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Wed Oct 2, 2013, 10:59 AM

Please Stop Assuming All Blacks Are Christian

"I'm so frustrated. Just because I'm black/African American doesn't mean I'm Christian. I was raised in a home where we attended church, but during college I decided to officially call myself an atheist. Yet other black people are constantly assuming that I have a 'church home' or saying they will pray for me or telling me to pray about something -- it's like they have never met someone my color who isn't 'saved' before. It's such an assumption, and white people aren't treated the same way. How can I tell the world to stop making this assumption about me without offending and encourage people to think before they put their belief systems on others?" --Annoyed Atheist

I'm not surprised to hear that you're having this experience. After all, according to a Pew poll, black Americans are more likely than members of any other racial or ethnic group in the country to report a formal religious affiliation. And even among those who didn't select a particular religion in that survey, three out of four identified as "religious unaffiliated" (meaning they didn't choose a denomination but said religion was either somewhat or very important in their lives). That's compared with slightly more than one-third of the unaffiliated population overall.

So, the people who are making assumptions about your religious beliefs aren't being particularly sensitive, but they are making a pretty safe bet.

"Plus, if you break it down by gender, black women are the single most religious demographic in the country," journalist Jamila Bey, host of The Sex Politics and Religion Hour: SPAR With Jamila, told me. Bey is an actual poster child for black atheists, having been featured in an African Americans for Humanism campaign showcasing religious skepticism in the black community. ("Doubts about religion? You're one of many" was the advertisement featuring her photo split with one of Frederick Douglass.)


But you're probably on to something to feel that your race is playing a role in what people decide that you believe. "Intraculturally, we look at each other and say, 'I don't see you wearing a headscarf, so clearly you're a Christian' and 'You look like me, so we clearly share a religion,' " says Bey. Your frustration is a reminder that being stereotyped doesn't feel any better just because the offender thinks the assumption he or she is making about you is a positive one (even the most positive one possible, as Christianity likely is to many Americans). And it doesn't make it any better when the offender is the same race, either. So I hope you don't worry too much about being offensive by clarifying that you don't believe in God. You wouldn't apologize for your race or gender, would you? And this is part of your identity just as those factors are.


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Arrow 4 replies Author Time Post
Reply Please Stop Assuming All Blacks Are Christian (Original post)
cleanhippie Oct 2013 OP
LostOne4Ever Oct 2013 #1
muriel_volestrangler Oct 2013 #2
LostOne4Ever Oct 2013 #3
dimbear Oct 2013 #4

Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Wed Oct 2, 2013, 11:55 AM

1. I think it would be more correct to say

That if you claim to be an atheist you are assumed to be white or "not-black."

The reason I say that is that in general everyone is assumed to be Christian in this country unless they are wearing the garbs of another religion.

My high school made the baccalueate mandatory at my school. I went up to my guidance councilor to complain and she told me, "Don't worry its non-demoninational." The POSSIBILITY that someone might not be Christian simply did not occur to her.

EVERYONE out here assumes you are Christian whether you are white, black, hispanic, or native american. Unless you are wearing some sort of religious garb like a yammica, or have an eastern or middle eastern accent you are Christian till proven otherwise.

Well, everyone except the president.

Texas, why u insist on making us Texans all look like idiots?

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Response to LostOne4Ever (Reply #1)

Wed Oct 2, 2013, 12:23 PM

2. What is the baccalaureate in Texas?

In most places, it's a form of qualification - roughly high school graduation. What has it to do with religion in Texas?

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #2)

Wed Oct 2, 2013, 01:26 PM

3. Its a religious ceremony

Its a religious ceremony presided over by a priest (catholic priest at mine) to invoke god to guide the class into the future.


It was mandatory when I went (class of 2001). The state made it volutary when my brother graduated 6 years later (class of 2007)

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Wed Oct 2, 2013, 05:00 PM

4. It would be a very bad assumption in Nigeria, which is 50/50 Muslim/Christian, which proves to be

the perfect explosive mixture.

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