Shades of Black Atheism #11: Ex-Jehovah’s Witness, Ex-Pentecostal Bridgett Crutchfield

To learn more about this series please click here or here.

Although she’s the founder of Minority Atheists of Michigan Bria Crutchfield said, “I haven’t always been an Atheist, unfortunately. I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, baptized at 17.” Angry at being forced to be raised in a high control group, she walked away at 18 and was disfellowshipped at 20. For those of you not familiar with Jehovah’s Witnesses and disfellowshipping, it’s an extreme form of shunning where your entire congregation is notified and it is understood that no one is supposed to talk to you thereafter. Having been raised one myself, I know it’s a very difficult thing to go through. Bria said she “later segued to Pentecostalism” in her 30s. She was very active and was “an intercessory prayer warrior, Evangelist & Prophetess.”

It sounded intense. I’d never heard of “intercessory prayer warriors” before, so I had to look it up:

While God desires all Christ Followers to communicate with him through regular prayer, the gift of Intercessory Prayer is a special endowment of the Holy Spirit that transforms the Christ Follower into a “Prayer Warrior” for the sake of other people and other ministries. The label “Prayer Warrior” is derived from the belief that the person gifted with Intercessory Prayer stands on the front lines of spiritual warfare. This gift is sadly overlooked in the Church because it is seldom utilized in public. However, without Prayer Warriors, many visible ministry accomplishments would probably not be successful.

Not surprisingly, Bria became uncomfortable with what she was ministering and walked away from it all at age 40.

Bria called herself “a very out Atheist” much to the chagrin of her family, a reaction she found amusing. I get that: It affects her familial relationships in that they believe she purchased a straight ticket to hell and they have to pray for her soul.

I asked if she felt the Black atheist experience was different from non-Black atheists. She answered in the affirmative: “Our needs are often not taken into consideration. And when attending conferences you can count the number of black Atheists in attendance, usually on 1.5 hands. It can be disconcerting at times, but I know the day will come when we are realized.” She also saw the positive in having race focused groups: “If the secular community would incorporate ALL black Atheists and not only the prominently known black Atheists, race-focused groups wouldn’t be necessary.”

Bria gave some recommendations for both closeted, questioning, and even “out” black atheists, including Sikivu Hutchinson’s book, Moral Combat, and Darrell Smith’s newly-released book Black Nones: You Are Not Alone. She also suggested the Facebook group Black Atheists of America and to join a local meetup group. If one isn’t available: start one.

“To those who aren’t out, I’d advise them to come out when they’re ready. Do not allow others to pressure you to come out. It’s a transition and the journey can be difficult. For those who feel they need to get things off of their chests, I’d suggest creating a blog or a Youtube channel… you can remain anonymous.”

Previous entries in this series include:

About Bridget R. Gaudette

Bridget R. Gaudette is the Executive Director of the Humanists of Florida Association and the Marketing & Grants Manager for Foundation Beyond Belief. Bridget was a contributor to the book, BlackNones, a book highlighting black atheist conversion stories and is currently writing a book, Grieving for the Living: Effects of Disownment in Adulthood.

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  • beautifulblackatheist

    Thank you Bridget, Thank you Hemant!! My pic looks fantastic and thank you for sharing my story.

  • No Surrender

    “Black” atheism?! That reeks of racism, and you don’t even see it.

  • anniewhoo

    If the needs of a subgroup within a larger community are different, or historically unmet, it makes sense to create a way to meet those needs and make the members of the subgroup feel a part of the larger community. In this series the author is sharing the stories of individuals who may otherwise go without a voice. How is that racism?

  • Bridget Gaudette

    Do you know what the definition of racism is?

  • JasmynMoon

    Let me guess, black history month is racist too?

  • beautifulblackatheist

    I’ve been awaiting this very typical, extremely common response smh

  • Lanie

    We are Facebook friends and I’m so excited to see you on one of my favorite sites!

  • beautifulblackatheist

    Thank you, Lanie!

  • Alfred Mimms

    Someone is projecting.

  • Lonborghini Funghini

    I have to say, Bria, atheism looks really smashing on you. I may have to come out as black.

  • Bridget Gaudette

    I think that is the first one to be posted in the comments on FA if you can believe that. I’ve heard it every where else though. I just hope no one tells my white husband :-)

  • Bridget Gaudette


  • beautifulblackatheist

    The first time on FA and on MY story…YESSSSS!! I’ll recall my intercessory prayer skills and go to war in the spirit realm and pray your husband doesn’t find out you’re contributing to racism…it is done!!

  • beautifulblackatheist

    Lmaoo thank you! It’s the look of Freedom!! Come on out, the more the merriermerrier lol

  • Danny Haszard

    Regarding,Jehovah’s Witnesses *shunning*.
    Watchtower religion is the *Hotel California* you can check in but not *check out*.
    Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult or high control group because they cut you off (harsh shunning) for dissent of any kind.
    Jehovah’s Witnesses have the highest turnover rate of any religion in the United States. Nearly two-thirds of those who become members will leave. There is something deeply wrong with an organization that claims to be
    Christian and breaks apart families, shunning even their own children.

    This form of shunning called “Disfellowshipping” is nothing more than psychological brutality meted out to keep the rank and file in line with fear and stigmatization and has led some to commit suicide. Jehovah’s Witnesses will only treat you with love and respect if you go along 100% with their distortions.

    Danny Haszard Bangor Maine

  • trace

    While I do not want to devalue the black atheist experience, I would like to comment that being an atheist of Irish Catholic descent is no picnic, either. Atheists need to unite as a group — race and national origin are irrelevant. We have ONE view, one cause.

  • Bridget Gaudette

    Thank you!

  • Bridget Gaudette

    We have one view, but from different vantage points. Also, talking about black atheists doesn’t imply that non-black atheists don’t have difficulties. You should read this:

  • Sean Sherman

    Out of all the atheists I’ve met in the Detroit area, Bria is one of the most friendly and energetic activists here. Other than being a personal favorite of mine, her group is a very welcoming and growing community that is much needed.

  • Lance AKA Ex Gilead Missionary

    Thanks for sharing your story! It’s great when you finally get out of the stupid cults, wake up, and enjoy life.