Friday, May 21, 2010

Letting go of religious dogma in Black America

The powerless and downtrodden have often been fodder for proselytizing, and Blacks in America and Africa were subject to intense missionary work, received both voluntarily and involuntarily.  This has had a lasting effect:
Within this incredibly religious culture, black Americans are the most devout and routinely rate at the top of every index that measures religiosity. It's difficult--if not impossible--to divorce religion from black culture. We can hardly get on the bus without invoking or thanking Jesus that we'll make it to work on time.
 But the African Americans for Humanism conference, held last week in Washington, is a step to relaxing that tradition and introduction rationality.  Despite the significant cultural pull to remain religious, the reasoning on display is familiar to all humanists:
[...] Not believing in the Judeo-Christian God is no different than not believing in Thor or Poseidon or Osiris. Someone told me that there's this God, but once I learned to question, I understood that the God I was told about--and the stories about that God--were no different from the mythologies of any other people who created stories to explain their worlds.
 And the conclusions are also the same as elsewhere, although applied to a new setting:
A common thread throughout the conference was the conviction that African Americans need to do a better job at thinking critically and challenging the ideas put before them. Donald Wright, author of The Only Prayer I'll Ever Pray : Let My People Go , explains that his book calls "for blacks in America to critically examine their loyalty and dedication to religion, and to begin adapting a lifestyle centered on rational thinking. It is time to break the chains of mental bondage caused by religious dogma.
 (The lengthy comments section to this article has the usual arguments:  not believing is as much a leap of faith as believing, the atheistic are as dogmatic as the theistic, etc.)

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