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.

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.


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!

thank you for the courage to be who u truly are. or rather, to think out loud and not shy away from discrimination. was it easy to alter your speech and habits or did u struggle with it? this past week has been an eyeopener for me. I catch myself now before I conform to everyday speak, like "pray on it" or "He has a plan." One of my co-workers, a black woman, is going thru some deep stuff, kicked out of her home, little time to find a new place. Turns out she found a new place for her and her kids just in time. She says to me "I prayed on it and god was there for me." and i replied with, "Maybe your determination and strong will got you thru this. Don't forget to thank yourself." She paused and said, "yeah" in a very discerning way. But I meant it. SHE found a house. This god shit with black people have got to go. We can't do anything without praising a christian god. WE need to come up. And I don't want to exclude any other race anymore. My white/asian/latino brothas and sistas struggle with this too, across the board! maybe I should stop saying "brothas and sistas," sounds a little "cult-y." maybe not

First, I'm so sorry to hear that you mother is gone.  It sounds like she was a wonderful support and model of love in your life.

But I feel once I cross this fence, I will become fearless in speaking about anything. I can finally be myself.

These words resonate with me strongly.  My siblings (who are not religious themselves by any means) often wonder why I couldn't just keep quiet and keep the peace.  They didn't know what a relief it was to finally stop the lies of omission, say my thoughts out loud, and well just be me.  It took strength and it was awful for a while, but it freed me to explore the world without fear.  From that moment, I've grown so much in so many ways.  I don't regret it one bit. 

My advice: I always try to focus on the similarities.  We all have so much in common, but it's the differences that tend to draw attention and focus.  Hopefully, there will be others in your life - like your mother - who see those commonalities and love you as you are (not in spite of it).

Hello K,

I'm South African and so called "coloured", meaning mixed race. Though I don't really care about ethnicity or race, and mostly disregard it because we're all human first - the rest is just mostly non-sense. However, I can accept that "ethnicity" has promoted social groups and culture within human beings. In SA most "coloured" people are christian of some sort or muslim. Honestly, I don't know any other "coloured" Atheists, which can sometimes become an issue when everyone looks at you "funny" because you are the only Atheist in the room. in a recent discussion about some odd religious questions, I was outed as an Atheist. A young "black" lady looked at me with surprise and then said "That makes me so sad". I asked her, "Is that a judgment or view about you or me? Because I love my life and am at more peace than believing my life is some test."

I'm a proud Atheist! I remain true to my core no matter what.

This My story :I come a very religious family - a grand father who was instrumental in building the New apostolic church here in SA, my father and uncles were/are ministers and aunts who are still involved in some ways, my mother is stoic and active, and my brother is a priest - My family was respected and edified by members of the church, even if we traveled to other cities. My struggle started when I was 14 when, while 'testifying' (spreading the gospel), I was asked "Why do you believe this is the way?" - I couldn't give an answer other than that it was what my parents taught me.

I was still in confirmation class, which my father conducted, and was so torn between my doubts and loosing my connection with my family, so I just didn't say anything about my uncertainty. I was confirmed at 15 and in the church youth group meetings I asked lots of questions. I once received a retort : "To question your faith is wrong and shouldn't be done at all" to a question that I really wanted to explore and discuss - this was the deciding moment for me, that religion (but not the belief in god) was wrong for me.

I finally spoke to my parents when I was 17, telling them that I had real doubts about being a christian. They were less than impressed and I was told that as long as I lived under their roof I would go to church, participate and follow what they said I should. This was so counter to the conversations I had had with my father about what it meant to be a "good" person, that it disturbed me and broke my trust in him and my families teachings.

The year after my father died after a long illness, and just before I turned 22, I couldn't take it any longer and told my mom that I was done with church. For a year things were tense and we often fought about the issue. Even though we lived in the same house, we seldom spoke and I often ate alone in my room. But I felt relief and for the first time, I could go and explore the question of what I believe without the burden of secrecy.

My mom eventually spoke to one of the ministers, his advise to her allowed us to move past the bickering and constant aggression.

I've been privileged to have friends who come from different "faiths" and have respected me for my convictions, a brother who still comes to me for advise on how to grow community within his area. I practice respect for all people, and in turn I have received respect from them.

My advise to you, stand tall about your convictions.. you are already an example of this by sharing your story here. Even according to christianity, you are the only one who can decide how to live your life. If anyone casts judgment on you and tries to beat you with their god, remind them, "Though shalt not judge" as written in their book. But fundamentally, don't be an aggressor of hate or prejudice, show people and family and "friends" (though I don't regard people who can't accept me as I am as friends) that you are a good person irrespective of not accepting "god" and that you can respect their lifestyle.

P.S. When I get a bless you from someone for sneezing, I say thank you. When someone else sneezes, I say 'gesundhuit' - german for "Good health'.

I wish you well on your journey, and we're all here :D with you.


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