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Why do I feel so alone??
Posted: 24 November 2008 01:15 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Why do I feel so alone? I’d have to say honestly as an African-American Atheist I feel like culturally I have no place to go no place to call my own or atleast feel comfortable. I am smart enough to know that the human concept of “race” is as important as the category of “eye color” in the broadest sense. But culturally I do feel a great sense of disconnect, and somewhat shame because there really is not this great network of African-American Atheists that are publically known and promoted in our majority of communities. Virtually everyone and everything seems so tied into “Jesus this, Jesus that”. To my opinion you would think that the same folks that proclaim that it was religious minded folks that brought an end to slavery would also remember you had the same folks using religion to condone, silence, and practice slavery at the same time.

Why are so we marginalized as a people on this issue?

And even moreso embarassingely enough willing to accept this marginalization as “Yessir, boss…we negroes sure do love us some Jesus…now gone’ pass me that watamelon”! That maybe overemphasizing the point, but for the moment through my eyes it is what I see in the community. Everytime there seems to be some issue in the “black community” media, is always running to a black preacher, priest, going to a church. Not to say these folks opinions should not be listenend to and discussed publically, but seems to be the only source to which they seek their interviews.

At times I truly feel I have to decide between being black, being an individual, and having to pretend to like this Jesus person…just to attain some sense of community and not be shunned by the others who just simply cannot and will not understand.

I just could never understand as child learning about the slave trade, civil rights, and all these other things how blacks could believe in this GOD, who allowed slavery, beatings, rapes, lynchings, destruction of entire cultures/languages to still want to go to church on Sundays and to constantly, constantly, admire the fellow. Just does not stand to reason to love the person whose always putting a cosmic foot in your ass.

I am in Virginia (Roanoke) area…any advice for me??

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Posted: 24 November 2008 01:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Hey, one of our members is black, atheist, gay, AND left-handed! You think you’re alone? How many chapters of the ABAGLHP (Association of Black Atheist Gay Left-Handed People) do you think there are?  cheese

Seriously, you raise a very important point. One of the appeals of religion is that it offers people a close community of supporting friends. Once a week, you can get together with like-minded people and share a sense of close community. As we grow more urbanized and more distanced from each other, we lose the sense of community that we all long for. The anomy of the suburbs led to the development of churches for suburbanites.

I believe that this social factor is the most important driving force in religious allegiance. And the lack of it is one of the major factors holding back atheism. The Internet is providing many possibilities for like-minded people to commune, and that’s important, but I think it worthwhile to consider the prospect of developing communities that meet on Sundays just to “be communal”. They shouldn’t be called “church” or “anti-church”. I would think they’d be better labeled “Sunday Socials” with the clear understanding that they are for people who don’t want to go to church but do want to belong to a committed community. It would not have to be confined to atheists. Instead, to talk about some of the same topics we talk about here, to organize community services just like churches do.

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Posted: 24 November 2008 02:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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AB25, you mention quite a few of the ways A-As were discriminated against, but you missed the most important one, especially to answer your complaint about the general acceptance of religion in the A-A community.  That is education.  For the last two hundred years and even now, A-A children are given many fewer educational opportunities than other groups.  Studies have shown that there seems to be a correlation between both atheism and humanism with education. 

I believe a major goal of our society in general and the A-A community should be to give their children as much education before[/e] entering kindergarten so they aren’t made to feel inferior from the beginning of school.  In addition, education should be promoted as a strongly positive part of life. 

Of course, in areas like Virginia, I doubt that caucasian atheists feel much sense of community too.  You may want to consider relocating to some part of the country that’s a bit more open-minded.

Occam

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Posted: 27 November 2008 01:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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AtheistBlack25 - 24 November 2008 01:15 PM

I just could never understand as child learning about the slave trade, civil rights, and all these other things how blacks could believe in this GOD, who allowed slavery, beatings, rapes, lynchings, destruction of entire cultures/languages to still want to go to church on Sundays and to constantly, constantly, admire the fellow. Just does not stand to reason to love the person whose always putting a cosmic foot in your ass.

You might be interested in the documentary Bondage & the Bible.

Regarding the derth of AA at atheists/freethought functions Michael Estes (an African American member of the Atheist Coalition of San Diego) suggests that the “freethought community do more to understand and respect the AA experience…. Instead of introducing freethought to black folks…we need to introduce the black experience to freethinkers.”

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Posted: 27 November 2008 08:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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.

