Black atheism

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A study conducted by the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life says that Africans are among the most religious people on Earth.[1]

In 2015, BloombergView reported concerning the United States:

According to a much-discussed 2012 report from the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life, only 3 percent of U.S. atheists and agnostics are black, 6 percent are Hispanic, and 4 percent are Asian. Some 82 percent are white. (The relevant figures for the population at large at the time of the survey were 66 percent white, 11 percent black, 15 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Asian.)

...Craig Keener, in his huge review of claims of miracles in a wide variety of cultures, concludes that routine rejection of the possibility of the supernatural represents an impulse that is deeply Eurocentric.[2]

See also: European desecularization in the 21st century

In the United States, blacks have the highest rate of religiosity.[3] Among Hispanics, religion has traditionally played a significant role in daily activity.[4]

White atheist outreach is not competitive to the black church

See also: Western atheism and race and Atheism and uncharitableness and Atheism, social justice and hypocrisy

The black atheist Martin Hughes wrote:

And our competition, fellow atheists, is the black church. And the black church is in the black person’s corner... And it is undeniable that it provides several benefits to black people here in the United States that, frankly, the predominantly white male atheist demographic can’t hold a candle to.

Black people aren’t interested, for the most part (though there may be exceptions) in handing out gold stars or attending your events because you appreciate us or honor us or say you need us. There is a hell of a lot more pride in most of us than that. You have to show why we need you. What benefit are you giving us that the black church down the street — which is often fighting for social/financial/political needs day in, day out — isn’t giving us? Less? None? Well, then why the heck would I become an atheist when there’s little benefit in doing so to me?...

And some would-be atheists will pass up atheism and go straight to the black church because the black church is more active in the community and simply are offering more....

So this black man was, basically, an atheist. And he was going to remain an atheist for the rest of his life. But where did this lead him? Apart, and alone — which is how many black atheists working to make things better for other black individuals may feel. If you’re a black atheist, you may often find yourself isolated if you’re around predominantly black friends. I’ve talked with black people who have noticed that, due to cultural and experiential differences, it can feel lonely (I’ve experienced this somewhat, as well). It’s not like you get extraordinary benefits from being a black atheist. More than a white atheist, you can feel like you’re on the outside, looking in. Very few of us are willing to accept this fate. But this man was, and would have continued to be accepting of this fate, if it hadn’t been for one thing — the black church was absolutely irresistible.[5]

Atheist organizations: Focus on church-state/creationism issues - poor largely ignored

In June 2014, Sikivu Hutchinson wrote in the Washington Post that atheist organizations generally focus on church/state separation and creationism issues and not the concerns the less affluent African-American population faces.[6] Hutchinson also mentioned that church organizations do offer significant help to poor African-Americans.[6]

Also, according to a video posted at Freethought Blogs storefront churches provide assistance to local residents including women, and this partly explains the dearth of Hispanic and African-American women atheists in America (Atheists give less to charity than Christians. See: Atheism and uncharitableness).[7]

Kimberly Winston wrote in the Religion News Service article entitled Black atheists say their concerns have been overlooked for too long:

Organizers say social justice is a greater concern to atheists of color than the church-state separation issues the broader organized atheist community often focuses on. Why? Because social justice issues are more pressing in their communities.

“There are people in our community that, while they may not believe in God, they are only going to sit down and listen to you talk about separation of church and state for so long,” said Kimberly Veal, a Chicago-based black atheist who helped organize the conference. “What is really on their mind is decent housing, feeding their children and affording school clothes.”

“Atheism,” she continued, “is not enough.”

It is often faith-based organizations that tackle social problems in communities of color, running food banks or day care centers or job training programs through churches.[8]

African-American atheists and loneliness

See also: Western atheism and race and Atheism and loneliness

National Public Radio interviewed the African-American atheist Jamila Bey and the host of the interview said:

...for a couple of centuries, African-American culture has been imbued with Christianity. The church figured prominently in both the abolitionist and civil rights movements. And today in many communities, the Christian church continues to be the nucleus of black life.

So, what about the black nonbelievers? It's one isolating experience, according to Jamila Bey.[9]

Jack Kunerth wrote in the Orlando Sentinel:

At funerals, Warren Hughes always finds a seat in the back where, when the preaching and praying begins, he can slip out discreetly. He doesn't bow his head pretending to pray because he hasn't believed in prayer, or God, since he was 30 years old...

