the times, in its style section this week, which usually gets me to rant incessantly with their shameless promotion of commercial trends as uniqueness and their neu hipsterism, packaged as faux individuality, but in reality is nothing but pack mentality, designed specifically for bored soccer moms, printed a true article of hope: a report on the rising number of black atheists in america.

congratulations times style section, now this is refreshing– mostly you give us nothing but what was cool a year ago, or sap stories reading almost like treatments for oprah’s book club manuscripts and/ or showtime romantic comedy series, or rants of social nazis…  unfortunately, i must say, the only consistently interesting thing in the times’ style section is bill cunningham’s street photography…

the report, in a nutshell, is about the rising number of atheists or non-believers (obviously huge difference there) in the black community.  the numbers are encouraging:

In the two years since, Black Atheists has grown to 879 members from that initial 100, YouTube confessionals have attracted thousands, blogs like “Godless and Black” have gained followings, and hundreds more have joined Facebook groups like Black Atheist Alliance (524 members) to share their struggles with “coming out” about their atheism.

of course the times had to drop a sentence like “african-americans are remarkably religious even for a country known for its faithfulness, as the united states is” and then continue with:

According to the Pew Forum 2008 United States Religious Landscape Survey, 88 percent of African-Americans believe in God with absolute certainty, compared with 71 percent of the total population, with more than half attending religious services at least once a week.

the american faithfulness is, by itself, sufficient to trigger its own rants, as it did time and again…  the us of a, despite its self-proclaimed pole position as the leader of the free world, is an extremely religious country.  which is mind boggling: it is very hard to reconcile “the free world” with religious fundamentalism.  but, given the americans collective depression and discontent, the poverty and lack of solid public school education in most of the flyover states and dysfunctional families, it is really not a big a surprise. the formula is very simple:

poverty + lack of good education + dysfunctional families + depression/ discontent = religious fundamentalism.

take any of the two causes out, for instance poverty + depression, and you are left with simply religious people.  factor in at least three of the symptoms, you can easily add “fundamentalism” to “religious”…

this rings truer in marginalized communities– like the black or the hispanic community.   the last bastion of catholicism in the united states, in its most medieval form, is the hispanic community.  sames goes for protestant faiths in the black community.  and with also the rise of islam in the black communities.  the poorer, the less educated a community is, the more religious it will become.

religion in the black community is the last major artifact of slavery still standing.  the slaverunners not only took the black people’s freedom, but also poisoned them with their hardcore religion.   slavery was abolished in 1860s, but the de facto end of state sponsored racism was the civil rights movement in the 60s, a hundred years after the emancipation proclamation.  racism, however, still hovers like a spectre over this nation, haunting us in the form of poverty, sub par education and other forms of marginalization.   the question of racism, in this day and age, is not much different than the proverbial chicken-egg question…

adam clayton powell, jr, back in the heyday of the civil rights movement, declared “to demand these god-given rights is to seek black power”.  hence, the concept of “black power” was defined.  now, only when the black community can take the “god-given” out of the equation, then their power and their freedom will be absolute…

the old mantra of “religion is the opium of the masses” still holds true.  especially in this country.  in the third-world, in developing nations, religion is inevitable.  their poverty and non-existent value of life attracts religion to them like the plague.  in the united states, how religion infiltrates the society is a little more complicated.  and it is more true in poor communities, especially the black community.  hence, this times report is most encouraging.  obviously there is always hope– but the study goes on to show that there is a movement backing up the hope:

i simply hope that the movement will grow, groups like the african-americans for humanism will gain more momentum and will end the last bastion of slavery left in the united states, the religious dogma injected to once freemen during their atlantic crossing, and the corrupt power of black church organizations, which are seen and endorsed as “political machines” by the rich and the powerful, will diminish in influence, resulting in free people once again…  when the al sharpton’s and jesse jackson’s find themselves without any true power, when the church of god and the southern baptists move back their mega-churches to strip-mall offices, when rappers give little or no shout-outs to JC and his once estranged father, freedom will reign and racism will dwindle…  at least i can only hope…

and the rising number of atheists or non-believers in the black community is the most powerful indicator of this movement towards freedom.  it was interesting, but not surprising to read that for black families it is easier to accept their children coming out as gay than it is to accept them as coming out as atheists or non-believers.  religion is the only salvation and hope of poor or uneducated people.  a lifestyle choice such as coming out as gay is more easily swallowed than turning your back to the only form of salvation or hope you can imagine.

the movement is gaining momentum and atheism is not the only solution– simply being a non-believer or an agnostic is good enough.  after all, atheism is much harder to swallow– for an educated person, it is impossible to prove the existence of a negative– hence the hard to swallow part.  logical and intellectual thinking precludes a full on denial of a deity’s existence– the impossibility of proving the existence of a negative.  nevertheless, simply rejecting religion, is a good enough and healthy start towards freedom and towards being a better person.  enough said…

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