Being a Black Athiest: Shattering Chains and Myths Part 2

I once thought that it was just black culture thing. That only black cultures had instilled religious fanaticism on such a broad scale from birth.

It’s why its such a relief to discover that other minority atheists share similar stories of religious bullying. In college, I had a wonderful atheist friend from Iraq, who told me of similar experiences of being brainwashed with fairy tale beliefs all her life. While talking with a Chaldean gentlemen the other day, he recapped a similar experience with Catholicism growing up. The more stories I hear, the more I realize how much more difficult it is to be both a minority and an atheist. The deep seeded pain of being ostracized from the only society you know tacks on to the realization that everything your world was based on makes no sense. So why is it so fantastical in minority races?

The problem stems in how more popular religions are spread. Religions such as Christianity are weaponized and used to enslave or indoctrine races and cultures. In some cases it is violent, like slavery and in others it is propaganda, like the Norse societies.

It is during this brainwashing that the over dependence on the religion develops for a culture. A system of reward and punishment is instituted. Rewards for reading your scriptures, punishment for previous cultural behavior that conflicts with the religion. Those who excel in the religion are made new leaders of the culture, and soon the enslaved culture begins instituting the reward and punishment system as those who taught them. Eventually, the culture changes to include the brainwashing technique as apart of the new culture.

In America, many minority cultures, in one way or another, are now so intertwined with Christianity because of such brainwashing. And though the nation has moved on from many of the atrocities that brought about this brainwashing (slavery, Japanese encampments, Native American eradication), the cultures have not.

Because minorities are trained to ostracize their own if they deviate from the cultural way of thinking, it makes it that much harder for minorities to speak their mind about things. The road it takes for a minority to become an atheist is paved with not just broken friendships and family connections, but their cultural identity as well. It’s why its so important that I correct people who say that race doesn’t matter. Unfortunately the horrors that have brainwashed my culture beg to differ. And those horrors effect how we live our lives now. Just because the chains are gone, does not mean that the culture is still not trapped in slave mentality.

The trick is, not to look away or fantasize that the scars do not exist, but realize that those scars (slavery, lynchings, false imprisonment) happened and influenced the intolerant behaviors of many minority cultures. So the next time someone says, for any reason, that their journey was more difficult because of race or sexuality or the culture they were brought up in, do not discount their story, try to listen to what makes their story different.


  1. I am fascinated by the perspective of the black atheist and, although I can never fully empathize (I’m white), I certainly sympathize and share your frustration. I was taught since early teens that slave-owners were thrilled that their slaves had Christianity because it told slaves not to worry about their lot in *this* life, because they would be free & rewarded in the next. Religion is (and always has been) a great way to control people and the Christian tenets are perfectly tailored for keeping people from even questioning their enslavement; both physical and mental. I would think that this knowledge & experience would make it easier for African Americans to (now) escape the shackles of religion but it seems almost to re-enforce them instead. As if the religion that helped keep a people “in line” was and is so ingrained in the culture that it is embraced even more strongly. I hope more of my brothers & sisters come to see religion for what it is and the damage it does and I wish you the best in your/our continuing struggle to help everyone escape the bonds of religion & come together in reason and humanity.

    1. Hi Bob!! Thanks for commenting. RE: ‘slave-owners were thrilled that their slaves had Christianity because it told slaves not to worry about their lot in *this* life, because they would be free & rewarded in the next.’
      Most slaves (and let’s not forget Native Americans) weren’t really given a choice as to accepting xtianity without penalty. If they chose not to accept xtianity-there’d be separation from their family never to see them again, whipped (or some other brutal corporal punishment, even death. Fear was implemented to keep the slaves in line…and fear is used today. The difference? The AA community is imposing fear upon themselves.

      Sadly, when one has been imprisoned for a certain amount of time-it becomes comforting. Just as it took time to be conditioned, it takes time to be unconditioned…I know from personal experience lol

      Rather than pontificate about the ails of religion, I choose to educate (not convert). We (you, I and other Atheists) are here to educate, accept and embrace those who may have questions about Atheism and/or are new to Atheism. :)

  2. I am finding this post late just joined, but it is a relief to find other people of color who are not afraid to throw off the chains of religion.

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