African American Atheists and Political LiberationA Study of the Sociocultural Dynamics of Faith

African American Atheists and Political LiberationA Study of the Sociocultural Dynamics of Faith

Michael Lackey

Print publication date: 2011

ISBN: 9780813030357

Publisher: University Press of Florida

Abstract

This study of atheist African American writers poses a substantive challenge to those who see atheism in despairing and nihilistic terms. The author argues that while most white atheists mourn the loss of faith, many black atheists — believing the “God-concept” spawns racism and oppression — consider the death of God a cause for personal and political hope. Focusing on a little-discussed aspect of African American literature, this analysis of African American atheists' treatment of God fills a huge gap in studies that consistently ignore their contributions. Examining how a belief in God and His “chosen people” necessitates a politics of superiority and inferiority, the author considers the degree to which religious faith is responsible for justifying oppression, even acts of physical and psychological violence. In their secular vision of social and political justice, black atheists argue that only when the culture adopts and internalizes a truly atheist politics — one based on pluralism, tolerance, and freedom — will radical democracy be achieved.