Coming out of the closet not easy for Black atheists

I’ve read enough articles, editorials and op-ed pieces to realize, at least superficially, that being both and atheist and black is not an easy thing. African Americans have a long history of relying on the church for support. Abandoning religion often means abandoning the culture. As the secular movement gains momentum, however, more and more in the community are speaking out about this, especially in the light of so many black voters voting Proposition 8 in California.

Sikivu Hutchinson is an eloquent and passionate woman who cares about the truth. She’s written an article about how African American women who wish to abandon their beliefs are often stigmatized by others in the community. Women are seen as the protectors and purveyors of black culture, and religion is seen as an inextricable part of it.

Images of black women faithfully shuttling their children to church and socializing them into Christianity are a prominent part of mainstream black culture. If being black and being Christian are synonymous, then being black, female and religious (whatever the denomination) is practically compulsory. Black women with children who don’t fall in line, who raise their children as atheists, may find their race credentials revoked.

I have to wonder how many black men and women secretly reject religion for the sake of political convenience. It’s just another example of why ‘coming out’ as an atheist is still incredibly difficult for some, and even impossible for others. If you think it’s easy being an atheist, you obviously have never been part of a highly religious community.

Comments (1)

  • avatar

    AJ

    Greetings All: This is my first-ever atheist post. I really enjoy The Good Atheist podcast and am reaching out because feedback is important and maybe Jacob won’t rant about it as much if I do.

    Anyway, I am an African American female born and raised in the the South. The religiosity of the Black community has been a HUGE point of contention for me since the beginning of my skeptic thinking. The widespread insanity of following a religion that was imposed upon you by your captors is mind-blowing. I am not one to tow the line when it comes to talking about “the Man;” however, there is no greater example of “the Man” than the Christian god. One of my major goals is to confront close members of my family about this belief. My parents have been accepting of my atheism, but have not come around to skeptical thought themselves. This is especially perturbing since they are both academics.

    I would also like to take the time to go out on a limb that a member of majority population groups may feel uncomfortable doing. I think that a lot of the things that people equate with racial minorities has much more to do with socioeconmic status than with race. Many groups that are disenfranchised turn to religious groups to organize and become more empowered… The problem with that (or the one that I will address currently) is that the people that are doing the oppressing also rely on those same group dynamics. It is a losing game for the less powerful group to work within the same structure as the group that is holding them down.

    Imagine how powerful the African American demographic would be if they no longer had to pander to the same ridiculous ideology as the rest of the Christian flock. Our religion is a product of our placement, in time and in space. If Black people in the US realized this, a fact that is more recently traceable for them than many other groups, then we could move forward as a “people” (I hesitate to use words like “people” and “race,” not because they are divisive, but because they have been shown to be inaccurately divisive, genetically speaking). Being rid of the concept of tithing alone would be a great thing. I cannot fathom giving 10% of my income to a church…

    Rant over. I hope it’s long enough/good enough to warrant a reply form Jacob (but I would be almost as happy if anyone else responded, too!)

    Thanks for reading!
    AJ

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