Last weekend, the Center For Inquiry recently hosted an African Americans for Humanism conference in Washington, D.C. At nearly 60 guests, it was arguably the largest gathering of non-religious African Americans ever (at least if we’re talking about meeting specifically as atheists).
Writer Jamila Bey was there and writes about the event at The Root:
Among black folks, if you’re a criminal who shows up at a service on whatever Sabbath you subscribe to, you’re just a fallen human who is worthy of love and redemption. But if you’re a moral and decent human who doesn’t believe in a supernatural force, you’ll soon find that your kind is most unwelcome.
One conference participant from the Bible Belt summed it up this way: “Christianity’s grasp on black people makes it almost impossible to admit that you’re a black atheist. We have to hide our non-belief, otherwise we are excluded. And if we give voice to any objection or doubt, we’re ostracized and isolated — or just banished! So any time religion comes up, it’s simpler to just change the subject or say nothing if you can’t bring yourself to fake an ‘amen.’ … But don’t use my name ‘cause my mother told me when she saw me reading God is Not Great that if any of her children actually believed ‘that mess,’ she’d have one less child.”
… as a minority within a deeply closeted minority, we’re going to have to work to gain visibility and influence. Those of us who are “out” mustn’t apologize for our stance. We also need to join larger non-theistic groups.
It’s mentioned in the article but I would hope many college atheist groups are more inclusive and welcoming to younger generations of black atheists than the older, more established groups may be. If we can get more black leaders in the movement — and, more importantly, get more people overall being open about their atheism — I think that’ll be a huge turning point for us.