When Steve Harvey’s Act like a lady, think like a man came out last year, he was given deserved respect. He managed to stay grounded in the world of “the rich and the insane”. He has also managed to extol some wisdom to the masses of black women in search of a man with his character traits.
And according to him, he couldn’t have done it without God.
But as he began outlining the tenets of finding a good black man, I was surprised to hear him say black women should “walk the other way when a blackman says he’s an Atheist.” As a matter of fact, he did more than that. Steve decided to balk at the idea of questioning the existence of God in general.
Certainly, Steve has history on his side. As a people, we have a stale history with worldviews outside of Christianity. This includes
Atheism (the idea that their is no God),
Agnosticism (the uncertainty of whether either Atheism or religious teachings are true),and
Skepticism (the general principle of questioning all aspects of ones life).
The sordid history of blacks and faith can help answer the question of why. Let us not forget that it was indeed faith (specifically Christianity) that was used to shackle blacks in America–with the Bible itself being quoted as a rationale for our servitude.
It was also black people who used Christianity and the teachings of Jesus to set ourselves free. Nat Turner invoked the “divine right” of freedom in his short-lived revolt against white supremacy, and it was through the power of God that Sojourner Truth had the courage and the fortitude to force slaves (against their will if need be) out of bondage and into freedom.
Even as we moved into the 40′s, the 50′s, and the 60′s, our faith in God strengthened a voice that cried out for justice: be it El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (who called his God “Allah” instead of “Jesus”), Medgar Evers, or Martin Luther King, God spirited our way.
Of course Steve Harvey isn’t the only brotha to question blacks and our relationship to God. D.L. Hugley stated that “he’s never met a black Atheist, because we are so rooted in theology.”
Rooted is one way to put it.
Harvey, Hugley, and others like them perpetuate the myth that life can’t be good, decent and just for black folks without God. They insist that, essentially, to be black is to be God-fearing. But in reality, there are plenty of black freethinkers.
W.E.B. DuBois was on of America’s earliest black skeptics. While growing up under strong religious precepts, it would be at Harvard that he would loosen the grasp that Christianity had on his mind; by the time he’d returned to America from his studies in Europe, DuBois had developed a not so “black” view of religion.
As a matter of fact, when DuBois took a job at Wilberforce University in Ohio in 1894, he immediately “irked his superiors by refusing to lead students in public prayer.” He would later write that he “increasingly regarded the church as an institution which defended such evils as slavery, color cast, exploitation of labor and war.”
Zora Neal Hurston, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Cheikh Anta Diop, all of these beautiful are among the many American Blacks who have made serious inquiry into the relationship between our people and the faith that has propped us up for so long.
And as more black people leave the folds of the Christian church and move into the arms of open skepticism, what will replace our will to do good, to instill goodness in their children, and to ground ourselves in the morality that God once provided?
We’ll do it ourselves.
And there is no shortage of organizations and websites willing to help us.
Few skeptic organizations focus on one ethnicity; rather, most free-thought organizations take a wide-lens perspective and focus on society as a whole. However, one of the oldest freethinking organizations solely directed at the black community is African Americans for Humanism (AAH). Founded in 1989, the organization describes itself as beyond the labels of Atheism and Agnosticism, stating that AAH seeks to
offer a rational alternative to superstition, irrationality, and outmoded religious ideas…AAH recognizes the accomplishments of religion, but also acknowledges its many shortcomings.
There are also numerous websites and blogs that have been started by individual brothas and sistas in an effort to promote networking among freethinking black people: The Black Atheist Alliance, Life as a black Agnostic, The Secular Parent (my blog), The Black Atheist Blog, Life as a Black Atheist, , and many more.
So I guess Harvey and Hugley need to do some net-surfing, and I guess as a people WE need to do some net-surfing. Although we are deeply rooted in the Christian faith, we have a responsibility to seek the truth, and a growing number of black people in America see the truth outside the shiny, paper thin pages of the King James Bible.