[ Edited: 10 December 2008 11:01 AM by Luke Vogel ]
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Posted: 28 November 2008 08:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Yes, FYI Norm Allen has high visibility within CFI. He also does a lot of outreach work in Africa. (He’s even been on the forum. Discussion of his Point of Inquiry podcast is HERE).

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Posted: 28 November 2008 10:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I think we have more than one Black person here and then there is my older son (not a member here… yet) who is 19, 1/2 Black and 1/2 White and a professed Buddhist.  In this area (the Bible Belt, Southern Missouri) there are no African-Americans, that we know of, who are atheists/humanists or even Buddhist.  Sometimes even we feel like the odd persons out, but between the two of us, we get along well in the same house together, even with my younger son who is 17, also 1/2 and 1/2 (same father), and seems to believe in some sort of deity, but doesn’t attend church either.  However, my younger son rejects the god concept of his slave holding ancestors.  Ironically though, my older son has made friends with a few young people who aren’t Christians, some even don’t believe in God, and I work with a few young people who aren’t Christians (their words).  The younger generation seems to be changing the stats of religious beliefs, but that doesn’t help us older people much for our age group is still a mess of superstition- at least in the Bible Belt.  I just wish I had some advice for you, besides “try to tolerate them” and not just hope for a different future through the next generation.  Tolerating the austere religious people is very difficult though, esp in this area when they are everywhere.

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“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 28 November 2008 03:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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It’s not just Virginia. The only black atheist I know are my family. We were talking about it over dinner last night as a matter of fact. My co-workers (mostly white, one other black) have accepted that I do not ever go to church (they are all religious), but some would be horrified to know that I was an atheist. I live in the ‘liberal’ California bay area!

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Posted: 28 November 2008 03:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I agree, Asanta.  Although most of my friends are atheist or agnostic, it’s more because I’ve been luckily selective.  Physical scientists are appreciably less likely to be theists, and the people I still see from my time at the local Unitarian church were mostly secular humanists.  I don’t go out of my way to tell acquaintances that I’m an atheist, but I don’t avoid it if religion comes up.  Some of the people do a double take, some just accept it, but sometimes someone sort of confides to me that they “don’t really believe, either.” 

The problem is that the theists are quite vocal about their beliefs, while the non-theists are mostly still in the closet.  No one ever tries to argue with me.  I’d like to think they fear my superior debating skills, but it’s more likely that they just think I’m a nut and a lost cause.  smile

Occam

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Posted: 01 December 2008 06:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I hear what you’re saying, AtheistBlack25, and it seems to me that you touch on two different (but equally important) points:

1. why is it that your people, African-Americans, have so eagerly embraced Christianity and made it such a centerpiece of so many aspects of their lives? I’d recommend tucking in with some of Nietzsche’s writings,
especially his “Genealogy of Morals.” He spends a lot of time in this (and in his later work in general) discussing why Christianity has always appealed to slaves, the oppressed, and the beaten-down. (As a hint,
here’s an important word: “revenge.”)

2. what does an atheist have in place of the rich, warm, familial cultural milieu that the religious people (and perhaps most especially the AA religious) have? I’ve recently found myself looking at this question, and there’s a definite problem there in terms of
bringing more people into the secular fold. The religious community is not exclusively about belief in the middle-eastern sky god. In fact, I’d say in my experience here in the American South, that is sometimes
almost incidental. It’s a whole social structure: you have a communal celebratory meal at church (“dinner on the grounds”), you see friends and extended-family members at church, you pursue your hobbies at church,
you perform your good works and your charitable efforts at church. Heck, a lot of people even get involved in church because it’s a (relatively) safe place to meet potential romantic partners! So it’s an entire social structure.
And what do we secularists offer as an alternative? “You’re just a walking bag of chemicals, evolved to do certain hard-wired things you can’t control. You have no ‘spiritual connection’ to any of the other walking bags of chemicals
you encounter. You are truly ‘an island’, you’re on your own, everything is about the naked selfish will-to-live. Oh, and did we mention? When you die, your brain is extinguished and your body rots, and buh-bye, no more you!”
I happen to believe that all those secular positions are 100% true, but I can’t dodge the fact that we secularists have a bit of, shall we say, a “public relations problem” if this is all we bring to the table in terms of
“recruiting tools” as an alternative to what the religious bring to the table. Would most people rather relax back into the warm communal embrace of “dinner on the grounds,” or would they rather ponder the existential meaninglessness of an absurd world?

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Posted: 01 December 2008 01:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I’m not black, but it’s not too hard to imagine why slaves would be attracted to Christianity.  The central message is: accept your lot, be faithful, and do the right thing and you will be rewarded in the afterlife.  If you believed in Jesus as a slave, he was your only path to eventual happiness.  I would think it would not be too hard to relate to Jesus either, he was a poor man who lived a simple life and suffered a pretty horrendous death, yet in the end he triumphs. 

