Black Spirituality Religion : Blacks Increasingly Reporting Religion as “None”


Well-Known Member
Dec 11, 2006
UK..not for long

A recent report from the Religion News Service reveals that an increasing amount of African American atheists, agnostics and humanists are beginning to self-identify as such. I use the language of “beginning to” purposefully. Because similar to black GLBT persons and African American political conservatives who often congregate in glass closets, there have always been a critical mass of African Americans who either reject or are indifferent to theistic frameworks of existence.

Sure, churches and mosques have historically served as institutional social centers within black communities. The exclusion of African Americans from other civic and social organizations often necessitated faith communities to expand their role. But the idea of African Americans coming out the womb with the “holy ghost” singing gospel music is cultural fiction. The hyper-religiosity of black folks is one of those racial-identity markers that’s more mythic than real, particularly in relation to the causes of social justice and full citizenship.

As theologian Anthony Pinn notes in his edited anthology By These Hands: A Documentary History of African American Humanism, “Much of the praxis marking the character and tone of the African American movement toward social transformation is attributable to humanist leanings of major African American figures, as well as the liberation workers who have remained nameless.”

And despite the revisionist historical work that brings leading African Americans back into the “fold of the faith,” black “nones” are critical and productive producers in the fields of politics, art, education and labor. W.E.B. Du Bois, Hubert Harrison, Bessie Smith, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Ella Baker, A. Philip Randoph, and Alice Walker are just a few of the towering thinkers that believed their own intellect and efforts to be sacred. Self-reliance, in this view, is neither arrogance nor hubris. It's a sign of responsibility and an attribute of human freedom.

Frederick Douglass put it this way: “I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”


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