembered as to not be repeated. And they are sadly the identity of blacks in this country burdened with the religion of their slavers. No one should have to suffer being forced to take the faith of anyone that believed they owned them. It is beyond reprehensible.

As that predicament is unique, and whether you prefer the term attributed to it, it deserves a distinction for those who still suffer in it.

One cannot remove the issue of race without confronting and dealing with it, and this country has a long issue of denial and avoidance on that issue. I don't want color to ever be a barrier, but until that is true, I have to accept that it is and confront it at every turn. If you want the language of things to change, it is the only thing you can do.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 17:46:10 UTC | #913488

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 22 by aquilacane

Here's a headline:

Doubts about the relevance of skin colour, you're one of many. Humans for humanism.

Is this campaign exclusive to brown Africans? (I know more pink African Americans, actually born in Africa, than brown African Americans born there. In my circle, that is)

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 17:56:17 UTC | #913493

i_am_user's Avatar Comment 23 by i_am_user

There is idealism, such as a world where there is no need to distinguish people by their race, sex, sexual orientation, etc, and there is reality. We have to work within reality, not our own notion of an idealistic world. The reality is that the black community is highly religious and that perhaps black atheists do find themselves very isolated and afraid of rejection from their community. I am reminded of a debate at a black college about the existence god. One young black female asked if the concept of atheism was a white mindset being imposed on black people. When we see ads that say 'people', we read it as 'white people'.

This kind of thing also reminds me of when anti gay bullying efforts were being made in schools and parents complained about specifying the 'gay' - what about other kinds of bullying, like those targeting overweight people, etc? If we just said 'don't discriminate, be nice to people', we think 'straight people'. It's important to target the specific issues.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 18:09:56 UTC | #913501

wcapehart's Avatar Comment 24 by wcapehart

Certain people and groups are insisting that atheism, especially the "new atheism," represents the trappings of "white privilege" so as to dismiss and demonize contrarian atheist views and expression as "racist." This also lets them dismiss, isolate, and likewise demonize atheist blacks as "inauthentic" unless they are cool and militantly cite Karl Marx (which also simultaneously makes them too scary for polite company).

This campaign is an important fork to stick in the eyes of these cynical bigots. We can grimace at the need to do this, but we should't be naive as to the why-fors of needing to do it.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 18:18:38 UTC | #913503

Wokkie's Avatar Comment 25 by Wokkie

Well, I think it's a great campaign. These divisions and labels exist and I don't see a problem with it. Yes, we are all humans, but we also show in this way that atheists exists everywhere. :-)

There are "American Atheists", "Texas Humanists" and "African American Humanists". Good. I like the fact that people in communities stand up for humanism.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 18:54:23 UTC | #913517

Pitchguest's Avatar Comment 26 by Pitchguest

Comment 11 by achromat666

OK, I've dealt with this at least twice already, but every thread I catch these sort of responses ignorant of the actual issue at hand:

This is NOT about special treatment. This is not about whether or not black people (or humans that as it happens are darker in color and happen to originate from Africa) are in any way deserving of attention for being atheist.

That is not what he said. This is what he said:

Comment 4 by Bhaal

I'm inclined to agree with RDfan and would add that this incessant need to be associated as "black" or "African American" or any sort of "race" is to me disgusting, counter-productive backwards thinking and does in no way help to eradicate racism.

Constantly referring to people who happen to be black as "black" or "African Americans" (if they're black and live in America) is counter-productive and doesn't resolve the issue of "race." He never said anything about special treatment, or special treatment because they're black and atheist. And neither has anyone else for that matter. However, the effort to call it "African Americans for Humanism" does little to quell the idea that "black people" and "the rest of us" are different and seperated. We're not, and more to the point we shouldn't be. You're probably not going to get many people who aren't black to call in to something called "African Americans for Humanism."

A lot of people are going to support it, obviously, but if you happen to live in that neighbourhood and you see that plaque, and you're "white," would you give them a call? Not because it features a black person on it, but because it says "African Americans for Humanism." Why not just call it "Americans for Humanism" and cut out the middle man?

Maybe it's an effort to bolster the atheists/humanists who live in black communities -- I don't live there and I don't know the situation -- but it's bewildering why they would choose to alienate themselves to the rest of the community. If they're already being discriminated against, isn't this merely an acknowledgement? It doesn't make any sense. In fact, I'm reminded of Rebecca Watson and her feminist atheist movement and how she claimed females in atheist communities are being "sexualised." If this banner had said "Females for Humanism" or "Feminists" or something similar, I would have the same exact reaction. Or Gingers.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 19:05:01 UTC | #913520

Pitchguest's Avatar Comment 27 by Pitchguest

Comment 24 by wcapehart

One young black female asked if the concept of atheism was a white mindset being imposed on black people. When we see ads that say 'people', we read it as 'white people'.

No we don't. Speak for yourself.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 19:07:37 UTC | #913521

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 28 by susanlatimer

comment 21 by achromat666

Great post.

One cannot remove the issue of race without confronting and dealing with it, and this country has a long issue of denial and avoidance on that issue. I don't want color to ever be a barrier, but until that is true, I have to accept that it is and confront it at every turn. If you want the language of things to change, it is the only thing you can do.

I'm not sure why this isn't obvious to everyone.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 19:07:42 UTC | #913522

Corylus's Avatar Comment 29 by Corylus

Comment 27 by Pitchguest :

Comment 24 by wcapehart

One young black female asked if the concept of atheism was a white mindset being imposed on black people. When we see ads that say 'people', we read it as 'white people'.

No we don't. Speak for yourself.

You know, this group was not set up as a covert way of accusing white guys of racism. I rather suspect they have more pressing concerns. Please remember, their very presence is not a personal attack. You have never shown any indication of being a racist in your comments that I can recall at all ... so ... Pitchguest not a racist then: tis all good.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 19:38:55 UTC | #913529

Pitchguest's Avatar Comment 30 by Pitchguest

Comment 28 by susanlatimer

One cannot remove the issue of race without confronting and dealing with it, and this country has a long issue of denial and avoidance on that issue. I don't want color to ever be a barrier, but until that is true, I have to accept that it is and confront it at every turn. If you want the language of things to change, it is the only thing you can do.

I'm not sure why this isn't obvious to everyone.

You're never going to change the language if you keep using the terms meant to seperate one group of people from another. The term "African American", for example, is to me more abrasive than "black" because it purposely wants to divide. As well the other terms; "Latin American," "Asian American," "Indian American," etc, etc, etc. I don't like the terms "white" and "black" either because we're clearly neither white nor black in reality, nor are we brown, or red, or yellow. We have different pigmentations and bone structures (which would give rise to the question of "race", as old man Linné professed), but other than that?

This is why I don't refer to a black person "black" if I can help it, but "person" or "human being" or "Swede" (I live in Sweden). (Although in Sweden we don't really have the big issue of race as exists in the US.) Which isn't my way of avoiding the issue, or ignoring it. I know it exists. I'm just not one for labels and progress has to start somewhere.

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 19:46:25 UTC | #913532