It’s a scary thing. People are afraid of their family disowning them or their friends reevaluating their relationship with them. Moral character will be questioned and names will be called. There is the fear of rejection and the possibility of being discriminated against, missing out on opportunities just because of who you are. Often times, people are most afraid to come out to themselves.
Today, this is true of both members of the LGBT community and atheist, especially in the Black community. But which is worse?
The African-American community is the most religiously committed racial or ethnic group in the nation. According to a poll by PewForum in 2008, approximately 79% of African-Americans say religion is very important in their lives. The church is often at the center of black communities and the where most celebrations and occasions are held; religious and non-religious holiday celebrations, weddings, birthdays, family reunions, and more. Even while only half of African-Americans attend church at least once a week, the vast majority still claim some religious affiliation, often a Christian denomination.
As many know, religions often plays a strong role in how one views homosexuality. According to Gallup, of those that oppose same-sex marriages, 47% cite religion/the Bible as the source of their opposition. African-Americans are more likely to oppose homosexuality and report higher levels of conservative ideology (which align more with the ideals of the Republican party, but that’s for another day).
What about atheist, the least trusted group in America? There are currently no admitted atheist serving in Congress, in fact there are still laws on the books preventing atheist from holding a public office in seven states (North Carolina, Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas), which must surly be in violation of the first amendment. The Constitution also states that there can be no religious test for public office, but these states apparently don’t care. Also, Americans are least likely to vote for an atheist than any other philosophical group, including Muslims.
4.7% of African-Americans identify as LGBT, while only 1% describe themselves as atheist or agnostic. I personally know more gay and lesbian African-Americans than I do atheist. I have known family members, friends, classmates, and roommates that identify as LGBT, all of whom are Christian. However, I only know of one other black atheist, my husband. Perhaps I should get out more?
I believe that is because being a black atheist is more taboo than being black and gay or lesbian (Good luck to you if you’re all three). Why is that? If a Christian truly believes that all sins are equally bad, then what is the difference between homosexuality and adultery, lying, or whatever else one considers to be a sin? Where does that leave atheist? In hell, or so I’ve been told. If you’re gay, there’s still the opportunity to be saved, you believe in the Lord and that’s the biggest requirement to getting into heaven. You could be confused, or lost, or going through a phase. There’s still hope for you. If you’re an atheist, you’re even more lost, you don’t believe in God or Jesus, or anything (not true, but that’s what some think). You don’t go to church, or pray, and the only chance for you is to confess your sins or accept Christ into your life. Being atheist means not being part of something that has connected the African-American community since slavery.
Atheism and homosexuality both have their stereotypes and stigmas, and both are harshly criticized and vilified in general and within the Black community. Will this ever change? Will there ever come a time where we could put aside things like sexual orientation and personal beliefs in order to tackle issues like hunger, education, and health? I think so. I’m still an optimist. One day, people will be able to publicly speak on their homosexuality or atheism without fear of being outcast. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
So let’s discuss. Which do you think is worse and why?