Well, it has been a year since I last visited.

Well, it has been a year since I last visited. During the course of that year I've had a chance to reflect upon 'religion' and it's effects personally. It has been a trying year of tough decisions, health issues and familial concerns.

After studying the 'atheist, humanist, free thinker' scene (on-line via Facebook and other social media) I made somewhat of a retreat back into the world of traditional religion. A relapse as it were. I don't know what it was but 'organized' religion had a mesmerizing hold on me. This was after a full diet of washing down books by Hitchens, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Dawkins & Dennett; videos of Sam Harris, AC Grayling; Michael Shermer and Dan Barker and others. I wondered whre in th blue blazes might I fit in this austere world of great thinkrs ad philosephers?

One thing that concerned me, rubbed my craw was the fact that I saw no African Americans stepping up to any discernable degree. Save for the Ethiopean Ms. Ali there seemed a unseen Jim Crow 21st century medium. Culturally it is probably a waste land fill with virtual land mines for African Americans. Particularly with the 'black' church being at perhaps its zenith in terms of popularity. A wasteland where Mega churches abound and storefront churches popping up on the urban landscape like reddened boils on an infected butt! 

Are there any African American free thinkers? Hmmm....

Views: 205

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on December 21, 2013 at 5:40pm

Welcome back.....BAAM

Comment by Gallup's Mirror on December 21, 2013 at 6:18pm

Are there any African American free thinkers? Hmmm....

Absolutely. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the most popular public figures in science today. Outside of famous individuals, there are organizations, such as the African Americans for Humanism. Historically, African American freethinkers have had an enormous influence in this country. One of the most important intellectuals of the 20th century is arguably W.E.B. DuBois, a founder of the NAACP in 1909. Others include Hurbert Harrison, Claude McKay, Melvin B. Tolson and Langston Hughs. I think some of these names would be more well-known today if not for the dual factors of racial prejudice that existed more intensively during their lifetimes and the prejudice against agnostics, atheists, and freethinkers that still exists today.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/08/morgan-freeman-god-religio...

Comment by Kairan Nierde on December 21, 2013 at 10:14pm

Hey, welcome back! It sounds like you went down the rabbit hole and came out the other end. I wish there were more support and inclusion among freethinkers for black atheists. In fact, I wish the community were more welcoming in general. I think we've gotta look at the situation in the context of the racial oppression in our society before we can be too critical of people turning to religion for support, community, inspiration, etc.

I'm glad you've gotten loose of the hold of religion again. It took me years of doubt, wishful thinking and willful ignorance before I was mentally prepared to acknowledge there isn't a supernatural force. There were times when I knew I was an agnostic and I strongly suspected I could be an atheist...but I had so much crap going on in my life that I said, 'no, I'm not even going there right now.' You're ready when you're ready and not before.

Comment by Physeter on December 22, 2013 at 12:40am

Yeah, nobody can make you feel ready. And in many places, the atheist community can't offer the same kind of support and community that the church can. If it works for you, it works...

I wish I could find more information about the Center for Inquiry and their Director of African American Outreach, Debbie Goddard. I met her at Skepticon this year, she's a very nice smart african-american person.

What I thought was very interesting was her account of atheist work in other countries. The CFI has partners in Africa, fighting against those who would use young children for magic spells, or who believe in "child witches." They also have partners in India who pay magicians to show the locals how "holy men" really do their miracles. But I can't find that information anywhere online...I'll get back to you if I find it.

I know stuff in Africa or India may be irrelevant to African-Americans. But I think it's interesting that in some respects atheism isn't just a white person's privilege, or even a rich Americans' privilege; it's something people all over the world are looking towards.

Comment by Ed on December 22, 2013 at 8:42am

Lofton,

What aspects of organized religion created this mesmerizing effect on you? Did you find credibility in the many books you read related to atheism? Would you consider yourself "sitting on the fence" once again and not sure which side to jump back onto? And, after your yearlong sojourn back into the world of religious thought what happened to make you once again feel disenchanted with what it was supposed to offer?

Comment by James Cox on December 22, 2013 at 5:20pm

I expect that all survivors do not leave their theist roots without being shaken off that tree. The local fruit, soft accommodations, entertainment, and contentment, I expect should contain most. Why some find themselves outside or on the 'event horizen' is still an interesting question. I would like to suggest an 'approach/avoidance conflict' will be at the core.

I meet very few, if any, 'black' persons that identify as atheist. A few experiences seem to imply that 'theism' might be more deeply part of their self-definition, and our culture of 'independent thought' might allow 'whites' a more porous boundary. I expect, over time, the demographics might be more balanced, or more obvious.  

