This group is dedicated to the Think Atheist group that meets in Baltimore, MD once a month. Here we will be able to stay in touch, give updates, plan, and throw out ideas between meetings.
Location: Todd Wade’s House
Time: 7:00 pm
Main Topic: Presidential Election and Minorities in Atheism
Guest Speaker: Jason Costner on lack of atheists among minorities
1. Part 1: Presidential Election: The meeting began with a discussion on members’ views on the recent presidential debates.
2. The discussion then focused on “for whom are you voting? and why?” Going around the room, each member had a turn to answer regarding his/her personal views.
3. Continuing around the room, each member then had the opportunity to discuss the candidates in regard to religion.
4. Part 2: Minorities in Atheism: For the second half of the meeting, Jason Costner joined the group to lead a discussion on the lack of atheists among minorities (specifically African American minorities). To summarize Jason’s background, he is an African American who was brought up Catholic. He is not an atheist, but identifies more as a deist.
5. To begin, Jason brought up the more general question of “why aren’t more people atheist?” as he said much of those reasons would transpose onto a list specifically addressing minorities. Based on his research, Jason shared that approximately 1.5% - 5% of Americans are atheist (this figure differs from those who identify as a broader category of “other” or “not religious”), while only 0.5% of blacks are atheist in America. In order to address this disparity, Jason explored the chronological progression through four defined time periods.
Period 1: The Very Beginning. Why does religion exist at all? Looking at data on the most religious (i.e. least atheist) countries in the world; the top three are located in Africa (Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya). For contextual data, the least religious countries are:
China 47% atheist
Japan 31% atheist
Czech Republic 30% atheist
France 30% atheist
There was discussion on whether or not Africans were more susceptible or prone to religion than people from other cultures.
Period 2: Spread of Africans through the slave trade to America.
Tribal religions of the Africans were subverted and replaced by other religions. Despite the fact that the new religion of Christianity was forced on the slaves, it was noted that there may have been a need for “the promise of an escape” that the religion provided. It was illegal to educate blacks during this period.
Period 3: 1865 – 1964. Period defined by legislation.
This period saw the appearance of the 13th and 14th amendments and the Civil Rights Act. Blacks are slowly being permitted to have access to education; however Jim Crow laws are in effect. At this time, blacks can assemble only in schools or churches. As a result, it is virtually impossible to separate the church from civil rights and from the community.
Period 4: Current generation (effectively 1965 – present).
The church does not play as significant a role; however, even if an African American personally identifies as an atheist, there is still reticence to claim atheism publicly due to his/her parents’ root in the church. To do so publicly would mean a significant social cost. To illustrate this point, Jason related two stories.
One was of a gay, black man. This individual had come out as gay to his parents; they were unhappy with the revelation, but they still had a relationship with their son. He later came out to his parents as an atheist, and as a result, his parents are no longer in communication with him.
A separate story involves a black man who married a white woman. Again, the parents were not happy, but they more or less accepted it. However, their son’s atheism could not be accepted.
10. The meeting ended with the opportunity for general discussion and additional questions for Jason, as well as an invitation to stay and watch the Presidential Debate.
11. Next Meeting: Our next meeting will be held Monday, November 19th at 7:00 pm. The meeting is set to be located at Isidore Ducasse’s house (a confirmation, along with contact info will be posted closer to the date). An agenda will be posted prior to the meeting, but come prepared to discuss the upcoming Apocalypse Party scheduled for December 21st.
Typed by: Isidore Ducasse