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Breaking the Taboo of Atheism in Black Communities

Posted: Sun, June 02, 2013 | By: Religion / Atheism

by Leo Igwe

The black discourse is characteristically presented in polarized - black versus white - or in a binary - black and white - manner. The white factor is often construed to be the only frame or better the principal dynamic that defines, drives or makes the black text or the black talk meaningful.

Personally I find this approach to be narrow, unimaginative and unscientific. It leaves so much unexplained about the black world and experience. This approach conflates many issues including the diversity, dialectics and dynamism, the contrasts and contradictions, peculiarities, particularities and commonalities in black life, history and experience. Hence I find fascinating the possibilities of the emerging dynamic of atheism or the black versus god debate. But these possibilities cannot be adequately expressed and harnessed till the taboo of atheism in black communities is broken.

Taboos are control mechanisms employed to hold people in ignorance, fear and servitude. Taboos are used to keep people in the dark, and to stop them from questioning, from thinking and inquiring, from acquiring new ideas, from exploring new frontiers of knowledge, from growing intellectually and morally. Taboos are weapons to silence the critical voice and in this case to shield theism’s false and questionable claims from critical evaluation.

Let’s face it:

If there are people who should be religious and theistic today, it is not black people.

If there are people who should be flaunting their Christian or Islamic religiosity, piety and godliness, it is not people in black communities.

But the irony is that black people are reputed to be the most religious people on earth, and Africa is regularly polled as the most theistic region in the world. The experience of black people in history - even today - makes the existence of a “loving and caring god” untenable.

Many people still maintain that religion and god were responsible for the abolition of slavery, and for ensuring the success of the civil rights movement in the US. They often use this claim to support during public debates the fledging notions of theism or religion. But my question is this - where was the Christian god during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, where is the Christian god now? Where was the Muslim god during the Trans-Saharan slave trade? Where is the Muslim god today?

Does it mean that a benevolent and merciful god looks away or goes to sleep and allows evil and terrible crimes to be committed and at a point - after some years, decades or centuries - s/he wakes up, comes to his/her senses and decides to stop them? What kind of god is that? How does one reconcile the idea of a personal god who hears prayers or the idea that religion provides people in black communities with a sense of meaning and the existing and persisting state of poverty, misery, hunger, despair, crimes, conflicts in black countries and communities? What kind of meaning or hope does religion provide black people? What kind of god do black people worship? What kind of Allah do black Muslims revere? What kind of Jesus do black Christians pray to?

Is Jesus on the side of Christians in Northern Nigeria? Is Allah on the side of Boko Haram, al Shabab and their jihadist campaigns? If not, why not? We need to ask these questions to gain insights into many problems that plague the world.

Even from the history and experience of people in the Middle East, the god idea makes little or no sense. Many Palestinians and Israelis are God-Yahweh-Christian-Allah believers. They have been fighting for decades in a small portion of the world chosen by god to produce the greatest prophets of the world religions, and none of the prophets has shown up and tried coming down to resolve the conflict. God itself has not shown up. The same thing is applicable to the conflict in Northern Ireland. In which side was Jesus in that conflict?

Today many people across the world are reluctant and fearful of speaking out against the excesses of Christian churches and islamic groups, against the abuses going on in the name of religion… But black people should speak out, because it is people from black communities who suffer most from these excesses.

The global “war against terrorism” has been misconstrued to be a battle between Islam and the West. It is not. This is a mis-categorization that is used to polarize the world and garner support and mobilize resources on both sides. The jihadist movement has been creating havoc globally in many countries outside the West - including Islamic countries - since the time of prophet Muhammad.

If anyone says that the fight against terrorism is a case of Islam versus the West, then where does Africa come in? What about the violent Islamist campaign in non-western black communities or in non-western parts of the world? How does one explain the violent campaign of jihadists in Somalia, Sudan, Mali, Nigeria, etc.? Is that also a case of Islam versus the west? When global discourses are misarticulated in ways that imply that people in Africa or in the black communities do not matter, we should tell them that we do. We need this freethinking space to bring missing perspectives to issues.

Breaking the taboo of atheism in black communities has become necessary because the evidence for god’s existence is simply not there. Many Jews are still expecting the Messiah, and the guy has not showed up yet. Jesus whom Christians believe is or was the Messiah apparently disappeared into the clouds and his actual fate remains unknown. Even though many Christian believers are expecting him to come back soon, nobody is sure that he got to his destination. And the messenger prophet Muhammad, whom we are told suddenly rocketed into the sky - in the same part of the world where Jesus disappeared into the clouds - there is no confirmation yet that he got to his destination since he left on a flaming horse riding against the current of gravity .

At a time when abuses related to witchcraft, religion and other paranormal beliefs are ravaging the black communities and people are too terrified to speak out against these atrocious acts because they fear being attacked or killed or fear being called an atheist, an infidel or a blasphemist, or fear being accused of racism or Islamophobia…

At a time when many young people in black communities are embracing extremist suicidal religious ideologies and religious charlatans, faith healers, witchdoctors, marabus, sangomas and other purveyors of theistic and paranormal claims are having a field day exploiting poor ignorant folks, spreading fear and resignation, inciting violence and hatred of any thing and anybody western…

Breaking the taboo of atheism has become a social imperative, a moral and intellectual duty with promises of peace, liberation and emancipation of people in black communities from the shackles of ignorance, dogmas, superstitions, intellectual hostage, mental slavery, irrational fears and blind faith.


Another great piece by Leo Igwe. While secular progressives in the West serve as apologists for murderous extremist Muslim religious nuts, Africans are being literally enslaved, murdered, subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, etc. in the name of Allah. Meanwhile, reactionary Christians are doing their part to promote patriarchy and homophobia throughout the Mother Land. It’s all a bit much.

By NORM R. ALLEN JR. on Apr 02, 2013 at 9:36am

If I were on twitter…I’d tweet this article.

By Mapaseka on Apr 26, 2013 at 7:53am

Good article!

By PietV. on May 27, 2013 at 2:42pm

A great article, congratulations. But it needs the typos cleaned up before it is posted.

By Stuart on Jun 01, 2013 at 1:48am

The British made no bones that the purpose of sending missionaries was to soften up the natives in North America and Africa for conquest. Any black person today who does not vomit up Christianity has a serious case of Stockholm syndrome

By Roedy Green on Jun 01, 2013 at 9:48am

I concur. But most of our people tend to be too intellectually lazy and/or entrapped by dogma to achieve this feat.

By Korli on Jun 03, 2013 at 7:16pm

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