Religion in Black Life

By the Anti-Intellect:

For me, being a Black atheist means thinking critically about the role of religion in the lives of Black people. For far too long, few have written about the negative aspects of religion in Black life, preferring only to write about the positives aspects. Yes, religion was something that our ancestors called upon to help them navigate a White racist world that insisted on their inferiority. But, religion has also been the site of much brutality in the lives of Black people.

If we were to grade the role religion has played in Black life, particularly Judeo-Christianity, I would say that it has earned a “F.” There are simply too many instances of religion being both tool of liberation and tool of oppression in the lives of Blacks. For example, the bible was constantly utilized to justify the enslavement of Black people. I’m sorry, but an “F” average is simply not good enough for a religion that makes divine and/or supernatural claims. Surely, there should be a better track record for something that is ruled by an all-powerful god?

We have been told by the gatekeepers of Black History that religion, and religion alone, has gotten us over. We fail to take into account the secular ways that Black people have utilized in their dealings with a White racist society. For every Bishop Henry McNeal, there has been a Frederick Douglass. For every Sojourner Truth, there has been a Butterfly McQueen. While it is true that Blacks have utilized religion, it has not been the only thing that we have utilized, and our failure to recognize this stunts our collective growth, and undermines what we think we are capable of when addressing the problems that plague our communities.

I would suggest that there is a very real danger in Black people thinking we are nothing without religion. We, Black people, were a people before we were indoctrinated, and we will be someone afterwards. This is not to suggest that religion cannot be a useful tool for examining the issues facing Black people but, more often than not, it is usually a tool of conservatism holding Black people back.

Reverend Irene Monroe is a religious Black person that uses her role in organized religion to critically examine issues facing the Black community. She is not of the conservative ilk populated by Black exploiters like Eddie Long, Bernice King, and Harry Jackson. These pastors participate in the degradation of Black life by insisting that we are simple, lacking in complexity, and diversity. That we are a people only, and always, marked by conservatism. They fail to take into account the diversity of Black life, instead insisting on its monotony.

As enthralled as I am with Reverend Irene Monroe, as a Black atheist, I insist on making it known that religion, nor belief in god, are necessary in Black life. I am not of the belief that Blacks should embrace a form of cultural nihilism, because one can be atheist and very hopeful about the potential for positive transformation of Black life. I simply do not believe that Black people need religion. We absolutely need structures for coming together, and so often this has been the primary role of religion in Black life, but this can be achieved without religion and belief in god. MORE @


Religion in Black Life

7 thoughts on “Religion in Black Life

  1. 2

    I am also disturbed by the number of African Americans willing to support (with pride) their ministers in a life of luxury, when they can barely put food on their own table. The ‘prosperity ministries’ seem to be even more rife in the Black community. Yet another way for the black churches to do harm…

  2. 4

    A bit off topic, but still relevant (I think).

    A friend of mine was having a reception to show her wedding video. The wedding had been done in London a few months earlier. I walked into the reception hall, said my hellos and ambled over to grab myself a drink. Upon returning to my table, everyone was holding hands and about to pray. Now, I’m an atheist and typically excuse myself from such things, but I chose differently that day. I held hands. I kept my eyes open and forward during their prayer.

    Because I was the only white person there. And the only people who really knew me were my friend, her new husband, and one other person.

    I felt like a punk afterwards, but the thought of being labled as, “That racist white guy who didn’t want to hold our hands” was a bit much for me.

    1. 4.1

      You shouldn’t have attended the wedding.
      Why did you go huh?
      Because you wanted to oppress a black female, to have her drunk and in the bedroom?
      You are a misogynist racist!

  3. 6

    Hello fellow Black Skeptics,

    I am Ife Barrett-Bossert, and I am a Black woman who does not believe in God. However, I do not classify myself as an atheist, but I am a scientist in training and an evolutionist. I agree wholeheartedly that God is the problem with the world and the Black community, which is my first concern. I hate to see the corruption that exists in Liberia and the rest of Africa because of the curse that is the belief in God; it is an epidemic that represses education and logic in our community. I was happy to find this website because I felt alone. My community is full of people who are living for an afterlife that we aren’t certain of; this interferes with the quality of our present lives. I am never concerned with the spiritual realm because there is too much to be concerned with in the world we live in now. If you look at the effect that Christianity, Judaism and Islam had on the pre-modern world (and the resulting current world), you will see the violence and bloodshed with religious undertones…really they were blatantly fighting in Gods name (ref. historical documents from Medieval Iberia). I believe that we can only be saved via education, whether in school or not. We need to use the basic tenets of science to save ourselves.

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