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] See: Religion and Africa

As far as black atheism, in 2017, the article What It’s Like to Be Black and Atheist published in The Daily Beast, states: "Past studies of African Americans and faith show that at they are demographically (87 percent) the most religious group in the nation. Additionally, other studies have shown that 87 percent of black women rank as the most religious in America. Additionally, she notes, 'the number of blacks and other ‘minorities’ who openly identify as atheist, while growing, are still small.'"[2]

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.[3]

See also: European desecularization in the 21st century

In the United States, blacks have the highest rate of religiosity.[4] According to the General Social Survey (GSS), the percentage of Black Americans who don't believe in God decreased from 2016 to 2018.[5]

The black atheist Bishop McNeill wrote: "In reference to the Pew study, we know that African Americans are far more likely to confidently believe in God when compared with whites and Hispanics. More than three-quarters of African Americans say they are absolutely certain there is a God, compared with less than two-thirds of whites and Hispanics who say the same."[6]

There is a significant amount of racism within the atheist population (see: Atheism and racism). This also holds true for atheists in the Western World (see: Western atheism and race).

Black atheism and white atheist outreach not being 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.[7]

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

In June 2014, the atheist 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.[8] Hutchinson also mentioned that church organizations do offer significant help to poor African-Americans.[8]

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).[9]

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.[10]

Black atheists and the token efforts to offer them leadership positions in atheist organizations

See also: Atheism and leadership and Atheist organizations

On October 9, 2014, the atheist 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.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13]

RationalWiki/RationalMedia Foundation board of trustees and the lack of Black representation

See: RationalMedia Foundation board of trustees and the lack of Black representation

Black 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.[14]

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."[15]

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."[16]

Black Atheists of America

See also: Black Atheists of America

Black Atheists of America is an atheist nonprofit organization which focuses on: spotlighting the lives of prominent African-American atheists; creating greater awareness of atheism to the black community, and endeavoring to provide a community to black atheists. The group was founded by Ayanna Watson.

Black Nonbelievers, Inc.

In 2023, Mandisa Thomas resigned as a board member of the American Atheists organization amidst being accused of violating Black Nonbelievers’ code of conduct during the group's annual SeaCon cruise and conference held on a Thanksgiving weekend.[17]

See also: Black Nonbelievers, Inc.

According to the Black Believers, Inc. website: "Black Nonbelievers (BN) is a 501 c3 non-profit organization headquartered in the Atlanta area that is dedicated to providing a caring, festive, friendly, and informative community. We connect with other Blacks (and allies) who are living free of religion and other beliefs, and might otherwise be shunned by family and friends."[18]

Scandal involving Mandissa Thomas who is the president of Black Nonbelievers, Inc.

See also: Atheist organizations and scandals and Atheist scandals

On December 20, 2022, the Religion News Service reported:

The annual SeaCon cruise and conference is meant to be a high point of the year for members of Black Nonbelievers Inc., a nonprofit that offers community to Black Americans who live “free of religion.”

However, this year’s conference, held from Nov. 26 to Dec. 3, has left a rift in the organization, with leaders at most of the group’s local chapters quitting and raising questions about one of the most prominent Black atheists in the country.

In a statement dated Dec. 5, leaders from five chapters — in New York; Detroit; Portland, Ore.; Louisville, Ky.; and Washington, D.C. — said they were cutting ties with Black Nonbelievers and its president, Mandisa Thomas.

The letter mentioned “events that culminated horribly” during the cruise but did not give specifics.

“As leaders, we should take pride in modeling and rewarding the right way to treat people who follow our example,” they wrote. “While certain behaviors may be acceptable even as key goals are met, we conclude that to permit unethical behavior(s) behind the scenes will lead — and is leading — to a loss of good people and reputation for the organization that we love and spent ten years to build.”

Before the letter from chapter leaders was made public, Black Nonbelievers had 8 local chapters, though some were dormant.[19]

On February 1, 2023, the Religious News Service reported in an article entitled American Atheists board members exit, dogged by misconduct allegations:

Two board members of American Atheists, one of the nation’s best-known atheist advocacy organizations, resigned in the past month after ethical concerns were raised about their actions at conferences for nonbelievers.

Mandisa Thomas, president of Black Nonbelievers, Inc., gave up her seat on the board of American Atheists on on Jan. 11, weeks after she was accused of violating Black Nonbelievers’ code of conduct during the group’s annual SeaCon cruise and conference held Thanksgiving weekend.

