African-American Freethinkers

Here’s some black history you never heard about in school.

Many of the great African-American leaders of the early 20th century were not religious people! This was surprising to me when I heard it considering the level of religiosity you see in the black community now.

Mike Estes, a wonderful speaker, goes into detail about this history using the leaders’ own words and writings in this episode (mp3) of the Infidel Guy radio show.

Go listen!


[tags]black history month, African-American, freethinkers, atheist, atheism, religion, Mike Estes, Infidel Guy[/tags]

  • Pingback: Bligbi » Freethought in the black community

  • txatheist

    I was shocked initially when the Infidel guy noted he was extremely rare, black and atheist. It’s true but it’s just as slim finding a female atheist.

  • Karen

    I was shocked initially when the Infidel guy noted he was extremely rare, black and atheist. It’s true but it’s just as slim finding a female atheist.

    Hmm. That doesn’t sound right to me, but I don’t know for sure. It’d be interesting to see some stats. Anyone ever seen a breakdown of non-theists (Lori Lipman Brown’s favorite “umbrella” term for atheists, humanists, secularists, et al) by race, gender and other factors – like maybe geography and education level?

    I know that I see lots of women at the Skeptics Society meetings but very few people of color. Often, but not always, skeptics are non-theists.

    I’ve recently come across a couple of African-American atheists. One calls himself PFunk, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WHf5HFDk10, and the other I think I met here, Greydon Square, http://www.thecomptoneffect.com/.

    How about black female atheists? There have to be some well-known women out there in the secular community.

  • Professor Chaos

    I never knew finding a female atheist was “slim.” It doesn’t seem that way to me in the least bit.

  • http://infidels.org Janice

    I put Mike Estes in touch with Infidel Guy Reggie Finley after meeting Mike in Washington DC and hearing his presentation on the role of black freethinkers in the early civil rights movement. After the DC event, Mike was in Philadelphia, giving a similar talk to my group, the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia.

    I was surprised that Mike had never been an IG guest before, and I promised to make the introduction. I’m so glad that Reggie had him on. What a great show. Perfect for Black History Month! Why don’t they teach this stuff in school?

  • MTran

    it’s just as slim finding a female atheist

    I keep reading this on various blogs but it has not been my experience at all. I also hear that there are no female science fiction fans or female techie geeks. But again, that is not my experience.

  • txatheist

    karen,
    Usually I go to adherents.com for an answer but I couldn’t find a breakdown there of male/female.

    I found this chart at the bottom of the article.
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2006-09-11-religion-survey_x.htm
    A look at religious affiliations across the USA:

    Baylor sociologists broke down religious affiliation by region, gender, race and age (percentages):

    Gender Race Age Education

    West Midwest South East Total Male Female White Black 18-30 31-44 45-64 65+ High school or less Some college or more

    Black Protestant 1.3 5.6 7.2 5.0 5.0 2.8 6.9 0 62.5 3.8 5.4 3.9 7.3 5.0 3.0

    Evangelical Protestant 31.7 33.7 50.3 13.1 33.6 30.0 36.7 35.4 9.5 39.0 34.9 31.3 33.1 45.4 23.5

    Mainline Protestant 17.7 26.0 19.3 26.0 22.1 22.1 22.1 24.1 7.7 20.1 17.6 22.5 28.1 18.0 29.0

    Catholic 19.2 22.1 11.5 35.1 21.2 23.8 18.9 22.8 5.0 10.1 23.0 23.7 19.9 22.0 21.4

    Jewish 2.2 1.4 1.9 4.7 2.5 2.5 2.4 2.6 3.7 2.7 1.9 2.7 2.9 2.3 3.6

    Other 10.3 3.0 2.7 4.6 4.9 6.0 3.9 4.3 6.0 5.7 5.8 4.8 3.5 2.1 6.7

    Unaffiliated 17.6 8.3 7.1 11.6 10.8 12.8 9.0 10.8 5.7 18.6 11.4 11.1 5.4 5.2 12.8

    Source: Baylor Religion Survey, margin of error +/- 4 percentage points

  • txatheist

    Would saying it is slim chances of finding an atheist female in Texas more correct? It sure seems like it.

