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The Dreaded A-word and African Americans May 27, 2010

Posted by Skippy in Black folks, Observations, Religion.

No, I’m not talking about “abortion” and African Americans.

I’m talking about “atheism.”

There is an old canard in America that “the bedrock of the Black Community has been the Black Church.” This canard is so prevalent, you often hear it followed up with the assertion that it was Christianity that sustained black folks through slavery, Jim Crow segregation, lynching, etc. Images of black religiosity are everywhere in African American cultural life. From black Greek-lettered organizations to community organizations to black political life, the shadow of black Christianity looms large. As such, it is expected that a black person will claim Christianity—-even if he or she doesn’t attend a church with any regularity. Even if that person claims Islam (or, to a far, far lesser degree, Buddhism), there’s a comfort in knowing that while they may not be Christian per se, they still maintain monotheistic beliefs.

So, you can probably imagine some of the reactions to black folks who come out and say that they are nonbelievers. As I was driving home from work, I had my radio on the local “R&B” station. In the afternoon, they air the Michael Baisden show. Baisden’s claim to fame has been twofold: one, he’s a nationally syndicated radio talk show host. Two, he’s the author of a few books that, for one reason or another, people seemed to find informational. With book titles like “Never Satisfied: How and Why Men Cheat”, “Men Cry in the Dark”, “The Maintenance Man”, and “God’s Gift to Women,” I’d hazard a guess that he’s famous for the same reason that the newly-reconstituted Steve Harvey is famous again: he’s a misery pimp.

That suspicion is confirmed every time I turn on the radio and listen to as much of his show as I can stand. To let Baisden tell it, black folks are lurching from one crisis to another. In between the misery pimping, he loves to sensationalize black life. He’s a cross between Maury Povich and Al Sharpton—-with virtually none of the redeeming qualities of either.

So, in light of a Reuters report reposted on Huffington Post that said that there are more African Americans who are declaring themselves non religious, Baisden went slightly batshit. As usual, he turned it into a free-for-all of nonsense. He took calls and, for the time that I listened, got at least one caller who made the following dumbass assertions:
1. Black folks who are atheists have forgotten history
2. Religion has supported black folks throughout our history here in America
3. We need religion to combat all the various ills that plague black communities

Really? This is what happens when you let idiots comment on, well, virtually anything. Nine times out of ten, the idiot commenting on whatever topic will proffer some of the most idiotic comments you’ll ever have the displeasure of hearing. The idiot’s first and second argument boils down to this: our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were Christian and since it worked for them, everyone should still be Christian. The idiot commenter assumes that a knowledge of history would somehow necessitate a religious orientation (an implicitly Christian one, to boot). I’m assuming that the idiot caller is either unaware of or is conveniently forgetting such lovely moments in Christian history like

* The Crusades

Fig. 1: Hey baby, wanna kill some people?

* The Spanish Inquisition

Fig. 2: I bet you weren’t expecting that, were you?

* The Transatlantic Slave Trade

Fig. 3: For you folks in Texas, it’s called the Atlantic Triangular Trade of Puppies, Bunnies, and Sunshine!

Yes, idiot caller, you are right about one thing: a knowledge of history would be quite good.

As to his final point about religion helping to sustain The Black Community (he seemed to be conflating belief in deities with religion)…um, yeah. Okay. Whatevs. But, pray tell, how is believing in the existence of a universe-spanning superintelligence with a very spotty record of interaction with its creation going to get me a job? People who believe in the existence of this universe-spanning superintelligence claim that it is omnipresent, omniscient, and, most importantly, omnibenevolent. In other words, it’s all-loving.

Fig. 4: This is love I can do without.

What irks the living hell out of me when it comes to us folk and religion is that we’ve adopted this hyper-religiosity as a knee-jerk reaction against whites. We’ve so closely tied religion to racial identity, that to think critically about religion (as well as racial identity) is tantamount to a rejection of both. The piece on HuffPo quotes a Church of God in Christ pastor Kenneth Fowlkes as saying, “Humanists are encouraging African Americans to go to hell.”

No, no we’re not, as there’s no such thing as “hell” in the first place.



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