African American atheists form growing groups on Facebook and Internet
On November 28, 2011 At 9:42 am
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Black Atheists of America is a growing atheist group on Facebook, with 2,793 members. The blog "Godless and Black" has 74 members, and was recently featured in a New York Times article chronicling the growing number of African American atheist groups on the Internet. This is an interesting look at a group that has been assumed to be very religious, with more than 88 percent polled stating a belief in God:
In the two years since, Black Atheists has grown to 879 members from that initial 100, YouTube confessionals have attracted thousands, blogs like “Godless and Black” have gained followings, and hundreds more have joined Facebook groups like Black Atheist Alliance (524 members) to share their struggles with “coming out” about their atheism.
Feeling isolated from religious friends and families and excluded from what it means to be African-American, people turn to these sites to seek out advice and understanding, with some of them even finding a date. And having benefited from the momentum online, organizations like African Americans for Humanism and Center for Inquiry-Harlem have well-attended meet-up groups, and others like Black Atheists of America and Black Nonbelievers have been founded.
African-Americans are remarkably religious even for a country known for its faithfulness, as the United States is. According to the Pew Forum 2008 United States Religious Landscape Survey, 88 percent of African-Americans believe in God with absolute certainty, compared with 71 percent of the total population, with more than half attending religious services at least once a week.
"The world would have you be faithful. I would encourage you to be rational" runs the byline for "Godless and Black;" the author calls himself a humanist, saying:
The intention of this blog is to give you time to read the posts, reread them, and read them again. To share them with friends and family, both the enlightened and those blinded by religious dogma and inspire thoughtful dialogue to hopefully drag more people out of the darkness and into the light of reason.
This YouTube video asks why there are so few black atheists in America–less than one half percent of African Americans identify themselves as atheists compared to 1.6 percent of the total population:
The New York Times tells the story of Wrath James White, who feels compelled to keep quiet about his atheism, except on the Internet:
ON his blog “Words of Wrath,” Wrath James White is an outspoken critic of Christianity and of African-Americans’ “zealous embracement of the God of our kidnapper, murders, slave masters and oppressors.”
Though his atheism is a well-worn subject of debate with his wife and his mother (a minister), Mr. White, a 41-year-old Austin-based writer, avoids discussing it with the rest of his family. Though he won’t attend Christmas services this year, and hasn’t in years, he said, his family assumes he’s just “not that interested in religion.” To say explicitly he is an atheist, he said, “would break my grandmother’s heart.”
The pressure he feels to quiet his atheism is at the heart of a provocative statement he makes on his blog: “In most African-American communities, it is more acceptable to be a criminal who goes to church on Sunday, while selling drugs to kids all week, than to be an atheist who … contributes to society and supports his family.”
Over the phone, Mr. White said he does feel respected for his education and success, but because he cannot talk freely about his atheism, it ultimately excludes him. When he lived in Los Angeles, he watched gang members in their colors enter the church where they were welcomed to shout “Amen” (they had sinned but had been redeemed) along with everyone else.
“They were free to tell their story,” Mr. White said, while his story about leaving religion he keeps to himself — and the Internet.