Further, in many communities, slaves had their own services and preachers allowing slaves to get together as a community for something celebratory other than for work and offering them the freedom of selecting their own moral leaders.  But even if they went to a white Christian service, it was something of an equalizer, white and black Christians received the same message.  It was an affirmation of humanity in a world where slaves were legally viewed as chattel. 

Religion could also offer education in some cases.  For example, locally for you, Thomas Jackson, a professor up the road at Virginia Military Institute and later Confederate general “Stonewall” Jackson, taught a Sunday Bible class to slaves and free blacks in Rockbridge County.  Jackson insisted that attendees be able to read so they could read the Bible.  For many people inthis era, white and black, the Bible was a gateway to literacy.

I live in Richmond and I know being in the Shenandoah Valley puts you in a more rural area, but even in the more cosmopolitan parts of Virginia, I doubt you will find much of an atheist community.  Perhaps you could look for other commonalities with people, afterall the Valley is one of the most beautiful areas in America in my humble opinion.

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Posted: 03 December 2008 09:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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First let me start by thanking each and every one of you for your commentary. Sorry it’s been a bit since I posted…(work) but I have read through the comments and here are some of the things I am chewing about;

Haven’t heard of Bondage & Bible but I am going to check it out when I get home today after work.

I’ve tried some of the atheist meetups in the past quite a few times I’ve even gone as far as to opening up my home for these kinds of discussions and some just don’t show up at all…needless to say was a bit pissed about that ...but it’s all good. Hopefully in the future I’ll give it another shot some time later down the road.

To SteveG144;

You hit it on the head my friend in regards to what I was really trying to get at. I’ve read the book you mention along with his work on the “Antichrist”. When coming to solidify my own atheism it was one of the first books I had read and decided to buy right there on the spot from Barnes N Noble. Haven’t read it in some time since lending it to my dad’s preacher after he tried to convince me “why” there actually has to be GOD, eventhough after about 3 hours of this I got him to admit he mainly is convinced because he can’t fathom any reality without there being a GOD and of course as we all know personal revelation and belief is not evidence. Largely it appeals to the slave in my view from Marxism when you think about it rationally, not to mention what Napolean had to say about it.

Logically, I think that if I were a slave constantly getting whipped, beaten, made to feel ashamed…I would not be able to endure psychologically because my reality seemingly is never going to improve. If I remove GOD from my thinking, then what is there to positively look forward to in the currently life? My wifeis not really mine she can be raped infront of me while I am rendered powerless. My manhood is taken from my directly infront of her (See Willie Lynch letter for deeper explanation of what I am saying here). This then has negative consequences on the internal family dynamic which later has a profound affect on the black community still to this day in regards to family structure of a good deal of AA homes, especially in regards to father figures and why the women are such a controlling force moreso than a cooperative one in regards to partnership that is equally distributed and why such power struggles are more abrasive in AA homes today across America.

So here comes the idea of this Christian GOD master keeps telling me about that if I am a “good slave” the current things I am going through will no longer happen. No more whippings, beatings, pain, no more heartbreak. I will get full meals not just the mere scraps. Clothed in clean linens and things. And to above all to live in a mansion of peace. So now that I have been “broken” I can now accept this, and be a bit more cheerful about my current situation because I believe that it is going to get better, but then something else happens. I go from simply believing it is going to get better, I now KNOW it is going to get better. Why because I now need it to be true, because I got nothing else. Out of mere despiration I now need it to be true. It can’t just cannot be wrong.

Here is where I splinter;

But my problem has been that I would’ve found it highly peculiar to believe that this same GOD master believes in…is going to treat me any different. If master’s treatment of me is an extension of the moral goodness and treatment of his GOD…then what makes me think I still will not be a slave in the next life?

As far as contemporary American is now Christian or Religious currents have been far too longed mixed with social engagements on public property, schools especially from which there is no escape. You have “Chrisitan Pizza parties” on public schools. ” You like pizza Johnny? Yea, well come on in get some free pizza bring your friends…and ohh by the way let us try and indoctrinate you into our fold.” And when getting free stuff good people feel inclined to atleast be courteous of your opinion.

