Black Beyond Belief

A student at DePaul University (a religious-at-least-in-name school) is making a movie about black atheists. Black Beyond Belief aims to examine the experiences of an oft-overlooked population: the 0.5% of African-Americans who identify as non-religious.

Sean Austin, the student behind the plan, received a grant from the DePaul Cinema Program for the project. In his words:

I didn’t expect to win the money. I honestly didn’t think a bunch of old white Catholic professors would give a young black student a grant to make a movie about atheism. Fortunately, I was wrong.

The trailer is already completed, and it looks spectacular.

Besides examining the experiences of black non-believers, Sean wants to explore the role of the church in African-American communities, as well as philosophy, social justice, and politics. His filming crew is made up of Celeste (a Christian) and Ryan (who is non-religious). They anticipate a first screening in January, after which it will be available online.

About Kate Donovan

Kate is a junior studying psychology and human development at Northwestern University. She is the president of Northwestern's Secular Student Alliance and a writer at Teen Skepchick, Heresy Club, and various other places around the internet. Sometimes she sleeps.

  • TychaBrahe

    Is there a Facebook page or Twitter account for this project?  I live near DePaul, and I would be interested in attending the screening.

  • Breanna Sullivan

    Sweet, thanks for sharing!

  • Anna

    Very interesting! I love documentaries, and I’d like to see more of them about the atheist experience.

    I’m still waiting for Skipping Sunday School to be released, too:

  • JohnnieCanuck

    This could be good.

    I liked the trailer and the choice of music was brilliant. It really is a powerful force. Even without having been immersed in its culture, it is compelling.

  • Desiree Bell-Fowlks

    Very cool!!  I’m a black atheist, but I live in southern california.  It’s pretty liberal out here.  The church is such a huge part of the black community that being an atheist is almost shunning yourself from the community.  I know the church was crucial for the black community for a way to get together socially and politically.  So far I think I am the only atheist in my family, but my family was never that religious in the first place.  My family knows I am an atheist, but we do not talk about it due to my coming out was met with my mom saying my grandmother would roll over in her grave if she knew I was an atheist.  I can’t wait until they find out I won’t have a church wedding and I plan on raising my future children as atheists.  Shitstorm in the extended weather forecast.  LOL.

  • ImRike

     Maybe that will cause your grandmother not to just roll over in her grave, but to stand up and come out!

  • Hilary

    Cool.  My best friend at work is a black atheist.  She’s also a lesbian (like me) and I’ll have to let her know about this.

  • Michael

    I wish I could have been in this film.  I was baptized as a southern baptist and am now an Atheist.  I like Desiree’s post.  My grandparents are still alive and they are the only people I refuse to tell.  Don’t need to break her heart.  I find that theme common among black atheists though.  99% of us were raised with some type of religious belief, understand why our families feel the way they do, and never want to cause them pain by revealing who were are.  I think I just had a moment of pure understanding of LGB not coming out the closet.

  • Desiree Bell-Fowlks

    LOL.  Teh zombies r comin!!

  • Desiree Bell-Fowlks

    At least we know we are not alone in what we are going through.  There’s a few of us, but I know that will change in the future Michael.  More of us will come out thanks to attention this kind of video will get fom those still in the closet.  If we can’t be ourselves to our family at least we can be ourselves on the internet.

  • Andrew Tripp

    Hi, I’m Andrew Tripp, and I’m the President of the DePaul Alliance for Free Thought. Sean is on our executive board, and as such, we will be hosting a screening when the film comes out. Send us an e-mail at, or join our Facebook group, and we’ll keep you up to date!