My Double-Identity, Being of Color and An Atheist

Slowly in my years of development, I peeled away my Christian thinking and realized that at heart, I always was an atheist in some capacity. But I'm scared to death to come out to my family. My mother was the only one who understood I may be an atheist and accepted me anyway, especially being a southern black baptist, this warmed my heart beyond bounds. Now that she's gone, I feel that security to be myself is gone.

Being black and an atheist has ostracized me from my family, friends and myself, because I fear 'coming out,' so to speak. But I feel once I cross this fence, I will become fearless in speaking about anything. I can finally be myself. 

Is there anyone who struggle with this, black or white or anything, woman or man, that may have advice for me, a book to read? 

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Hi, K! 

I don't know what advice to give but I want to say we're here for you. I came out to the Catholics in my family but not the Baptists...the Baptists seem to be on another level of religiousity. I really feel for ya! 

You aren't dependent on any family members, are you? If it's only the fallout from being ostracized that you're worring about, well, it sounds like that's already going on. What is left to lose? I've been at that point with the Baptists of my family and then I came out as Bisexual, because, well, what was left to lose? Nothing. It went better than expected. I'm sure they're all sharp-tongued and judgemental when I'm not around, buuuuut, they didn't banish me and they don't even talk about it. I know every family is different. One thing that I think helped me was having the acceptance of the family matriarch. She controls everything in that side of the family and her word is final. If you've got a patriarch or matriarch or someone who is very awesome/popular, maybe starting with coming out to them would help convicne the others that it's ok...

you're right. I'm already an outsider to some degree! The athiest tag is a small (yet important) part of my personality. I'm an illustrator, a book nerd, a gamer, zombie movie buff, and a huge Tyson fan (Neil not Mike!). I'm so much more than a non-believer and I don't feel like I need to wear that on my chest. But I will no longer shy away from it. My mom always encouraged to read, ask questions, study and never take anything at face value. She respected all races, creeds, and preference and care less what people thought of her views. She was a Christian and  I strive to hold those values of love and acceptance she held, just without the god part. Mama understood that and now I know that's all that really matters.

I'm a black woman in America and I feel Christianity is holding the black community and women back.

I don't know how much your family will be willing to listen, but exploring these thoughts and expressing them when someone questions your atheism may help.

Is there anyone who struggle with this, black or white or anything, woman or man, that may have advice for me, a book to read?

Some of what you wrote about being the only atheist in your religious family reminds me of a documentary I saw recently entitled 'Stray from the Flock: The Story of a Black Atheist'. The filmmaker, Andre, is in a situation similar to yours. The film explains his initial doubts about God, his personal struggle to come to grips with it, the process of telling his family and friends, and their reactions to it.

This documentary opened my eyes. As I started to watch, I wasn't sure how race could be much of a factor. But for Andre it was. It struck me that some of the reaction he got was that he's just "acting white", that atheism is a "white thing" and something that black people (as a matter of heritage, taboo, or whatever) just don't do. It was almost like Andre, through his intellectualism, had no 'place'.

This was a layer of resistance and unfairness I hadn't expected, above and beyond the difficulty that every American otherwise faces in coming out as an atheist: they saw Andre as disassociating himself from some kind of racial identity. I just saw Andre doing what most freethinkers do: think for himself, ask difficult questions, cite facts and history, and be reasonable.

The anti-intellectual aspect is troubling, especially considering the origin and history of freethought in the United States. Scholars, artists and writers like W.E.B. Du Bois, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Langston Hughs, Butterfly McQueen, and Lorraine Hansberry were 'out' as atheists starting nearly a hundred years before anyone had ever heard of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, or Christopher Hitchens.

Anyway, the video is interesting and worth watching.

 

Great film. Its tough, y'know. Christianity was used to indoctrinate Africans in this country, just another part of slave conditioning. But I know that undoing abuse takes time, and I'll be patient with my brothas and sistas in coming around. Maybe they won't, but I can't worry about that. I will try to vocalize how I truly feel for now on. I've stopped saying bless you when people sneezed long ago, that was just a start, a feeble one. If my family invites me to church, I'll say no thank you. If they ask why, as hard as it may be, I'll say I don't identify myself Christian anymore and I don't share the same views. If it continues, I'll say I'm atheist/non-believer and let the chips fall. If my fam says they'll pray for me, I'll say don't bother. If I'm successful and someone murmurs thank god, I'll say I achieved my goal by my own sweat. Little by little, I'm becoming more happy and content with this planet.

This article from the New Statesman talks to black atheists in London. I know some Nigerian atheists in Ireland and they are happier now that they have “come out”. One world under reason should be our motto.. Make sure to click on the link to the apostasy project at the end of the article.

There is this group – Black Atheists of America and some more here too. Get fearless :-)

thank you for letting me know of Black Atheists of America. I tell you the truth, I had no idea. I even googled Black Atheists and this site didn't pop up (I'll try again!). But I feel so much better knowing that I'm not alone. I will definitely explore this site!

You are most welcome K. Bear in mind that there are almost 19,000 atheists on this site from all over the world. It can be a place of refuge from the hum of Christian banalities that can seem endless.

Hi K.

You seem like a very decent man. I lack perspective on race since I'm white, so sorry I'm no good to you on that aspect of your struggle.

The atheism thing, I could go on for hours and hours (decades, really). Anyone brought up in a religious environment was subjected to Tales of the Celestial Boogeyman, punctuated by the possibility of eternal suffering after you die (a rotten thing to tell a child in my opinion). Our collective heads have been programmed with what I call mental malware.

It takes a lot of courage to voice the atheist position, particularly among family. I'm sure you'll do well and be fine :)

I find myself a decent fellow. my boyfriend says so all the time.

K,

There is no one more important in the world to be true to than the individual looking back at you in the mirror. Stand your ground and feel great for being an honest soul!

I can relate to you in both ways because I'm black and an atheist that is a male. I already came out to my family but I still feel highly uncomfortable whenever the subject of religion comes up. I guess I got lucky that my family is super religious though but please stay strong. :)

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