For the Firebrand…. In case you haven’t heard this already

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http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127239913

I listened to this piece on NPR on African-Amercan atheists and their experiences in the  U.S.  It is certainly something that I haven’t really thought about much.

It was interesting to hear the woman, Jamila Bey, I think her name is, just beause I’ve never heard a black person speak like that, really, I’ve never heard that.   And her background was interesting too– a non-practicing Black Muslim father (I’m guessing that means NOI? that really isn’t clear) and Southern Baptist convert to Catholicism.

But it’s also interesting that atheism/humanism(the distinction is not all that clear to me unfortunately) as an anti-belief system kind of functions as a religion, with people seeking out other “non-believers.”  and that W.E.B. Dubois was a humanist.

Life is so confidently complicated.    There are a lot of black/ people who aren’t particularly practicing religiously.  I suspect the numbers are a lot higher than we think.

I guess the last thing sort of touched on at the beginning of the program and what I think about in the context of some of the classes I have taken.  I learned that “black religion” is such a central part of the black experience and regardless of the religious path taken many black people develop a theology that speaks to the central question of human suffering. I wonder how atheism fits into this paradigm.

hmm one more thing, “science is good”  I was a bit chaffed by Jamila Bey’s comment that suggested that people of faith don’t believe in science.  tiresome.  It’s like for some people at least, faith and science can’t co-exist.

Ay, I have to deal with the extreme right wingers on one side who believe their sacred practices texts tradtions are THE WAY and everyone else is just doomed.  Then I have to deal with people on the extreme left.  It’s getting tiresome America!   will probably have to blog more about this later.

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5 thoughts on “For the Firebrand…. In case you haven’t heard this already

  1. The FireBrand

    Wow! Thanks girl!! I didn’t expect a shout-out so this was a pleasant surprise and especially on something that encourages constructive dialogue.

    Atheism is not a cause, ideology, religion or belief system, nor do atheists share the same world view. Is theism a religion? I think not! We are simply non-theistic humans, nothing more.

    Atheism is for people that do not mind being responsible for their own actions and will not blame some evil, supernatural force for their errors, shortcomings and mishaps.

    I am a person who is an atheist but thats not all that I am. Not by a long shot. I am not defined by atheism and I don’t proffer my thoughts about religion unless asked, because alas, it is a private matter.

    I don’t think the religions of the world have a monopoly on addressing human suffering–from my own experience from growing up Southern Baptist–it’s human suffering that is routinely exploited to bring people in (and the cynic in me says to also raise more $$$ for the profiteering preachers). The absence of belief in a god or gods does not eradicate any feeling of humanity from a person who’s an atheist. Humans suffer everywhere all the time. Secular Humanists and Atheists who do charity work do so because they want to help someone else and do so without faith-based strings attached. Not just extend themselves to those who only share the same beliefs, but to help a neighbor, friend, or even a stranger because its humane to respond to a person in need with compassion. That alone is enough to feel good. But as you and I know there are religious folks out there who do charity work to score brownie points for the afterlife–this is just selfishness.

    Gosh I have to much more to say but I have to jet so more on this later. Are you going to grad school here in DC? If so, and if you can see my email shoot me a line!

  2. In Jesus Name

    I think most people believe in taking responsibility for their own actions and don’t blame some evil, supernatural force or anything or anyone else for their errors, shortcomings and mishaps. Religion is for people who don’t mind being held accountable by a higher power but Athesim is for people who don’t want to be held responsible/accountable by a higher power for any actions, mishaps and sins that they occur in life. But i am one to believe that it doesn’t matter what or who you do or do not believe in we all will be judged come Judgement Day by the Father.

  3. The FireBrand

    “I think most people believe in taking responsibility for their own actions and don’t blame some evil, supernatural force or anything or anyone else for their errors, shortcomings and mishaps.”

    …oh but when they do…things get a lot more interesting, wouldn’t you say? You have to admit hearing “The Devil made me do it!” has got to elicit a couple of chuckles now and again.

    “Religion is for people who don’t mind being held accountable by a higher power”

    Hm…but on the other hand even if a religious person does something horrifically evil they pompously proclaim that God has already forgiven them. In which case I would wonder (a) how they knew that information (b) God must have incredibly low standards on whom he admits past those pearly gates.

    “but Athesim is for people who don’t want to be held responsible/accountable by a higher power for any actions, mishaps and sins that they occur in life. ”

    This is tricky. Since 1: You’re darn right. …But not quite. You saying “atheism is for people who don’t want…” is implying that atheists are some kind of revolutionary-types shaking our fists at some Sky Daddy who won’t give us lunch money. It’s really simple: Atheist do not believe in God(s) and thus any misfortunes and “sins” that come our way or commit–we deal with because…um… thats life.

    “But i am one to believe that it doesn’t matter what or who you do or do not believe in we all will be judged come Judgement Day by the Father.”

    Thats just one more reality-based elimination show I will not program to my tivo.

  4. gazelledusahara

    If may step in here, I will say that both of you are making some generalizations which may be true in a minority of cases, don’t neccessarily hold true for all.

    Sigh. Maybe I need close commenting on this post? I just don’t want things to get outta hand. both comments can be seen as offensiveish and I definitely chafed while reading them. So perhaps its better to quite while ahead?

    (I don’t think that that is either person’s intention, but I know it can be read that way)>

    before I do that though I will just clarify a few of the things

    1. When I said that atheism functions as a belief system I mena that in terms of community, not belief. To be qutie honest if you look at thge members of any faith community and compare what the individuals there truly believe with what their doctrine is supposed to be, you get a lot more doversity than you expect.

    I have heard of thing like the atheist conference mentioned in the NPR piece before, but I have also heard/read about atheist groups/organizations that meet weekly/monthly and form networks where they can raise their kids in an atheist environment. This community is a big reason behind membership in houses of worship, and so I thought it was interesting that the human desire for community/family/friendship outside the blood-relatives stretches even into this realm of lack-of-belief.

    I didn’t mean that they had rituals and such necessarily (although some do— anti-religion/religious rituals …. there was a piece on NPR on it a while back, if I find it, I will post).

    2. on the black religion tip, it’s kind of complicated, but I don’t think was clear about this either. Here’s attempt number 2, which I will pose as a question
    In the African-American community, the central question that religion must answer is that of human suffering (and by extension explaining black suffering through slavery, Jim Crow prison-industrial complex etc.). That’s why you have the focus in black churches mosques , synagogues as having such a different flair from majority white ones for example.

    and that’s how religious movement like the NOI and the white man is the devil hypothesis gain ground in the black community.

    I am curious as to how you as an African-American atheist rationalizes black suffering? Do you not see the black experience in America as particularly different? How does slavery and racism affect the way you view the nature of mankind, and do you think there is any sort of retribution for our collective actions, bad or good, generational or otherwise?

  5. gazelledusahara

    and after writing that treatise, I will not/can not disable commenting just yet, but please do try to be mindful of the adjectives and other things you use to describe things 🙂

    and if I have offended anyone. I’m sorry.

    @ firebrand, as a matter of fact I am going to school in the DC area, I will certainly hit you up. ttys

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