By Don R Barbera
Sometimes, preaching to the choir is necessary to make it aware they may be singing in the wrong key, from the wrong hymnal and in the wrong church. Black atheist author Sikivu Hutchinson removes the ifs, ands and buts from that thought by demonstrating that the right religion is often wrong for the black community.
Her new book “Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars,” dissects the complex relationship between religion and reality as it relates to the black community. A PhD who teaches in South Los Angeles where life can be cheap, she understands the mean streets and even more so, she sees a clear dichotomy in race and religion where actual behavior often falls far from the tree of belief.
This book is filled with relevant information regarding Christianity and its magnetic relationship with the African American community, as well as explanations of the segmentation of nonwhites, including Latinos, Asians and Native Americans. Although written in a scholarly fashion, the book is accessible, relevant and straightforward. If understanding the nature of genderphilia, racisms role in morality and the coded world political pandering, this book is for you.
The author presents a view few African Americans ever think about and if they did, it would be dismissed out of hand because it comes from an atheist, a black female nonbeliever unafraid to speak openly of her humanistic views and the problems she sees in Christianity's role in disabling the black community. The feminist author wastes no time in getting to the issues facing the black community when it comes to Christian religion and its affect on nearly every resident.
Some might wish to argue the point, but starting with the black community, the author presents an accurate portrayal of African America's overwhelming attachment to Christianity. The author demonstrates how the patriarchal structure Christianity blocks the advancement and growth of women by using "holy" scripture to lock women into perennial second-class citizenship. Although the book acknowledges the historical beneficial aspects of the Christian church, it does not back away from tying today's black church affiliation with the Evangelical Right and its obsession with homosexuality and abortion. Even though women are the backbone of most churches and the black church in particular, the author makes it clear that women of the church play a secondary role behind men by biblical decree, a position reinforced by the nearly all male hierarchy of most black churches. The book suggests that female independence is not possible under the sexist regime of the nearly all male clergy; implying that many of the female church supporters are unaware of the demotion.
From there the author presents a fair view of African American masculinity, how it is a product of the syncretism of male dominance and hierarchical religion inspired sexism all based on white supremacy and encouraged by the Bible. Ms. Hutchison also delves into the economics of Christian development by citing the construction of multi-million dollar religious complexes in the heart of urban squalor, citing the so-called "Prosperity Gospel" as an example of the materialism that is the modern church. The author connects the many ways the black church discourages many because of the constant conflict of reality, pastoral behavior and traditional morals, which seem negated by faith-based sexism.
Christianity and traditional morality fell by the wayside long ago according to current research, while nonbelief continues to grow. The author grabs this trend, introduces the reader to atheism and the black community, pointing out that atheists are considered outside the realm of blackness and is a white construct. However, the writer informs the reader of the long history of African American freethinkers and humanists who laid the groundwork for today’s growing ranks of nonbelievers in the black community. An old joke has it that there are 20 million black Baptist in the US and three atheists. It is no joking matter according to the writer as she points out not only the growing number of nonbelievers in the black community, but also the number of African American females contributing to this expansion. A portion of the introduction to black female atheists contains the writers own story of how she came to atheism at an early age.
A significant chapter talking about prayer is revealing of the author’s thoughts on the value of what stirs legal battles in schools and government procedures. The writer sees prayer as little more than a convenient refuge from problems that remain after the prayer ends. The author ties prayer to doing nothing, while giving an individual the feeling they have done something. Ms. Hutchinson debunks the idea by indicating that the number of unanswered prayers is often forgotten when coincidence provides a single example. The reader will find this chapter interesting as the author is relentless in showing that nothing fails like prayer.
Closing out the last three chapters, the writer explains the connection of race to traditional morals, indicating a connection with white supremacy, Christianity and the concept of morality. Once again, the writer goes to great lengths to be fair, and then points out the racist elements involved in the Euro-American concept of morality and its links with slavery and the slaughter of Native Americans. Taking the reader of a historical tour of the injustice sanctioned by Christianity, the author reveals the greasy gears of racism, religion and the dissolute excuses used to justify inhumanity to other human beings.
Humanity braces Ms. Hutchinson’s resoluteness in dispelling myths about atheists and humanist, while offering humanism as a better way for the black community to move forward. The author also points out the need for atheist and humanist groups to work together in achieving people-based solutions and escaping the world of superstition for real progress.
Don Barbera is the author of Black and Not Baptist: Non Belief and Freethought in the Black Community