The Root has been doing a marvelous job lately of giving voice to black atheists.
In this article, Harvard professor Tommie Shelby talks about how he never “lost his faith”; he just flat-out rejected it:
Though Harvard is often said to have ruined more good Negroes than bathtub gin, it was actually at Florida A&M University, a historically black university, that I went from being a devout Christian to being an atheist.
Many black people with whom I’ve talked about this, including some people I love, find my rejection of faith baffling or frightening. Some feel sorry for me. Others suspect that my atheism is rooted in disappointment with a particular church or with organized religion in general, in a desire to be free to sin without guilt or in anger toward God for his failure to help when I or my people needed him most.
No doubt some feel that it just confirms their belief that higher education (and the study of philosophy in particular) is a destroyer of faith and distances black youths from the venerable traditions of their people. What the black believers I know rarely do is engage seriously with my reasons for nonbelief. Instead of regarding me as someone with whom they have an honest disagreement, as someone they can perhaps persuade, they look upon me with contempt or pity.
The more you listen to black atheists, the more striking it is how much they’re really up against when rejecting Christianity. It’s not just dismissing a family faith — you have to be ready to be labeled a cultural apostate as well. It’s as if you can’t truly be “black” unless you’re religious, too. It’s completely illogical, but it’s the reality so many black atheists are up against.
(Thanks to Dennis for the link!)