Nicome Taylor is a member of Black Skeptics Los Angeles
What is your current identification (atheist, agnostic, etc.)?
Currently I identify myself as an atheist, although growing up I considered myself to be Christian up until the time I begin to research the origin of my beliefs.
What is your cultural/religious background (i.e. were you raised in a religious household)?
Coming from a Southern Baptist background, I was not familiar with atheism at all. I was raised in a household where I attended church regularly as a child, but primarily on religious holidays such as Easter and Christmas. Attending church on Easter was an essential part of my family tradition. During these times, it was a must that we acknowledge what I then believed to be the “Savior” of humanity-Jesus. Questioning specific scriptures in the bible was something that I’ve always done in my moments of silence, but whenever I would question any elders about specific immoral scriptures I was given a soft apologetic response or was told not to question God. Questioning God was prohibited growing up and perceived as a sign of rebelliousness. I later discovered that the only way to be clear on all that was to be understood about the bible was through questioning the unknown and properly reading the context of scriptures and the origin them.
How have atheism or free thought shaped your world view as an African American?
I have always been an outspoken person. Being able to express my atheist views as a Black woman has been a little challenging considering the majority of my friends and family are believers of the Christian faith. It was not challenging out of fear of acceptance, but out of fear of being deemed offensive because of frame of thinking. I have always been out spoken when it came to certain subjects, but being vocal on a subject where you think you stand alone within your thoughts was not something I looked forward to. My world view has changed drastically since I’ve allowed myself to think freely about life and the way things work together and separately. It has made me more aware of the importance of being knowledgeable about the things I believe and why I believe them. Rejecting the idea of me being “blessed” for the things that are vital in sustaining human life eventually allowed me to view the world as it is. How could I thank a God for getting a new car, job, home etc. when there are billions starving for food? Something is terribly wrong with that picture.
As an atheist/freethinker what are some of the main issues you’re concerned with?
One of my primary concerns is clearing up the misconceptions that many people have when it comes to understanding atheism. The means for others to know that you can be “Good” without the belief in a “God” is something that I value, considering that believing in a God doesn’t necessarily lead to doing good. Breaking down the barriers between thinking religiously and rationally is one of the solutions in resolving the issues at hand. It is not so much about what people choose to personally believe, but how those beliefs affects others and trickle down into societal issues, classifications, tolerance and religious warfare.
How can atheism and/or secular humanism be promoted to appeal to larger numbers of African Americans, particularly younger ones?
Promoting the freedom of critical thinking is a great start. Many African Americans have a silent notion that thinking outside of the box is not acceptable. In many cases, we are taught to honor our mothers and fathers and in doing so, upholding the morals and values that your parents instill in you is necessary for maintaining that honor. Many morals and values in the black community come from religious doctrine. If one attempts to stray away from their religious faith, he/she risk the social disconnection from family members and peers. Being that humans are social creatures by nature, many African Americans fear losing the bonds which were created by various means: one of the most common means being closely related to the belief in God.
If more people were comfortable with speaking out about the skepticism they experience with religious dogma, I think we would see a lot of changes within our communities. Living amongst a society where technology has taken many of us in the direction that allows for self-education, awareness and communication between others will lead to a great measure of progression.
Reaching out to a new generation has become a lot easier due to social media. The more comfortable it becomes for people to express and share their honest thoughts about their views openly, the better chance we have at attracting an audience that seeks truth. Any means of progression begins with education and properly identifying the historic harmful effects of religion.
What has your “coming out” experience been like with your family and community members?
Since my apostasy, I have received much support from close friends and some open-minded family members. Those that know me on a personal level inquired about my outlook in a very humble manner. Many of them stated that they have had the same or similar thoughts about their belief system. Somewhere along the discussion a debate usually takes place, but I see it more as effective dialogue than anything else. Being black is one thing, but being black and atheist is something totally different. In the black culture, it is more accepting to believe in a different God than no God at all. I believe this is due to the personal attachments that many undergo within their belief and practices. Being that I am an only child who had to learn the means of survival of the fittest at an early age-after the death of my mother has allowed me to become bold about separating facts from fantasy. Dealing with life from a rational perspective gives me the strength needed to live my life according to my own creed while continuing to maintain a good sense of morality as opposed to buying into religious myths and bribing an omnipotent, omnipresent, unseen supreme being.
As a black woman why do you think it’s important for African American to question and/or forgo organized religion?
The importance of African Americans questioning organized religion is necessary because of the historical origin of religion itself. In my opinion, it’s backwards to have a preconceived belief system without exploring where the concepts, ideas and authors of these concepts came from. If we fail to acknowledge and research our history, we lack the understanding of it. It is crucial to the black community that we step outside of the things we were brought up to believe and not allow ourselves to live in the same traditions that is ultimately responsible for where we are today.
What kind of visibility would you like to see from black atheists/agnostics/freethinkers in the African American community?
I would love to see more non-believers/skeptics come out of the closet and share their experiences and outlook with the rest of the world. Progression is at the voice of those who choose to identify with others that share like-minded thoughts and ideas in pressing forward. Billboards, radio stations, talk show interviews and local meetings would gear towards the awareness needed in seeking change. Speaking openly about the issues within our communities and providing support for those who struggle with coming out will benefit the community as a whole. This will help create a growing platform of spreading knowledge for those who are on a quest for it.