I do think human spirituality comes from a our consciousness as beings that feel, and think. We are the only creatures on this planet that are “aware” we are going to die. Bacteria, my dog, fish, stars, insects, are never concious of their death. The fact that we are aware of ourselves, our surroundings generates the self interest to try and escape death in whatever form we find to be pleasing to the mind. Practicality to the human mind regarding the issue of death is too much to handle for a great many people. Do you really think insects that have life expectancies of a few weeks right before are contemplating leaving their store foods to their loved ones? Or making a will about how he wants his spouse to pupate with another? Hell, No of course not. But we as humans do, we just don’t want to die. Religion makes life extremely negotiable, after all if you are a believer you get a second one..just like in the video games. So who cares about trying to improve the current one…I’m gonna be forgiven by the ultimate authority for all of the horrible shit that I have done so who cares others don’t matter.

Of course the religious person will tell you religion and GOD’s forgiveness are not blank checks to do what you wish. But that really does fuck up their own argument about how this GOD is all loving, all time, and all forgiving. Seriously, if the GOD they worship is so all forgiving, and is always right….Why not forgive this DEVIL? Just saying it would stand to reason that a morally perfect and righteous GOD whom constantly extolls the virtues of perpetuating forgivness being the right path…would forgive the slight’s caused by if I remember the stories correctly his right hand man? But NO, eternal punishment and banishment forever. Yea, thats enlightend.

But for my own proclivities if their is a GOD, I know I’d do a better job. Because judging by the results, there are just too many corrections to be done.GOD just never seems to proof read his work…just look at the South.

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Posted: 03 December 2008 09:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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JRM5001 - 01 December 2008 01:24 PM

I’m not black, but it’s not too hard to imagine why slaves would be attracted to Christianity.  The central message is: accept your lot, be faithful, and do the right thing and you will be rewarded in the afterlife.  If you believed in Jesus as a slave, he was your only path to eventual happiness.  I would think it would not be too hard to relate to Jesus either, he was a poor man who lived a simple life and suffered a pretty horrendous death, yet in the end he triumphs. 

You not only get a reward; you get revenge. See the “Church Father” Tertullian and his truly gruesome images of how incredibly sweet the delights of
the afterlife will be for the former slaves who kept the faith as they watch their former tormenters down below in the lake of fire screaming in
vain for mercy. A truly sickening and dysfunctional Heaven. When you get right down to it, the simple truth of the matter is this: I don’t really care if this
Judeo-Christian god exists or not. Even if he does exist, I refuse to worship such a god.

[ Edited: 03 December 2008 09:48 AM by steveg144 ]
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Posted: 03 December 2008 10:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Being a minister also gave the slave stature amongst the other slaves, and more freedom from the ‘masters’ who realized a spiritually brainwashed slave population is more amenable to accepting the condition of slavery. It also appeared that the time used during services was a time they did not have to think about the fact that they are slaves. Often (at least in the states I have studied), slaves were allowed time off the farm/plantation/home to attend the services, which would also be a time to form friendships and marriages and reconnect with family members.

I was fortunate in that although both of my parents were brought up in deeply religious families, they both were at least agnostic and raised us that way. My mother was actually atheist.

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Posted: 08 December 2008 07:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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‘Why doesn’t the supposed all forgiving God forgive the devil?’ That’s an awesome point that I don’t think I have heard before, indeed, why doesn’t he forgive the devil? It’s one of the very key question that shows how the whole concept is very flawed.

I worked at a majority AA call center. At an introductory session, a trainer asked us to write down on a slip of paper an unusual fact about us, and then we tried to guess which fact went with which person. My fact was ‘I attend Atheist educational seminars.’ -which happened to be at Amherst-CFI. Not only was the whole class genuinely shocked to the point of being disturbed and close to horrified, they went on to hold an impromptu prayer session for me after class.

I relate to your sense of isolation, because I believe in both free market libertarianism and agnosticism. When I go to libertarian events, a large percentage of the people are old school religous conservatives who run their own businesses. When I go to Agnosticism events, a large percentage of the people are socialists who often work for a government subsidized paycheck. It seems to me that religion is the religion of the first group, where the second groups religion is often socialism.

Joe

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Posted: 09 December 2008 03:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Joe, I’ve been fascinated by the fact that many people imagine that anyone who believes differently from them is totally wrong, and in need of conversion.  Many people also seem to think that certain sets of beliefs must go together.  I’ve known atheists and strong theists who range all across the social and fiscal spectra.  I happen to be a strong atheist, socially far left, and a fiscal conservative.  However, my definition of fiscal conservatism would, I’m sure, be extremely different from yours. 

I think you may be saying that many people have strong faith in their positions (be they theists, socialists, or libertarians) without having investigated thoroughly, thought them out, and based them on quite a bit of information and observation.

Occam

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