After the allegations became public, Thomas told Religion News Service that she had mishandled a “personal situation” during the conference and had apologized.[17]

Association of Black Humanists

See also: Association of Black Humanists

Association of Black Humanists (formerly known as London Black Atheists) is a British organization based in London, England which supports and encourages all people, particularly those from the African Diaspora, who are freethinkers, non-believers, atheists and humanists. Lola Tinabu is founder of the Association of Black Humanists.

Quote about racism in the atheist population

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[20]

Greydon Square

See also: Atheism and hip hop music and Greydon Square

Greydon Square

Eddie Collins (born September 28, 1981), who is better known by his stage name Greydon Square, is an American West Coast hip hop emcee, producer and sound engineer from Compton, California. See also: Atheism and hip hop music

The article 50 Top Atheists in the World Today indicates about the black atheist Greydon Square:

Greydon Square is an Iraq-War veteran and rap artist, who incorporates atheism into his musical act. Born Eddie Collins in the low-income Los Angeles suburb of Compton, Square became immersed in gang culture, but changed his life by enlisting in the United States Army in May of 2001. The punning title of his 2007 album, “The Compton Effect,” reflects his background as an erstwhile physics major—to which he attributes his conversion to atheism. In his rap songs, he boasts about desecrating Brigham Young’s grave and urinating in a synagogue. The Phoenix New Times has called Square “the black Carl Sagan.”[21]

Wrath James White

The article 50 Top Atheists in the World Today indicates about the black atheist Wrath James White (born c. 1970):

White, a former world-class heavyweight kickboxer, is a prolific novelist who boxed and now writes under the name, “Wrath.” He resides in Austin, Texas, with his wife and two sons, where he runs a popular web site, Words of Wrath. His novels are horror stories with an atheist slant. He also blogs for Atheist Nexus. On his own blog, he has written that “I am saddened and somewhat disgusted by the very idea of a Black Christian. It would seem to me that after having so recently escaped our slavemasters that we would have had enough of masters.”[21]

See also: Atheism and slavery and Atheism and forced labor and Black Americans, history and religion

List of black atheists

  • Ayaan Hirsi Ali
  • Sikivu Hutchinson - Feminist, author and playwright
  • 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 Association of Black Humanists
  • Lola Tinabu - co-founder of Association of Black Humanists
  • Anthony B. Pinn - Professor
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates - Author and intellectual[22]
  • Earl Sweatshirt - American rapper, record producer and songwriter from Los Angeles, California.
  • 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

Sikivu Hutchinson's list of black women atheists

Sikivu Hutchinson published an article at Huffington Post which provided a list of black women atheists which included:

Deanna Adams is the author of the blog “Musings on a Limb,” where she expresses her views as an African-American, atheist, professional mom on subjects related to the intersectionality of racism and skepticism...

Diane Burkholder is a Black mixed-race queer atheist... She is a founder of One Struggle KC, co-moderator of Kansas City Freethinkers of Color and co-moderator of Kansas City Mixed Roots...

Bridgett “Bria” Crutchfield is an agnostic atheist, secular activist, secular leader... She heads the Black Non-Believers of Detroit....[23]

(Bridgett Crutchfield established the Detroit affiliate of Black Nonbelievers.[24])

Black Infidels: Secular Humanism, Atheism, and African American Social Thought

See also: Atheism and racism and Atheism, race and gender and Atheism and sexism and Atheism and the suppression of homosexuality and Atheism and economics and Irreligious Britain and low social mobility

The abstract for the publication Black Infidels: Secular Humanism, Atheism, and African American Social Thought by Sikivu Hutchinson which was published in The Oxford Handbook of Secularism which was edited by Phil Zuckerman and John R. Shook states:

African Americans are among the most religious groups in the United States. Consequently, secular humanism and atheism are largely anathema to mainstream African Americans. Nonetheless, secular humanist and atheist traditions have coexisted with religious traditions in African American social thought and community as a progressive political and cultural counterweight to black religious orthodoxy. Radical or progressive humanism is specifically concerned with the liberation struggle of disenfranchised peoples. Organized religion is one of many powerful forces solidifying inequity based on race, gender, class, and sexual orientation. Racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism are amplified and reinforced by economic injustice institutionalized under global capitalism. Hence, humanism is especially relevant for people of color living in conditions of structural inequality in which the state serves only the human rights of the wealthy.[25]

