The 'Unbelievers': African-American Atheists Speak

Not all black people believe in God.

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Black atheist online communities are growing. (Thinkstock)

Religion plays a major role in the lives of many racial and ethnic groups, including blacks. It is often believed that all people of African descent are God-fearing and staunch believers in organized religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam. However, there is a growing population of black atheists, those who don't believe in a higher power, emerging online.

Emily Brennan spotlights black atheists and their evolution in a New York Times article. In it she highlights the plight of Ronelle Adams, a black atheist who didn't meet another black atheist until almost a decade after he informed his God-fearing mother that he did not believe in God. Brennan writes:

This was in 2000, and Mr. Adams did not meet another black atheist in Washington until 2009, when he found the Facebook group called Black Atheists, which immediately struck a chord. “I felt like, ‘100 black atheists? Wow!’ ” he said.

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.

We're glad that this discussion in the popular discourse is moving beyond a special episode of Good Times, in which Michael challenges Florida's belief in God after meeting black atheist Carl. Florida, a devout Christian, and Carl, a devout atheist, eventually marry.

There have been many famous black atheists. It was actress Butterfly McQueen who said, "As my ancestors are free from slavery, I am free from the slavery of religion." Although many blacks are extremely religious, it does not mean that there cannot be black atheists. Blacks are not a monolithic group in any way, shape or form, so why should religion or the belief that there is no higher power ruffle feathers? If your religious beliefs are solid, then what does it matter if someone else doesn't believe in God?

Read more at the New York Times.

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