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Friday, February 24, 2012

For atheists of color, ‘coming out’ can be painful

As a child, Alix Jules saw people in church speak in tongues, tremble, fall and have what appeared to be very genuine connections with God.
But not him. “I never tingled,” he said.
By his twenties, Jules was an atheist. But he never told his family, who were deeply rooted in their predominantly black Catholic congregation. They believed he was having a crisis of faith — turned off by organized religion but still a believer. For years, he let them think that.
Then came the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an event in which religion played a role.
“On September 12, I used the word ‘atheist’ for the first time,” said Jules, who lives in Texas. “It wasn’t too long after that my family stopped returning my phone calls.”
Now, at age 37, Jules has been ostracized by his mother and cousins. His story is typical of many African-American atheists who say that to ‘come out’ as nonbelievers in their community is to risk everything — friends, family, business ties, even their racial and cultural identity.
“There is an idea that it is mandatory for blacks to believe in God,” said Mandisa Thomas, founder of Black Nonbelievers, an Atlanta group.
“We have heard this from preachers who say blacks would not have gotten anywhere without faith. And if you do not believe in God, you are ostracized, targeted by family and friends, accused of trying to be white. There is this idea that if you subscribe to atheism you are betraying your race, you are betraying your culture, you are betraying your history as well.” Read more

Source - Washington post

This is certainly a real and sad narrative that is not only true in the United States of America but is also true in the Caribbean. I, for example, was ostracized in my home community for just questioning the faith I was indoctrinated in, Christianity. In fact, then I had know knowledge about Atheism. I knew not what Atheism was. If asked, I would have described myself as being a “theistic Afro-centric (Afro-centrism)” person. Today, I am a "non-theistic Afrocentric" individual, an Afrocentric Atheist. I still remembered that sermons delivered in the Seventh-day Adventist church my family attended framed me and another friends of mine as being literally mad, evil, devils, and people that must be shun. This was taken very literally by the people in our community. It was indeed traumatic living in a country and a community that is virtually 100% fanatically religious that sees you in such narrow worldview.     

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