Sunday Open Thread & Links

• You may have noticed the new “Bookmark/Share This” link below each post, which expands to display links to a variety of social bookmarking sites. If you’re a member of any of them, please make use of this! Quite a bit of Daylight Atheism’s traffic comes from these sites.

• Next up, Andrew Sullivan criticizes Buddhism by quoting John Horgan, who asks:

It seems legitimate to ask whether a path that turns away from aspects of life as essential as sexuality and parenthood is truly spiritual.

For reference, Sullivan is a Roman Catholic – the church that expects its clergy to be lifelong celibates, and that draws its inspiration from a holy book which commands its followers to be chaste and never marry if they can possibly avoid it (1 Corinthians 7:1,8).

• Finally, there’s a compelling post on the blog Racialicious titled Coming Out Black and Agnostic, which addresses the question of how to be open about your nonbelief in an intensely religious African-American community where the church is the center of social life.

I don’t usually address racial issues on Daylight Atheism, since this isn’t an area where I feel I can speak with any expertise. Nevertheless, I think this is something the atheist community ought to consider. As the comments on that post show, there are many freethinkers in black and minority communities who feel inhibited from speaking out due to the social stigma they’re certain to face. This kind of isolation is self-perpetuating, as people who don’t know any other nonbelievers are less likely to speak out themselves. We need to reverse this trend and show the world that freethought knows no bounds of skin color or ancestry, but how do we take the first step?

I Get Religious Mail: If Wishes Were Airplanes
I Get Religious Mail: If Wishes Were Airplanes
Atlas Shrugged: Thank You For Riding Taggart Transcontinental
Weekend Bonus Music: Hard Believer
About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Greta Christina

    We need to reverse this trend and show the world that freethought knows no bounds of skin color or ancestry, but how do we take the first step?

    I think we need to take the first step by trying to make the atheist community more genuinely inclusive and welcoming of people of color. We have very limited influence on making the religious African- American community and other religious communities of color be more inclusive of atheists… but we have a lot more power about what we do and how we act. And if the atheist community doesn’t feel like a safe haven for people of color, that’s our problem, and we need to be addressing it.

  • random guy

    Sullivan’s blatant double standards when it comes to religion is the reason I stopped reading his blog. I just couldn’t stand a guy that could make rational arguments on every subject under the sun (including criticism of other religions), and then turn into a simpering apologist when his own sacred cow was gored.

    It was occasionally funny to watch him dance around the issue of being an openly gay man while the Catholics condemn homosexuality. It was just odd to watch a man claim that he was a devout Catholic, and then have argue that the Pope was wrong on this or that issue. Agreeing with Pope is not optional in Catholic dogma, you don’t get to take a buffet approach like protestants.

    I think I was finally done with him when he called PZ a bigot for breaking Eucharist crackers. It wouldn’t have been so bad except that he spent the last couple of years being exceedingly pissed off at the Muslim reaction to the Danish cartoons. In fact championing the idea of offending people with offensive beliefs, excepting of course when they’re Catholic.

  • Chris Swanson

    I rather like Andrew Sullivan. I don’t think he’s perfect, but he’s my token conservative read of the day. I find him at least intelligent and occasionally funny, so points there. Plus I do think it’s interesting to watch someone try to hold onto their religion while their religion makes it clear that they are doing something evil (Leviticus and Romans, for example).

  • Pi Guy

    I think that Sullivan must just like the taste of communion.

    I think that non-theists in general tend to be open-minded on most matters and would be surprised if there was a significant number of racist atheists. But being white and a non-believer in the rather progressive state of Maryland is tough. My experience is that African Americans tend to be even more religious, as is noted above. Imagine being black and a non believer. In Alabama.

  • Chris

    @Greta: I agree, but is there anything about the atheist community that isn’t welcoming to people of color other than its sheer demographics? (Which is unfortunately a catch-22: we can’t look less all-white until more non-whites join us.) This is not a rhetorical question, BTW: if someone thinks there *is* something other than sheer demographics making minorities feel unwelcome, by all means, point it out and we’ll see what we can do about it.

    Gays of color have a similar problem, since intensely religious minority communities also tend to be intensely homophobic. Maybe we could learn something useful from their experience dealing with the problem.

    I suspect, though, that the highly religious, traditionalist, tight-knit communities formed by minorities didn’t grow on trees – they’re a response to the environment those minorities found themselves in. (Compare medieval Jews, for example.) Therefore, perhaps the best thing we can do is to promote interracial understanding and openness in general – relaxing the pressures that created those particular social dynamics and the unusually strong demand for conformity within the minority. Modern Jews may be more open to nontraditional lifestyles (than either their ancestors or other modern minorities) precisely *because* they’re no longer a persecuted or marginalized group.

    As an atheist I believe religion doesn’t have a supernatural explanation; it isn’t actually coming from gods or demons. Therefore it must have a natural one (or be a complete accident, which hardly seems plausible). But a natural cause is in this universe and can be altered. Remove the cause, and the effects will fade.

  • mc2
  • Roi des Foux

    If you’re interested in a black atheist perspective, I suggest Wrath James Wright’s blog, Godless and Black. His article about growing up Christian in a poor black neighbourhood is an incredibly intense read, and one of the most poignant deconversion stories I have ever read.

  • Roi des Foux
  • Lynet

    Thanks for the links, Roi des Foux — that’s a well-written blog.

    Speaking of which, an obvious way of encouraging atheists who are part of minority communities to speak out is to highlight those atheists who are speaking out already. By linking to them, for example!

  • Judy

    I’m a black female atheist. Growing up, my mother sent me and my siblings to various churches, mostly Baptist, over the years. In 1977, one of my younger sisters was hit by a car upon our return from an evening at the “holiness” church (that’s what it’s called here in the black community in Dallas, Texas – one where the people do lots of shouting and screaming and crying and testifying and “speaking” in tongues). My sister survived, but the strange thing is, not one of us ever again went back to a church. Ever. More than 30 years now. But my siblings and my mother all remain strident, ardent believers, despite the fact that their god has done nothing of any significance (such as cure an addiction or other disease) for any of them.

    I became an atheist about five years ago. Since then, I’ve come out to a few of my family members, but not my friends or co-workers. None of my family members have expressed ANY interest in understanding why I’ve come to be an atheist and a couple exhibit great fear if I even mention my non-belief (only after they’ve mentioned their faith and belief, etc.). I have found that getting someone interested in a conversation about this to be the most difficult task I’ve ever encountered. They are just so fearful of this god. They don’t want to hear about my atheism, yet they have no problem easily spouting off about jesus and god at me every chance they get.

    So I’m thinking of getting a t-shirt that reads: Atheist and Proud, Ask me How! Because I am proud of myself for unburdening myself of that fear of god. Maybe it’ll spark a conversation, somewhere, somehow.

  • Scotlyn


    Because I am proud of myself for unburdening myself of that fear of god.

    Good on yer!

  • OMGF

    Maybe we need to organize an “Atheists Out” day, where Atheists wear Judy’s shirt idea all on the same day to promote awareness of us.