  • spin sycle

    I’m one! *raises hand*

  • txatheist

    Spin cycle,
    May I ask what part of TX you are in?

  • zhi ( alfreda P.howard

    It is very true the evil white man whipped it inot the AFRICAN SLAVE.
    wehn africans leardesd how to read;they found out in exudus that they were suppose to be treated the same a the racist white master. the afircan man decide that he was set free because of his beleivef in the bibble ; when in fact it was abrahm deseprate to when the civil war . After the war was one Abraham Lincoln kept his promise and freed the slave; but, yet he wanted to go back on what he [promised; but he was killed first before he could commit the act. Blacks are brainwashed to believe in a God. their minds are still enslaved. But, they have leardn tho adapt and use and manipulate the white race with his own world of god.
    Thank you

  • Pingback: Friendly Atheist » Interview Questions for Michael Estes and Pastor Deacon Fred

  • Jayda

    I am a 23 year old black woman and a atheist and proud of it!

  • Z Brown

    I just picked up a book called “The Atheist’s Bible.” AS an AA or black male, I could catch a lot of flack for it in public but I don’t care. I’m free from all the guilt-ridden constructs that define religion and can say that it has removed a huge burden from my conciousness. The hard part comes from not being able to really connect with black women because of my views, but oh well…
    At 30 years old, I’m tired of the riddles and rules, and exceptions and contradictions that I’ve received from the clergy. Even with my family being ministers and devout christians, I could not force myself to believe in illogical myths.

    Being free isn’t easy, but damn it feels good.

  • Pingback: Friendly Atheist » Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Humanists

  • Choocolate Child

    I am a 34year old african american atheist. I use to whimp-out b4 and claim agnostic but now i am a full blown nonbeliever (free from religious brain wash) and love to debate with theist. I have a 14yr. daughter and i’ve let her explore many religions but she (pressure free) has a feel for atheism (so far) i’ve let her know that we are not politicians she can change her mind as often as she like just dont believe a book is true if does not have any reference and use the five senses (sure hope she stay wise tho.) lol!

    My boy freind is 25 and when i met him he shared my views; however, he had never heard of the terms atheist, freethinker, etc. It still felt good to know that he was not on that “Eye in the sky foolishness.”

  • Mriana

    Baylor sociologists broke down religious affiliation by region, gender, race and age (percentages):

    Gender Race Age Education

    I live in the mid-west (south of the Mason Dixon line actually) and where I live, it seems like every Black person over the age of 40 is superstitious and I do mean superstitious. Under 40 they are either less superstitious or non-believers. The older they are, the more superstitious they are and generally less educated. So maybe the chart on that site isn’t too far off. Of course, but the same token, the Evangelicals (White or Black) are loons.

  • http://www.webng.com/poetrybyagirl Melody

    Well, I’m a 25yr old African-American female and I’m an atheist. Albeit, I don’t know any other black female atheists.

  • http://www.webng.com/poetrybyagirl Melody

    Oh yeah and I live in Arlington, TX.

  • Mriana

    Welcome Melody. You’re under 40 and just showed my point about that group being non-religious. :) While not many profess to be atheist, I have heard “against organized religion”, “agnostic”, “don’t go to church”, “not Christian” etc etc. I actually think this is a good and healthy thing that the younger generation isn’t falling for superstition. Now if more of the older age group would follow suit.

  • Ana

    Here’s another black female atheist. I’m 25 and live in Southern California. I’m not exactly out to my mother (who has become more religious and intrusive as time goes on) or her family, but my father and friends know. My current boyfriend’s beliefs could be described as deist — naturally he’s very accepting. It’s surprising how much we agree on matters of religion.

    Mriana — the same is mostly true here, although the people I know tend to be more private in their faith and accepting of others’ views, owing to the university atmosphere. My former timekeeper (who turns 60 this year, and is a very cool person) actually asked me why I didn’t believe in God — I was gratified that she cared to do so and to listen to my reasons instead of condemning me on the spot.