Warren Hughes is 79, and until a year ago, he had never met anyone like himself: a black atheist. In the atheists groups he has joined, he was often the only black person.

It's been lonely, he said, but that is beginning to change. The number of blacks who identify as nonreligious increased from 6 percent in 1990 to 11 percent in 2008, according to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

At the same time, blacks remain far more religious than most Americans. They have the highest percentage of church membership of any racial group — 87 percent — and the highest percentage of people who say they absolutely believe in God, Pew says.

This leaves black atheists in the no man's land between the black community they grew up in and the predominantly white world of atheists, agnostics and nonbelievers.

"The black church is so much a part of black life, heritage and culture," said Richard Peacock, who started the Black Nonbelievers of Metro Orlando in 2012. "It's assumed that even if you aren't going to church, it's part of your DNA."

The oldest institution in the black community, the church is the center of gravity for social, economic and political activities. Religion is discussed in the barbershops and beauty parlors, at the post office and City Hall. Churches sponsor youth groups, health fairs, voter registration and assistance to the poor and the elderly.

In the black community, those who deny the existence of God are viewed as devil-possessed or deranged.

"You are seen as basically alien," said Bridget Gaudette, a 34-year-old atheist who grew up as a Jehovah's Witness. "You are confused, you are mentally ill."[10]

Black atheists often perceived as rejecting black culture

See also: Atheism and social outcasts

Sikivu Hutchinson declared:

So much of black life has been marked out by allegiance to churches. Lots of folks would assume that black folks who are humanist and atheist have sold out the culture — that they're no longer fully black. There's also a really problematic assumption in the United States that if you don't believe in God, you're not a moral and ethical person. Add on to that the fact that white people already see you in a problematic way. So being black and saying you don't believe is just fuel to the fire.[11]

Token efforts to extend black leadership positions in atheist organizations

See also: Atheism and leadership and Atheist organizations

On October 9, 2014, the atheist Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson declared:

Despite frequent tokenistic calls for “diversity” within the “movement,” there are virtually no people of color in executive management positions in any of the major secular, atheist, or Humanist organizations —notable exceptions being Debbie Goddard of Center for Inquiry and Maggie Ardiente of American Humanist Association. People of color are constantly bombarded with claims of separatism, reverse discrimination, and “self-segregation” when they point to the absence of social justice, anti-racist community organizing, coalition-building, and visibility among secular organizations. After the Washington Post article, the vitriol and denialism among the “We are All Africans” white atheists was off the chain. This illustrates yet again that sticking a few of us on conference panels or secular boards is nothing but cheap appeasement.[12]

Sikivu Hutchinson's criticism of RDF and Center for Inquiry merger

See also: Center for Inquiry

Atheist Sikivu Hutchinson wrote:

The recent merger of the secular organization Center for Inquiry (CFI) and the Richard Dawkins Foundation (RDF) has been dubbed atheism's supergroup moment. Acknowledging the two organizations' outsized presence in the atheist world, Religion News Service acidly declared it a "royal wedding". The partnership, which gives Richard Dawkins a seat on the CFI board, smacks of a vindication of Dawkins' toxic, reactionary brand of damn-all-them-culturally-backward-Western-values-hating- Muslims New Atheism. As one of the most prominent global secular organizations, CFI's all-white board looks right at home with RDF's lily white board and staff.[13]

The secular humanist document Human Manifesto II, which was written in 1973 by Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson, decried racism and it declared:

The beginnings of police states, even in democratic societies, widespread government espionage, and other abuses of power by military, political, and industrial elites, and the continuance of unyielding racism, all present a different and difficult social outlook. In various societies, the demands of women and minority groups for equal rights effectively challenge our generation.[14]
On February 20, 2012, the British newspaper the Daily Mail reported that Richard Dawkins' family fortune came from the slave trade".[15]

Richard Dawkins family fortune and Jamaican slavery

See also: Richard Dawkins' family fortune and the slave trade and Atheism and slavery and Atheism and forced labor

On February 20, 2012, the British newspaper the Daily Mail reported that Richard Dawkins' "family fortune came from the slave trade".[15] On February 19, 2012, The Daily Telegraph reported that Dawkins is being called to make reparations for his family's past.[16]

Religious Africa

The Freedom From Religion Foundation reported:

A new study conducted by the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life says that Africans are among the most religious people on Earth. The study, titled “Tension and Tolerance: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa,” was based on more than 25,000 interviews conducted in more than 60 languages in 19 countries...

