By James C. Wiseman
I would first like to thank the Freedom From Religion Foundation for its service to this country. We the people need FFRF and I will always support your efforts.
The reason I am writing today concerns an issue that FFRF is already well aware of — that of the black American atheist. As a member of that demographic, I would like to speak freely, without fear of being misunderstood. All life matters. Sound reasoning and DNA analysis dictate that there is no difference between black, white, red or yellow people. There’s no difference between gay and straight, theist or atheist. Yet, we are all aware of the divisive nature of our culture, our language and our ideologies.
After careful study, I have become disenchanted with the Abrahamic mythologies. I find that my views are in the minority among other minorities. Even blacks who consider themselves freethinkers are very hesitant to cross the line that borders agnostic territory. When we briefly look at the history of American slavery, it is easy to see how the Jewish mythologies became so entrenched into black society. The question becomes: How can the minority communities, a very significant voting bloc, be shown that evangelical representatives are not voting in their best interest?
There is a great deal of psychological damage on both sides of the racial divide. Blacks believe heavily in tradition, even when those traditions are cumbersome, outdated or harmful. Whites in America largely avoid the issue of race for fear of being labeled racist or being misconstrued about an issue that they don’t fully understand. There is also a great deal of pressure, from both sides, pushing for the American idea of the “typical black person.” Anyone stepping out of the mold is often ostracized, accused of “acting white,” as if a specific value system or type of education is the exclusive right of the white male. These are some of the biases that help to keep the black community in the evangelical singularity.
I’m not suggesting an easy or immediate solution to this complicated issue. Inviting black speakers to your events and promoting essays from black students are all a very good start. Yet even highlighting such unicorns will not be enough to get minority attention en masse. There has to be a campaign with a theme strong enough to gather the support of the minority communities. That theme must be “equality.”
Religion is the most divisive thing humanity has ever invented. While Christians pay lip service to brotherly love, there are very clear racial lines drawn in the theological sand. FFRF offers the only possible cure: reason.
The Book of Mormon clearly says that every prophet was white. At their plantations, slave owners would often invite pastors to give the “[N-word] sermon,” a collection of bible stories that speaks on the right of a slave owner to beat his slave, and that submission to the master is righteous. There are still churches in the South that
refuse to marry interracial couples. The Ku Klux Klan is a Christian organization, which says it burns the cross to allow the light of Jesus to cleanse the sins of the wicked. I even witnessed evangelical pastor James Kennedy once speak against tolerance. On the Family Channel, of all places, he gave a speech saying that being tolerant to other lifestyles and cultures is the greatest sin that we can teach our children.
I realize that we must pick our battles carefully. Nothing I am suggesting here will be quick or easy. But when I spoke to other black men about the 2016 election, almost all of them told me they would not vote for Hillary Clinton because “the bible says a woman should not be in charge of men.” I found this same attitude in the Hispanic community. Clearly, this is a problem that greatly undermines the efforts of FFRF.
On a personal, and closing note, I truly believe that reason is the great equalizer. The cure to racism. The key to education. No one wants to be ignorant. Yet when every part of our culture encourages ignorance, it is difficult to step into the light. It is my hope that FFRF will become the lighthouse that guides us all out of ignorance.
James C. Wiseman, from Ohio, is an artist and devoted father and currently lives in Georgia.