    Z, I have a similar problem. I’m not closed off to dating or committing to a black man (or woman), but finding fellow geeks or people who can give me the space I need is hard enough that I’d be foolish to restrict my choices by skin color. I’ve mostly given up on finding another black atheist, period. I’ve only met one in my entire lifetime (my first boyfriend).

  • joe

    I’m a 37-year-old agnostic living in Brooklyn, N.Y., and I finally relinquished religion after realizing the questions I posed about our existence certainly couldn’t be answered by people who claim to know God personally. (i.e., the Pope, T.D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar — come on: Creflo Dollar?)

    Most black folk aren’t even interested in hearing my take on things, so I live and let live. But it sure would be nice to meet a group of blacks who operate by reason and critical thought. Maybe it could be the start of real change for us.

  • AnAfricanAtheist

    What an interesting thread this is. I’ve often pondered long and hard about how many black atheists in whatever part of the world would willingly identify themselves as such. I’m African, female, and atheist. As with many of the black people who’ve commented on this thread, I know of no other African atheists, male or female. I am certain to be publicly ridiculed and accorded treatment usually reserved for prostitutes when my atheism becomes more publicised, and this by my friends and family. Not great to look forward to, but the freedom resulting from living outside the culture and religion bubble is too exhilarating, guiltless and intellectually stimulating than any perceived communal satisfaction to be gained from doing what’s been done by Africans for centuries.

    My atheism has had a massive impact on every facet of my life. For one, where I had previously dated only black men, I find myself a lot more open to people from different geographical origins, so it’s highly likely that the next person I date won’t be black. I’m in the process of making new friends, people more like me in terms of being open to reason and logic. I don’t expect any of them to be black – it’s just not something the overwhelming majority of us are raised to treasure, I think. The former (religious and cultural) me would’ve been scared at the prospect of losing all my African friends, but the strength my atheism (and humanism) gives me simply makes me go heigh-ho, such is life…just another reason why religion needs to be eradicated..

  • Karen

    As with many of the black people who’ve commented on this thread, I know of no other African atheists, male or female.

    Meet Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali by birth and one of the coolest atheists out there. She’s written a wonderful book called “Infidel.”

  • AnAfricanAtheist

    Lol, I am actually reading ‘Infidel’ so I guess I DO know a black Atheist. Silly me, I was referring to black people I know personally… Even on a wider scale, it’s slim pickings really…

  • Pingback: Friendly Atheist » Is Negro a Slur?

  • AnotherAfricanAtheist

    Male, 27, African, Atheist. I’m not sure how many others there are out there but damn I always feel that Africans and African Americans are just a tad too religious.

  • http://www.infidelguy.com Brad

    I don’t think anyone is claiming that there are NO female atheists, or NO black atheists.

    They just say they are more rare. I’m not really sure if that is true or not, but what has been true for me is that I only ever meet them on the internet.

    I live in Chicago, and I’ve all but given up on dating because it seems like every woman I meet is either a fairly ardent believer or a crazy new-age person.

    So I think it might not be that there is some imbalance… it’s just that we can’t find you, or never meet you.

    P.S. IG is awesome. Go make some pledge to his show or sign up for access to his archives. He was podcasting before podcasting was invented, 9 years ago!

  • http://www.blackwomanthinks.blogspot.com Zee Harrison

    I’m a black female atheist and know very few black atheists in my own circle.
    Unfortunately black communities, giving a nod to recent historical experiences, have held onto to a belief that ‘better must come’ and ‘we’ll leave things to god’.
    I grew up in a home where religion wasn’t taken too seriously and my mother took us to the ‘clap-happy-fling yourself on the floor-whilst-speaking-in-tongues’ type of churches and would point out the recent transgressions of those who appeared the most devout and self-righteous.
    Very amusing and sad at the same time.

    With the advent of the internet and instant global communication people are becoming more aware of themselves and the world we live in. Beliefs in the supernatural are being challenged much more vociferously than in the past and rightly so.

