It takes a lot of confidence to be this ridiculous.
Yep. You read correctly. I’ll be back on my beloved channel 4 THIS October. But don’t worry, I haven’t signed up to live with another wacky religious group in the outskirts of rural America… or rural anywhere. On Monday (13th August 2012) I took a jaunt to MediaCity in Manchester to do a spot of filming for Channel 4′s ’4Thought.TV’ and what an experience it was. Yes, I sat against *those* white walls and in *that* red chair and for an hour, tried to enlighten my audience on my experiences of ‘leaving’ my religion. The finished clip, which will be about two minutes, should air in mid-October. My fellow Heresy club members, Alex Gabriel and Rhys Morgan did their own 4Thoughts not long ago. The club is taking over and we’re sharing our views with a wide audience. Just as with my Amish experience, preparing for 4Thought enabled me to re-address my reasons for being an atheist and see if they had changed at all. Being openly anti-religious comes with its own challenges, as does taking any unpopular stance, and one should always be clear on where they stand and what they believe (or don’t believe) in. I won’t spoil the surprise for you and share what answers I gave – I’ll leave that for when the clip airs.
However, a very important thing I did discuss, and have been meaning to write about for a very long time is ‘black atheism’, two words that might strike you as seemingly contradictory. It feels like Black atheists are a tiny minority WITHIN a minority. On Twitter, I threw out a general question to my followers, asking them how many ethnic minority atheists and agnostics they knew personally. Those who responded said they knew a ‘fair amount’. Then I became more specific and asked them how many BLACK atheists and agnostic they knew personally? On average, most of the respondents said ’1′. Only Alex Gabriel said he knew a good few, and that is because of the very specific skeptic work he does and the heretic circles he moves in. We both agreed that this wasn’t necessarily typical. Today, I was surprised to learn that a few of the people I interact with regularly on Twitter were Afro-Caribbean non-believers. It did surprise me. Really. Throughout my life I’ve only ever known a small handful of black people who openly denounce religion – and even then these people have been quite apathetic to the issue. They simply don’t believe and prefer to leave it at that. They are not interested in talking about it.
From my personal experience, I’ve realised that declaring yourself to be a non-believer in the black community is almost like ‘coming out’. There is judgement, shock, and sometimes abuse. ‘Social Suicide’ comes to mind. In America, at the time of Jefferson’s article being published, black Americans were/ are now the *MOST* religious ethnic group in America, with 86 per cent identifying themselves as ‘very’ to ‘moderately’ religious… compared to *just* 65 per cent of white Americans. Surprisingly, statistics concerning the number of black atheists in the UK are not as easy to find. The UK is generally less actively religious than the United States, but even so, I was quite surprised by how little information there was out there on the matter. Then again, America has the ‘Black Atheists of America’ organisation, and the UK has no counterpart of the same scale. *
The world is changing and every one has to move with it. I think resistance is futile… but inevitable. Join the debate. Where do you stand? Do you think that as a default, black people are associated with devout religiousness? If so, why? If you disagree, why?
I’d be interested to know.
Until the next post,
Update, September 2014
I have now revived the Don’t Go There Siana Blog and have archived over a hundred articles. I felt the time had come to make sure my blog posts reflected my growth over the last three or four years and my maturity. My writing style has changed also and some of the topics that are important to me have evolved over the years, however I have chosen to keep a handful of articles such as this one because the subjects they cover are still very much on my mind and are a part of my life.
When I wrote this article in 2012, having lived with the Amish a year before for Channel 4 and started my journey as an ‘out’ Black atheist, I didn’t really know too many others like me. It was quite a lonely place. Through my participation in the ** now dissolved Heresy Club (2012 – 2013), I became exposed to like-minded people and learnt that I am not alone and that more of us would like to be vocal about our views, even if they cause friction within our communities. * I discovered the London Black Atheists and I am now a member. In October 2013, I was asked to speak at their first birthday anniversay and Black History Month panel debate: Love From The Other Side: Sexuality, Gender, Feminism, And Religion. And what an honour it was.