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Black americans say athiests were unseen civil rights heroes

February 25 2012 at 5:48 PM
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Too many Christians especially in our country, use their religion to do nothing to improve things here on earth. Their typical lazy excuse is that God will deal with those who sin on earth (what they overlook is that earth's sinners can make life more miserable for our children and future generations). In USA, athiests played an important role in the civil rights movement-their integrity was due to real backbone, not using any religion to support their belief in doing what is right.

By Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service

Think of the civil rights movement and chances are the image that comes to mind is of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. leading the 1963 March on Washington.

But few people think of A. Philip Randolph, a labor organizer who originated the idea of the march and was at King's side as he made his famous I Have a Dream speech.

Why is King, a Christian, remembered by so many and Randolph, an atheist, by so few? It's a question many African-American nontheists atheists, humanists and skeptics are asking this Black History Month, with some scholars and activists calling for a re-examination of the contributions of nontheists of color to the civil rights movement and beyond.

"So often you hear about religious people involved in the civil rights movement, and as well you should, but there were also humanists," said Norm R. Allen Jr. of the Institute for Science and Human Values, a humanist organization based in Tampa, Fla.

"No one is discussing how their beliefs impacted their activism or intellectualism. People forget we are a diverse community. We are not monolithic."

"So often people look at atheists as if they have horns on their heads," Allen said. "In order to correct that, it would be important to correct the historical record and show that African-American humanists have been involved in numerous instances in the civil rights movement and before."

AAH is also promoting black humanists in a billboard campaign in several cities, including New York, Dallas, Chicago and Durham, N.C. Each one pairs a local black nontheist with a black nonbeliever from the past. "Doubts about religion?" the billboard reads. "You're one of many."

A billboard in Los Angeles pairs Sikivu Hutchinson, a humanist activist based in Los Angeles, with Zora Neale Hurston, a folklorist of African-American culture who wrote of being an unbeliever in her childhood. Hutchinson, author of the forthcoming "Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels," links blacks' religiosity with social ills such as poverty, joblessness and inequality.

"To become politically visible as a constituency, it is critical for black nonbelievers to say we have this parallel position within the civil rights struggle," she said.

A strain of unbelief runs across African-American history, said Anthony Pinn, a Rice University professor and author of a book about African-American humanists. He points to figures like Hubert Henry Harrison, an early 20th- century activist who equated religion with slavery, and W.E.B. DuBois, founder of the NAACP, who was often critical of black churches.

"Lorraine Hansberry, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes they were all critical of belief in God," Pinn said. "They provided a foundation for nontheistic participation in social struggle."

Juan Floyd-Thomas, a religious historian and professor at Vanderbilt University and author of a book on the origins of black humanism, agrees with Pinn, and called the traditional view of the civil rights movement as an inevitable extension of American Christianity "a mythology."

"One of the things that can be gained from shining a bright light on the contributions of nontheists to the broad sweep of the civil rights movement would have to be integrity," he said. "These people had a moral core and that's something that is sorely needed, whether you are a theist or a nontheist."

Complete article can be found at: http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2012-02-22/black-atheists-civil-rights/53211196/1

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Re: Black americans say athiests were unseen civil rights heroes

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March 3 2012, 6:15 AM 

Sounds like some athiests are more caring than many Christians!

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Re: Black americans say athiests were unseen civil rights heroes

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March 10 2012, 9:58 AM 

Sounds like you are making a very ignorant statement.

A handfull of atheist's are proactive in human rights and for that you label atheists as more caring than christians. Human rights is everyone's obligation and its sad and pathetic that you attach a Christian vs Atheist ignorant mentality when it comes to recognising the contribution of individuals towards human rights. Grow Up!

You havent read the article!

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