    Black people who reject all forms of the supernatural are beginning to become aware of others who share the same views and we will see more connections being made in order to educate ourselves and others towards reason and rationale and away from superstitious myths/legends.
    I am atheist and even share my views on my blog:
    http://www.blackwomanthinks.blogspot.com

    Great to hear so many younger people here throwing away the traditions based on myths and legends – a positive step for the future!

  • Mary, black female atheist in uk
  • Jeff “the girl”

    So it’s 2am and I found this posting after a heated “debate” with my relatively new boyfriend.And glad I did for a bit of reassurance.

    I’m 22 African American female, atheist. Boy is it tough in the dating world seeing as how most blacks are not only Christians but brain washed Christians…a big difference.
    My relationship was going great until the big subject came into play. I’m very much a live and let live personality, but I’m not willing to lie about my lack of religion when asked which poses a problem for me with many friendships and more so relationships, which sucks! But my freedom of mind and choice is far more important. I only seem to have this problem primarily with African American Christians first and overall Christians second. Those of other religions seem to pose more of a debate and move on then to allow ones different or lack of belief dictate who they interact with on every level….

  • Ayo

    i’m aa and i’m not an atheist, but i don’t believe in the ‘supernatural’ (that which is natural is ‘divine’ so to speak), heaven, hell or the devil, so i don’t feel the need to ‘save’ anyone.

    if you’re atheist – ‘whatever blows your dress up’ is my attitude.

  • IrmaE

    Hi!
    This is my first time on a blog/site ever. I am an African American female atheist. My sister and my adult boys are also atheist. My younger brother is on the fence. We were raised in the church. My mother became a christain before I was born. I have always had my doubts/questions since I was a child. Everything seemed so illogical to me even as a child. My mother now knows I’m atheist, yet she still tries to get me to give 10% of my earnings to the church. I am so sick of christains force feeding their nonsense. They’re going to save you wether or not you want to be saved. I am looking for an African American male atheist to date. If anyone knows of a dating site I can go to please let me know. I would like to be able to talk to someone about my beliefs or anything else without someone looking at be as if I’m the most evil thing they ever saw because I don’t believe in their religion or god. I would like to meet someone with whom I can be free with. I don’t go around announcing my beliefs, but I don’t deny it if asked.

  • http://deleted Siamang

    Welcome!

    But few people will see your comment on this post from 2007.

    Please continue to post on the current new postings!

    Hope you like it here!

  • Mriana

    Hi Irma. I saw you’re post and good luck finding an African-American male who is an atheist. I haven’t met any, although I think I came close to it once. I didn’t ask. He was much older than I am though and obviously a freethinker, as well as a good intelligent conversationalist. The conversation was very refreshing, esp in comparison to the conversations I have with my ex-husband, who is very superstitious, even of the black cat I had. lol Never did get how a black man could be afraid of a black cat, knowing full well it was just another form of prejudice, besides superstition. It made no sense.

    Anyway, good luck with finding an African-American male who is an atheist.

  • http://www.blackatheists.wordpress.com Asilee

    Well I’m one. ^_^

  • Deep3172

    I Recently stopped calling myself an agnostic and began referring to myself as an atheist. I realize there are several of us (both male and female) african american atheists, but the problem is, there isn’t a dense population of us, ANYWHERE. Most of us encounter each other over the internet. I have been looking within my immediate area for AA Atheists but always seem to either come up short, or come across the ones who are, well, lets just say, a little too eccentric for me, you know, gothic, or what have you. So I continue to wait. Part of the demise of my marriage was because my religious views changed… how do you like that?

  • Deep3172

    Oh, Im located in Killeen, TX, if anyone is in my area

  • perri

    Black female atheist, here!

    I shared an elevator with two Jehovah’s witnesses recently. Before they exited, one offered me a copy of the Watchtower. I said, “No thank you, I’m an atheist.” I don’t know if it was necessary to throw that in but, it was the first time I said it aloud to anyone. I guess it was easy to do because they were random strangers.

    Perhaps the next time I’m offered a religious tract, I’ll return the favor by offering an atheist tract. Okay, I don’t have any but I do find the thought somewhat amusing. :-)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X