This weekend, a conference in Los Angeles will focus on atheists of color, and why their concerns are different from the concerns of white atheists. Organizers of the conference called Moving Social Justice say that it’s about time the concerns of black atheists are recognized.
The black atheism conference will go beyond the usual atheism concerns, such as confronting religious believers and promoting science education. Instead, the conference will address issues of special interest to non-white atheists, focusing on the problems associated with economic and social inequality.
Sikivu Hutchinson, an atheist activist, author, and founder of Los Angeles’ Black Skeptics — which is one of the black atheist groups organizing the conference — talked to the Washington Post about the differences between white and black atheists.
“Atheism is not a monolithic, monochromatic movement. By addressing issues that are culturally and politically relevant to communities of color, we are addressing a range of things that are not typically addressed within the mainstream atheist movement.”
What are those specific things that are more relevant to black atheists? Social justice is the greatest concern to the organizers because social justice issues are more pressing in non-white communities.
Hutchinson expanded on the point.
“There are people in our community that, while they may not believe in God, they are only going to sit down and listen to you talk about separation of church and state for so long. What is really on their mind is decent housing, feeding their children and affording school clothes.”
There’s been a growing sentiment among atheist leaders — both black and white — to try to gear the atheism movement towards more pressing issues that confront everyday people. They believe that focusing on science education and the secularization of society is important by definition, but they also believe that the reason many people turn to religion in the first place is because of the difficulties they experience in their lives; atheism leaders are leaning toward the position that greater economic and social equality ultimately leads to less of a need for religion.
It’s effectively a grassroots campaign: fix the ills of society from the ground up, and society will be far more open to atheism.
Presently, however, the amount of atheists in the United States is small, but rising steadily, according to the Pew Research Center. As of last year, only 2.4 percent of Americans called themselves atheists, compared with 73 percent of Americans who considered themselves Christians. 3.3 percent of Americans identified themselves as agnostics — that is, they believe that it’s impossible to know whether or not a god exists. And perhaps most interestingly, 13.9 percent of Americans said they identified themselves as “nothing in particular” when it came to religious affiliation.
The Moving Social Justice conference focusing on atheism for people of color, will be held this weekend at the Center for Inquiry in Los Angeles.
[Image via Brandnewz]