Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ebony Magazine Features Black Atheist


In what is undoubtedly a first for a major African American publication, the July issue of Ebony Magazine contains an article featuring a black atheist. The write-up by Alix Jules, director of the Fellowship of Freethought in Dallas, was selected from user submissions for the Spirit Quest section of the magazine’s wellness section, and details his development from Catholic to atheist.

I give credit to the Ebony for providing a platform for this discussion. I hadn’t read the magazine in years, and the last time I flipped through a copy, the edition contained the venerable Most Eligible Bachelorette feature, which highlights single successful African American women. When listing qualities desired in a mate virtually every bachelorette included ‘Christian’ on the list. I suppose if the elusive, eligible educated black man happened to be a Muslim, Jew, Hindu or atheist, he need not apply. From what I can remember, this type of presumptive (Christian) religiosity permeates the stories of the magazine even when not on topic.

Jules, who prefers the title freethinker to atheist, emphasizes that freethought involves taking full accountability for one’s life, which is liberating. He mentions his efforts to bring more diversity into the freethought/atheist community, and endorses a thorough read of the Bible…noting that nothing will turn one into an atheist quicker.

The letters to the editor next month should be interesting. I am already drafting mine.

D. Frederick Sparks is an attorney living in Los Angeles.

17 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this. Small correction though, I was actually contacted by a writer at Ebony magazine for the article out of the blue.

    The response has been great thus far, as I have been contacted by many people in different areas looking for resources.

    Alix Jules
    diversity.dfwcor.org

    ReplyDelete
  2. That is certainly great for the Black Atheist and Free-thought community. Great.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think if a woman chooses to be selective about her husband or a potential mate on the basis of spirituality, then that is entirely her right. Why is it repulsive to people that people/Christians/Jews/Muslims prefer mates with like-minded thinking and faith as they? I personally see no problem. I'm a Christian. But I'm not one of these bang people over the head with the bible and tell them they are going to hell if they don't believe in Jesus as God's son, Christians--the world sees too much of that and it's truly not the love that God calls us to show one another.

    I believe we have a Creator. I believe we all have a designed purpose to carry out during our time on Earth. Carefully and lovingly designed. I'm a Chemistry major at Duke University, and I still do not believe that mankind and all of what is in the Earth began with atoms and a random globular formation of cells. Where did these atoms and cells come from? I can't help but excitedly marvel in all that God has created and done for us, and what He continues to do.

    The further we delve into scientific and philosophical theories, the further lost we get. God is real ya'll...He is in all of us :) And I pray that you all experience him in a pure, loving, and unaccosted way.

    Much love!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Safi

    It is absolutely right that you are perfectly free to choose a mate based on spiritual compatibility. My point was related to the prevalence of Christian specific religious expression in a black magazine.


    Additionally, what happens often, perhaps not always, but often, is that the word "Christian" is used as a substitute for the words "moral" or "trustworthy", and not just as a description of a specific religious belief, which then implies that people who are not Christian cannot be moral or trustworthy.

    Expressions of Christian faith are also to a large degree a social expectation in black society, and a way in which one gains approval and establishes "black" legitimacy.

    With respect to science and god belief, though the well established and well supported scientific fact of evolution explains the changes in species on our planet over time, the questions of the origin of life have indeed not been answered. There is no evidence, however, that any God had anything to do with it, and that only appears to be the default answer if you have already accepted God's existence as a given. Substituting God as the answer for questions we can't answer is neither scientifically nor philosophically convincing to me. It's the god of the gaps, and human beings have a history of making up gods and demons to explain things they can't understand. Diseases were caused by demons before we knew about germs and bacteria. Thunder was Thor banging with his hammer. God of the gaps explanations do not have a great track record of being good explanations. But to each his own.

    On a final note, telling atheists that you are praying for them to experience God is no different than a Muslim telling a Christian that said Muslim is praying for that Christian to embrace Allah and reject the belief in Jesus as the Messiah. It may be done with the best of intentions but may not always be received in that way.

    Good luck with your studies. It is an amazing accomplishment that you are where you are.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for the excellent rebuttal Frederick. The other issue that is salient for me is the policing of women's personal and social choices vis-a-vis compulsory Christianity. Due to the racist/sexist construction of Black women as the hyper-sexual feminine Other (reinforced of course, by that loving Christian dogma and ideology) they are held to a higher moral standard than are men. Hence being Christian and cleaving to the God-belief is virtually a requirement for affirming one's feminine moral worth in a good Christian universe shot through with misogyny.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I wonder if Safi is a chemistry major only so the relevancy of science can be attacked by creation science/intelligent design proponents and therefore discredit the fact of evolution? I think this is what is at work here.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Gerard, I took Safi's word about being a chemistry major, though it was no doubt mentioned to add scientific bona fides to the claim of intelligent design and to deflect any criticism related to a lack of understanding of science.