Comment by Atheist Exile on December 23, 2013 at 3:39am

Aside from the ones already mentioned, Facebook has Black Atheist groups. There are black members here at TA but, I'll admit, they appear to be under-represented. Perhaps, part of that is due to the deep roots religion has had, historically, for black Americans. I don't really know for sure.

Comment by Nerdy Keith on December 23, 2013 at 6:35am

This is probably not the answer you are looking for, but this is how I feel on the matter. When I originally renounced by faith; it was mainly based on self discovery. I did not read any books written by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens etc. I renounced by faith, because I personally found the claims of organised religion and the concept of an existing God to be unreasonable and unrealistic. I was completely unpersuaded. 

It wasn't until after I became an atheist, that I found out about The God Delusion and I was intrigued. I was interested to see what other atheists thought and how their thought process worked. And it was very interesting to me. But me being an atheist is not depended on the views of others or a popular science book, its depended on me simply not being persuaded by the claim that a God exists. Many atheists, regardless of their race have not read any of these books at all, but they are still atheists. 

In saying that however, I believe Chris Rock may be an atheist, he did an amazing interview with George Carlin 

Comment by James Cox on December 23, 2013 at 10:47am

'Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens'

I still have not read any of these folk's works, most of my atheist transition happened before they wrote the books so often mentioned. I have reviewed a few of the videos and interviews, but much of my break happened during a disconfirmation period conditioned upon family deaths, catholic school experiences, personal explorations, science and philosophy interests, bible study, and early debate experiences.   

Comment by lofton emenari on December 25, 2013 at 1:25am

  In response to the outpouring of answers and comments I must admit I was rather overwhelmed. And those who did respond posted some interesting thoughts of which I'd like to acknowledge...'Gallop's Mirror' I'd have to agree with all you've written and I've most certainly know of each notable you've cited. However Neil deGrasse Tyson for all the admiration I have of him seems to be skirting the label of 'atheist' a wee bit. I don't think he refers to himself as such, which is cool. A wonderful scientist, no question. An 'atheist' aligned with those dyed-in-the-wool activists? And in his position there are some who have problems with the  title. Afterall, in these days and times the word "atheist" and being branded as such comes with a cost. a cost of ostentation if not out right banishment to the hinterland of Hades itself. Or to quote John Brockman, “I mean I don’t believe: I’m sure there’s no God. I’m sure there’s no afterlife. But don’t call me an atheist. It’s like a losers’ club. When I hear the word atheist, I think of some crummy motel where they’re having a function and these people have nowhere else to go.”
 
  And Physeter mentioned Ms. Debbie Goddard, Director of African American Outreach for the CFI. I've had occasion to chat with Ms. Goddard on Facebook and find her to be very nice. Very open. Funny thing about FB is that while there are plenty of 'Groups' in the 'atheist, free thinker, humanist' categories just monitoring these groups is a bit of a chore. Most of the African American groups tend to spend inordinate amounts of time either castigating each other; hurling some insignificant profanities every which way or just engaged in juvenile one-up-manship. They are a proverbial waste of time. Information and scholarship are wanting to say the least.
 Ed offered up the most compelling of responses, What aspects of organized religion created this mesmerizing effect on you? Did you find credibility in the many books you read related to atheism? Would you consider yourself "sitting on the fence" once again and not sure which side to jump back onto? And, after your yearlong sojourn back into the world of religious thought what happened to make you once again feel disenchanted with what it was supposed to offer?
 Admittedly I referred to myself as a 'spiritual being' so I sought out the roots, tooth and nails of 'Christianity'. I became an eastern orthodox convert. I studied copiously Christianity from its beginnings to the early church fathers/founders to the incessant religious wars that plague of until today. And the more I studied the more the worn façade began to peel and reveal itself unto me. Yet I sank myself whole in the religious world. At one point I was asked by members of my church (of which I was the only African American) if I did not want to help them start an all Black mission church in an all Black community. They wanted to evangelize and place me in the forefront of the effort. I'm not a preacher nor am I in the clergy. But more and more lay people these days are becoming involved in clerical duties.
 But as I began to ascend that road signs were all around to 'detour' as soon as possible because 'church life' was a sinking ship and on a collision course with an immoveable iceberg called reality. Being in 'church life' places one in an unreal, sort of ethereal world of fakery. It was amazing how people subliminally fall into these roles of being of peoples lives, dictating how they should live according to traditions that are relegated to ancient cultures and ancient values....more later.

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