Online dating as a black atheist

See also: Atheism and romance and Atheism and love and Atheism and marriage

The black atheist Danielle Butler wrote in her article Dating While Black and Atheist about online dating and atheist, black Americans: "At a time where there has been room made for “geeky,” “nerdy,” “alternative,” “excellent” and even “awkward” blackness, black atheism and secularism still remain a pretty open and barren field online, and in our ongoing efforts to call for a multifaceted presentation of the black experience, it's apparently long past due for someone to take up this much-neglected mantle."[26]

Religion and Africa

See also: Religion and Africa

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] See: Religion and Africa

Africa has a high fertility rate and it is seeing a big population boom. According to the Institute For Security Studies: "Africa's population is the fastest growing in the world. It is expected to increase by roughly 50% over the next 18 years, growing from 1.2 billion people today to over 1.8 billion in 2035. In fact, Africa will account for nearly half of global population growth over the next two decades."[27] See also: Global desecularization and Atheism and fertility rates

Black Americans, history, religion and atheism

See: Black Americans, history, religion and atheism

Denzel Washington on atheists and sociopaths

See also: Atheism and sociopathy

Actor Denzel Washington discussing his movie "Safe House" stated concerning atheists and sociopaths:

There's a book I read called 'The Sociopath Next Door.' And -- I read something from it every day before I would go on the set. It really became my guide. When you think of a think of someone violent. The overwhelming majority of sociopaths aren't violent. They just have a desire to win. They just don't have a conscience -- they don't have it. The majority of them are atheists as well. So that was the book that was sort of my Bible if you preparation for this part."[28]

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.[29] 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.[29]

Steve Harvey on atheism

Steve Harvey is an Black American comedian, producer, television host, radio personality, actor and author.

He is a vocal critic of atheism/atheists.[30] Steve Harvey said a woman who is dating an atheist should end the relationship because atheists have no moral barometers.[30]

Book related to Black atheists

  • Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars by Sikivu Hutchinson, 2011, ISBN-10: 057807186X

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Why so many Africans are religious: Leo Igwe
  2. [What It’s Like to Be Black and Atheist], Daily Beast, 2017
  3. The Atheism Gap By Stephen L. Carter, BloombergView, Mar 27, 2015 4:26 PM EDT
  4. Gallup: Blacks Most Religious Group in U.S.
  5. GSS Data on religion/irreligion and race
  6. Where Are All the Black Atheists? by Bishop McNeill,
  7. Why Aren’t There More Black Atheists? by Martin Hughes
  8. 8.0 8.1 Atheism has a big race problem that no one’s talking about by Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson, Washington Post June 16, 2014
  9. Sikivu, Ophelia, and Rebecca — who says atheism lacks women stars?
  10. Black atheists say their concerns have been overlooked for too long, Washington Post reprint of Religious News Service article
  11. Atheism and social justice: Sikivu Hutchinson on the first People of Color Beyond Faith conference, Chris Stedman, Religious Service News, Oct 9, 2014
  12. #AtheismSoWhite: Atheists of Color Rock Social Justice by Sikivu Hutchinson
  13. Humanist Manifesto II
  14. Black Atheists Say Non-Belief Means Cultural Outsider, NPR, May 28, 201012:00 PM ET
  15. Black atheists search for sense of belonging
  16. Black Atheists Explain What It's Like to Be a 'Double Minority', Vice News
  17. 17.0 17.1 American Atheists board members exit, dogged by misconduct allegations, Religious News Service 2023
  18. Black Nonbelievers, Inc. website
  19. Black atheist leaders quit Black Nonbelievers over alleged misconduct by president
  20. My atheism does not make me superior to believers. It's a leap of faith too by Ijeoma Oluo, The Guardian, October 24, 2015
  21. 21.0 21.1 50 Top Atheists in the World Today
  22. Is atheism the reason for Ta-Nehisi Coates' pessimism on race relations? by Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, The Guardian
  23. 10 Fierce Atheists: Unapologetically Black Women Beyond Belief by Sikivu Hutchinson, Huffington Post
  24. Five Fierce Humanists: Unapologetically Black Women Beyond Belief,
  25. Black Infidels: Secular Humanism, Atheism, and African American Social Thought by Sikivu Hutchinson, 'The Oxford Handbook of Secularism, edited by Phil Zuckerman and John R. Shook, Print Publication Date: Feb 2017Subject: Religion, Religion and SocietyOnline Publication Date: Jan 2017DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199988457.013.28
  26. Dating While Black and Atheist by Danielle Butler,
  27. Africa’s population boom: burden or opportunity?, Institute For Security Studies
  28. Did Actor Denzel Washington Really Call Atheists 'Sociopaths?, The Blaze
  29. 29.0 29.1 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
  30. 30.0 30.1 Steve Harvey on Atheism!