    ReplyDelete
  8. D Frederick, I agree completely with your understanding of the implications of Safi's statements about science in general.Religion and science cannot be reconcilled; I,too,wish her luck with her studies.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for the well wishes everyone! I appreciate it. I'm doing well here at Duke and have really enjoyed my time here. Frederick, I wasn't trying to offend you by saying I was praying for you all, so I sincerely hope you didn't receive it that way. I do understand the correlation you made though.

    Anywho, have any of you read Francis S. Collins's book, "The Langauge of God: A Scientist's evidence for Belief" ? Collins describes his journey from Athiesm to belief in God. As you all seem to be scholars, I feel like I can assume that you all find value in approaching controversial topics like this from all vantage points? And perhaps you wouldn't be turned off to reading a book explaining an opinion that you currently disagree with? Just a thought. Frederick's mention that there is no evidence that God had anything to do with the creation of Mankind made me think of this book.

    I have found great value in reading scholarly works that present differing views to those that I have (especially at Duke), so here's the link incase you're interested.

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/1416542744/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=3291108161&ref=pd_sl_36x8t38q9m_b

    again, thank you for the well wishes!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  10. correction: Collins describes his journey from Athiesm to belief in God, and how science and theology can, in fact, be reconciled. I was very fascinated by what he had to say. Especially since he is one of the people who headed and began the human genome project. Cool right?!?!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Safi, good to hear from you again. My Stanford Cardinal were just there visiting your Blue Devils for a football matchup...let's just say I know you'll be happy when basketball season arrives :)

    I think you will find that many online active atheists are familiar with Francis Collins and his position on god, religion and science. When Collins says that science is a way to appreciate and worship God's creation, he is both repeating something that has been said by others before him and taking God's existence as a given.

    And the argument that Collins makes for God's existence is no more sophisticated or scientifically rigorous than the argument made by folks who have never heard of Watson and Crick or the double-helix. It's the same Argument from Ignorance: "we don't have an answer for where all this complex stuff came from, therefor the answer must God." Again, Collins found no specific evidence of God whatsoever in his study of the human genome.

    Even more laughable is Collins anecdote on what pushed him to specifically embrace Christianity. He's out taking a walk and he sees a frozen waterfall in three parts and he thinks "Father, Son and Holy Spirit!". This is hardly serious scientific reasoning.

    What Collins represents to me is the degree of compartmentalization and cognitive dissonance human beings are able to maintain. And if Collins point of view is given credence because he is a scientist, the point of view of other scientists of Collins caliber should be given more credence, since the majority do not come to the same conclusion he did.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Ah yes, I am certainly glad it is basketball season lol. But I enjoy football season too, we had a lot of opportunities to win and just couldn't finish. Stanford is a beautiful school though so I can never hate on you guys.

    Anyway, I do see what you're saying Mr. Sparks. I just don't put as much confidence as you seem to be putting in science when it comes to anything spiritual. The knowledge obtained from science is very finite, and confined to what we as humans know, but I believe that human knowledge is not the extent of the knowledge out there to be discovered, do you? Are you waiting for scientific evidence to prove that God is or is not real? Have you studied the life and doings of Jesus Christ? To me, that is evidence.

    But aside from that, I guess I'm just curious about this "serious scientific reasoning" that you're talking about. What would it take for you to believe in God, serious scientific conclusions?

    Further, your "argument from ignorance" makes sense to me, but I also feel like you are making a similar argument from ignorance. You seem to be saying, "we don't have the answers to this complex stuff, so it must be science, science must have the answer." As a human race, I think we place too much expectation on 3 trials and overly priced analytical instruments. Science can't tell us everything and I don't think we should expect it to.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Just one more thing: I have to say that I feel like you're not giving Collins enough credit scientifically, Mr. Sparks. From my point of view, Collins makes several relevant scientific commentary based on fundamental scientific prinicples that we as humans have come to appreciate as truth. His explanation of the "big bang theory" is a perfect example of this. Collins' explanation of how the formation of the Earth was one incredibly accurate, precise, properly oriented chemical reaction was compelling, because he explains that the Earth could not have formed if there was not a tremendous amount of order to go along with it, order ordained by a Creator, God, rather than the molecules themselves. I know that you might say, "Why does it have to be God," but also thinking scientifically, the Earth forming was NOT energetically or entropically favorable, so this occurring spontaneously....doesn't make much sense either. The earth, the human body and its mechanisms, the climate and its mechanisms, everything is so very ordered, as if it was created to be that way. Is it impossible to you that the Earth was created? The institution of science is not as reproducible as any of these aforementioned things, which says to me that the institution of science cannot be a viable source to explain them. Do you see what I'm saying?

    I just felt that Collins provided excellent scientific reasoning for how certain aspects of our world cannot be explained by science alone. And I guess I'm still wondering if you are looking for science to give you the "yes" or "no" on God.

