Shades of Black Atheism

Author Bridget Gaudette

I'm an ex-Jehovah's Witness with a focus on Black atheism, humanism, and sex-positive dialogue. | @BridgetGaudette

A few months ago I was fortunate enough to have lunch with Mandisa Thomas, the President of Black Nonbelievers. One thing that struck me during and after the lunch was how differently we were raised regarding religion. While my parents felt that heavy indoctrination was proper, Mandisa said that religion just wasn’t that important in her household. I was pretty shocked. I realized that I was guilty of putting all blacks into a super-religious category, when in reality, all of our experiences are unique.

When it comes to black speakers at atheist/skeptic/humanist/secular conventions, there are only a handful that get consistent invitations as a show of diversity, but there are dozens that have varied experiences and expertise to share. Although being a black atheist has specific challenges, a few people hardly represent the many shades of black atheism that exist.

Being a minority within a minority within a minority, I feel the onus is on me to be out there and open and so do the individuals who are participating in this blog series. Inspired by Steven Olsen‘s blog posts in which he highlights four or five standout atheists a week, I have chosen to do something similar, but focusing specifically on black atheists.

Each week, I will highlight one black atheist in a series called “Shades of Black Atheism.” I chose this title because, well, we are literally different shades, but also because we have unique stories. Some of us were raised in upper-middle-class secular households, while others were raised in cults or fundamentalist churches. Some of us were raised in the islands while others grew up in Africa. One barrier to diversity within the movement is access to participants. I am partially addressing this by providing panelists and speakers and stories from black atheists across the U.S. to call upon. If you organize atheist/skeptic/humanist/secular events, I offer you this resource.

If you know of any black atheists who might like to participate in this series, please forward this blog post to them. They can contact me at bridget.gaudette@gmail.com.

To learn about other black atheists or to join one of the many online communities for our community, please visit any of the following:

The blog will be featured on the Friendly Atheist website.

A snippet from the first blog:

Lauren Anderson Youngblood is the Communications Manager for the Secular Coalition for America. I’ve started this series with her for very specific reasons:

  1. She is one of only a handful of black atheists in a paid position within a national atheist organization.
  2. Her story and background are not what you’d expect to hear from a black atheist.
  3. Her education, experience, family and employment would make her an ideal speaker at a convention and yet she’s never been asked to speak.

Lauren was born into a freethinking family. Her mother is culturally and ethnically Ashkenazi Jewish and her father is a Baptist-raised African-American who now considers himself agnostic. Lauren is a mother and a former journalist (click here to read more).