I saw a tweet the other day and this guy was saying that he finds it weird when he meets Black people that are atheist, or something along those lines. I found it weird because on one hand I kind of get it, most black people that I have personally come across anyway are religious but then I also think should they be???
There’s this whole argument that Black people should absolutely not be Christian because the WHITE MAN USED IT TO ENSLAVE THEM!!!!! I get where this is coming from but it’s just narrow-minded. It takes away Black peoples agency. Not only that but Christianity was in Africa before the slave trade and colonialism, it just wasn’t really a huge deal. There’s evidence that suggests Christianity was first established in 1 or 2AD in Northern Africa, this is before it even found its way to some parts of Europe. This also includes Islam which spread around the 7th century causing Christianity to retreat slightly, although it remained in places like Ethiopia. Islam also gained considerable momentum in the West around the 10th century. Then the Portuguese showed up in the 15th century which was the main driving force for Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa.
But even in light of this, it’s not like in smaller communities people were sitting together singing hymns and retelling the parables, they were still slaughtering chickens for sacrifice and throwing away twins into evil forests. Sort of. (Sidenote: I really recommend reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe it provides great insights into precolonial village life). The extent to which Africa, specifically Sub-saharan Africa, was Christian is greatly overestimated just to argue against the fact that Christianity is the White mans religion. I think we need to shift how we think about religion, who it is for and who it belongs to. If it is the White mans religion where did he get it from? And why did he require a monopoly on violence to spread his belief of an all loving God?
Anyway, that’s besides the point. I think that right now we’re in a climate where people are either extremely afraid to be wrong/problematic so they never say anything even mildly controversial or people are totally controversial and abrasive about their beliefs. I think there is a happy medium and I also think that starts with honest conversations that are not controversial for shock factor. To do this you can’t be on the defence, you cannot be ready to be offended otherwise you’ll never learn anything. What if I want to talk about why the gospels have different accounts of Christs resurrection? Can I do that without someone being offended, probably not. Or what if I wanted to talk about inheritance laws in Islam or Judaism, or what’s happening with Palestine or Israel? I’d probably be labelled an Islamaphobe or Antisemite. However, this is assuming the things being said are genuinely not oppressive and I understand that some people just love to fight which is annoying.
There needs to be a space where both believers and non-believers can challenge and discuss their views without offending each other. I’ve seen in some religious communities that someone even asking a question is seen as defiance rather than an opportunity to unpack a specific belief. How we respond to each other I think is so important. One thing I’ve heard a lot of since I decided I wasn’t a Christian anymore was people telling me that it’s okay because I’m on a journey. And yes, everyone is on a journey but the end goal for me isn’t Christianity. It’s almost as if other peoples way to cope with my lack of faith is to assume that at some point I’ll eventually “see the light” which is so crazy because I don’t have the opposite expectation for them. Not only this but I’ve seen non-believers be embarrassed about their religious pasts and only ever insult the religion they once followed without trying to have productive conversations about it. Or even some atheists looking down at religious people as having less academic capability which is just so wrong. It goes on and on and back and forth, without being productive.
I think organised Religion is too obviously political to ignore which begs the question of whether people are having genuine personal experiences or if they’re just subject to conditioning. Some people don’t like this because they don’t like the idea of being subject to anything but conditioning is so real. Conditioning is why me, as a proud feminist who believes that generally men and women are capable of the same thing, could NEVER propose to a man. I think I would rather eat a rubber duck. It’s a totally random example but the principle applies. There’s absolutely no reason I shouldn’t one day be able to bend my knee and ask for a mans hand in marriage but I literally just can’t, for no good reason. And that’s how conditioning works, you can believe things that are totally unjustified just because it’s become a norm for you through whatever sociological or psychological process. A simple question could be, if I were not born into this family in this country would I still have this ‘objective’ belief?
Maybe if I challenged myself enough I could think myself out of refusing to propose but I have bigger fish to fry. Plus it’s just one of those beliefs I’m okay with being subject to. Humans aren’t as rational as we think.
The big overarching point I want to make with this is that we should let people say things, and although people do just say anything, we should let them talk to we can figure out how right or wrong they are without being mean. Unless they are mean first.
((Also, there are tonnes of resources online that teach African history in an accessible way, it does take a fair amount of sifting through useless stuff but it’s worth it!!))