    Your thoughts?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hello Safi
    First, if you are interested in continuing to follow the Black Skeptics blog, we have moved to http://freethoughtblogs.com/blackskeptics. FTB is great collection of bloggers (including biologist PZ Myers) who speak from the secular perspective on a variety of topics.

    Now to address a few of your comments
    1) ” I just don't put as much confidence as you seem to be putting in science when it comes to anything spiritual.” First, let’s talk about the issue of putting “faith” in science, which is a common rejoinder from religious people. I don’t put “faith” in science, but what I believe, based on tons of evidence, is that the best method for determining what is likely to be true..the best method for evaluating the validity of a claim, is to look at the evidence for that claim. I’d bet you apply that method in every other aspect of your life besides religion. And if you are actually a chemistry major, that method is the foundation of what you are studying.

    Now if you aren’t using evidence to examine the “spiritual” (and what exactly does spiritual mean) how are you evaluating spiritual claims? How can you speak to the characteristics of anything “spiritual” if your assertions about those characteristics aren’t based on evidence?

    2) “Have you studied the life and doings of Jesus Christ? To me, that is evidence” If by the “life and doings of Jesus Christ” you are referring to the canonical gospels, yes I have read those. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that atheists “just havn’t read the bible”. Studies show most atheists know the bible better than most Christians....people like Dan Barker, who was a minister for years before becoming an atheist. And exactly what is it that you think the “life and doings” of Jesus provide evidence of? The canonical gospels barely provide sufficient evidence of the existence of a historical person named Jesus from Nazareth. And the supernatural claims of the gospels certainly aren’t presumptively true just because they appear there. Going by your method I then have to accept every religions text as presumptively true. You don’t do that, and I certainly don’t.

    3) “Further, your "argument from ignorance" makes sense to me, but I also feel like you are making a similar argument from ignorance. You seem to be saying, "we don't have the answers to this complex stuff, so it must be science, science must have the answer." That’s a complete misrepresentation of what I said. I never said “science must have the answer”. What I said was I am not willing to accept a made-up answer, not supported by any evidence, just for the sake of having an answer. I’m rejecting an argument from ignorance, not making one.

    ReplyDelete
  15. 4) “From my point of view, Collins makes several relevant scientific commentary based on fundamental scientific prinicples that we as humans have come to appreciate as truth. His explanation of the "big bang theory" is a perfect example of this.” Collins is a geneticist, not an astro-physicist or big bang cosmologist, so not sure why his explanation of the big bang is relevant. But all you’ve supplied here is a long winded version of “all this is too complex…therefore God must’ve done it”. Again, this argument was made long before Collins and isn’t any less flawed just because he is making it.

    5) “but also thinking scientifically, the Earth forming was NOT energetically or entropically favorable, so this occurring spontaneously....doesn't make much sense either. The earth, the human body and its mechanisms, the climate and its mechanisms, everything is so very ordered, as if it was created to be that way.” I don’t really understand what you are saying here, and I suspect you don’t either. I suspect you’ve gotten some bad information from some creationist website because you seem to be referring loosely to the erroneous notion that 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (2LOT) is somehow contrary to evolution and other things. First of all, 2LOT refers to entropy, not order or disorder. Second of all, it speaks to a “closed system”. The Earth is not a closed system, it receives energy from the Sun. The usenet group Talk Origins http://talkorigins.org/faqs/thermo.html does a comprehensive debunking of the creationist claims around 2LOT and addresses many of the questions you are raising here. If you are seriously interested in getting answers to many of the questions you pose, I suggest you spend some time at Talk Origins.

    6) “And I guess I'm still wondering if you are looking for science to give you the "yes" or "no" on God.” I don’t know what you mean by “looking for science”. I’m looking for evidence…if you equate evidence with science so be it.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Why are everyone looking for ways online to get help solving their pregnancy and infertility problems when most of every native American is talking online about the help of Dr Mandaker Alamun. I checked him out when my husband who could not get me pregnant for over 9 years of marriage as a result of low sperm count became fertile and now, I am 5 months pregnant and it is this man known as Dr Mandaker who helped my husband solve his problem. My name is Alecia Maldonado from CA USA. I would advise anyone and everyone who needs the help of any spell caster in love marriage,finance, job promotion,lottery spell,poker spell,golf spell,Law & Court case Spells,money spell,weigh loss spell,diabetic spell,hypertensive spell,high cholesterol spell,Trouble in marriage,Barrenness(need spiritual marriage separation),good Luck, Money Spells,he also heal HIV and AID and it's all he does or looking for breakthrough in your political career to meet this Dr Mandaker the link to his website copy this link (witch-doctor.page4.me)His email contact witchhealing@outlook.com for He is a Reliable and trustworthy. I and my husband have gone to different hospitals having the thinking that I was at fault for not getting pregnant. But at the Federal hospital, they examined him too and his sperm count was low and unable to get a woman pregnant as a result of male infertility. It was then I sort out,thanks to Dr Mandaker.

    ReplyDelete