Black Atheists Dare to 'Come Out'

But face ostracism in highly religious community

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 27, 2011 5:12 PM CST

(Newser) – African American atheism is not exactly a time-worn tradition. It's so rare, in fact, that black atheists risk losing friends and family, and having a much smaller pool of potential life partners, if they dare speak up, the New York Times reports. Washington resident Ronnelle Adams first told his grandmother he was gay—and later revealed his atheism. "She was distraught," he says. "She told me she was more bothered by that than the revelation I was gay.”

Two years ago Adams founded a Facebook group called "Black Atheists," which has grown to 879 members. There are also black atheist meet-up groups in cities like New York, Houston, and Atlanta. But the movement is running against two powerful perceptions: that "not believing in God is seen as a thing for white people,” as one black atheist put it, and the idea that religious belief fueled the civil rights movement. True, churches were the only all-black refuges during Jim Crow, "but the story that gets told is, ‘Jesus delivered us,’ ” says one journalist. “Frankly, it was humans who did all the work.”

An atheist who identifies herself as Ayanna speaks up on YouTube.
An atheist who identifies herself as Ayanna speaks up on YouTube.   (YouTube)
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An atheist who identifies herself as Ayanna explains the difficulties for black atheists.   (YouTube)

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