At least three out of 10 people across much of Africa said they have experienced divine healing, seen the devil being driven out of a person or have received a direct revelation from God. [1]

Rapid growth of Christianity in Africa

See also: Global Christianity

In 2011, USA Today published an article entitled Study: Christianity grows exponentially in Africa which declared:

Meanwhile, the faith has grown exponentially in sub-Saharan Africa, from just 9% of the population in 1910 to 63% today. Nigeria, home to more than 80 million Christians, has more Protestants than Germany, where the Protestant Reformation began.

"As a result of historic missionary activity and indigenous Christian movements by Africans, there has been this change from about one in 10 (sub-Saharan Africans) identifying with Christianity in 1910 to about six in 10 doing so today," Hackett said.[17]


See also: Atheism quotes and Atheism and social justice

"As a black atheist, I encounter just as much racism amongst other atheists as anywhere else." - Ijeoma Oluo, The Guardian, October 24, 2015[18]

List of black atheists

  • Ayaan Hirsi Ali
  • Sikivu Hutchinson - Author
  • Jamila Bey - Journalist
  • Mandisa Thomas - American Atheists, Board member
  • Debbie Goddard - Director of African Americans for Humanism
  • Ayanna Watson - founder of Black Atheists of America, Inc.
  • Clive Aruede - co-founder of London Black Atheists
  • Lola Tinubu - co-founder of London Black Atheists
  • Anthony B. Pinn - Professor
  • A. Philip Randolph (April 15, 1889 – May 16, 1979) - Civil rights leader
  • Thelma "Butterfly" McQueen (January 7, 1911 – December 22, 1995) - Dancer/actress
  • Hubert Harrison (April 27, 1883 - December 17, 1927) - writer/scholar

Oprah Winfrey's commentary on atheism/wonder

Many atheists became upset with Oprah Winfrey when she declared that you can’t be an atheist if you believe in the awe and wonder of the world.[19] See: Atheism and wonder

See also: Atheism and wonder

Many atheists became upset with Oprah Winfrey when she declared that you can’t be an atheist if you believe in the awe and wonder of the world.[20]

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Why so many Africans are religious: Leo Igwe
  2. The Atheism Gap By Stephen L. Carter, BloombergView, Mar 27, 2015 4:26 PM EDT
  3. Gallup: Blacks Most Religious Group in U.S.
  4. Understanding Hispanic culture
  5. Why Aren’t There More Black Atheists? by Martin Hughes
  6. 6.0 6.1 Atheism has a big race problem that no one’s talking about by Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson, Washington Post June 16, 2014
  7. Sikivu, Ophelia, and Rebecca — who says atheism lacks women stars?
  8. Black atheists say their concerns have been overlooked for too long, Washington Post reprint of Religious News Service article
  9. Black Atheists Say Non-Belief Means Cultural Outsider, NPR, May 28, 201012:00 PM ET
  10. Black atheists search for sense of belonging
  11. Black Atheists Explain What It's Like to Be a 'Double Minority', Vice News
  12. Atheism and social justice: Sikivu Hutchinson on the first People of Color Beyond Faith conference, Chris Stedman, Religious Service News, Oct 9, 2014
  13. #AtheismSoWhite: Atheists of Color Rock Social Justice by Sikivu Hutchinson
  14. Humanist Manifesto II
  15. 15.0 15.1 Revealed: How atheist Richard Dawkins' family fortune came from the slave trade, Daily Mail, February 20, 2012
  16. Slaves at the root of the fortune that created Richard Dawkins' family estate, The Daily Telegragh, February 19, 2012
  17. ['Study: Christianity grows exponentially in Africa], USA Today, 2011
  18. My atheism does not make me superior to believers. It's a leap of faith too by Ijeoma Oluo, The Guardian, October 24, 2015
  19. Oprah: You Can’t Be an Atheist If You ‘Believe in the Awe and Wonder’ of the World by Josh Feldman, Mediaite, October 14th, 2013
  20. Oprah: You Can’t Be an Atheist If You ‘Believe in the Awe and Wonder’ of the World by Josh Feldman, Mediaite, October 14th, 2013