Who said African American people couldn’t be atheists? Contrary to popular belief, there really are African Americans who identify themselves as atheists.An atheist is a person who denies the existence of a god. The very notion that African American atheists exist in our society is quite a shocker too many people.
Atheism within any race is frowned upon, but at the mere mention of it many black people grow silent and refuse to believe that there are black people that believe that there is no god.
To be an atheist in the African American community has to be an incredibly isolating experience. As a whole the atheist population in the United States totals roughly 15 percent, according to a 2008 American Religious Identification Survey. That same survey also noted that now 11 percent of African Americans say they have no religion at all.
But statistics also point to Blacks being one of the most religious ethnic groups in America. A recent poll by the Barna Group revealed that 84 percent of the African-Americans surveyed identified God as “the all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect creator of the universe who rules the world today.”
Another study conducted by Pew Forum found that of all the major ethnic and racial groups in America, Blacks are the most likely to claim a formal religious affiliation.
These statistics only corroborate the cultural significance of religion, specifically Christianity, to African-Americans. Historically the church has been ingrained in the black community from slavery, through the Civil Rights Movement, right up to the election of President Barack Obama. The church is the cornerstone of Black society and is often the source of leadership for the entire community.
Consequently, to come out as someone who does not believe in God is to risk ostracism from not only your community, but quite possibly your culture.
Mario Stanton, creator of the Black Atheists Facebook group, understands how difficult it is to find like-minded people in the black community. “Finding outspoken Black, or even Latino, atheists is like trying to find that proverbial needle in the haystack,” he said.
“The relevance of a group such as mine is to let each other and the world know that atheists of color do exist and also to give us an opportunity to talk about subjects that may be unique to the Black atheist experience.”
It’s very rare that you find African Americans who talk critically about religion. Many of us automatically assume that just because we’re African Americans that we are all Christians.
In this day and age it is not always the case. However, in the African American community not being Christian is simply unacceptable and is not tolerated.
You basically commit social suicide as a Black person if you do in fact come out as an atheist.
No I’m not an atheist. However, I do find it absurd that the African American people who are atheists have to pretend to be religious and constantly live in fear of other African Americans finding out.
It’s baffling that some people think that if you even have a conversation with an atheist you suddenly have a first class ticket to hell. Another person’s personal religious beliefs have no effect whatsoever on yours.
Yet the movement for more public African American atheists is seen as a threat by many.
“Atheists are encouraging our people to go to hell,” said reverend Timothy Jenkins of Birmingham, Alabama.
This kind of condemnation is the exact reason why Black atheist says it’s better to remain in private.
The point is that people fear what they do not understand. Atheism is not a disease and you cannot just randomly catch it. I’m not saying that being atheist is neither right nor wrong.