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Letter: The black atheist
Published on March 13, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

During the brutal and inhumane slave trade in the 18th century, black families were mercilessly torn apart. Men were tortured and killed, women raped, and children separated from the protective arms of their mothers. Our native beliefs and customs were removed from our daily rituals, and replaced with a new doctrine called Christianity – introduced to instill in us “purity”.

This religion was a literature of worship based on the teachings of a deity. He was portrayed to us as a loving Caucasian male with skin soft and gentle, hair of gold, and eyes sparkling blue. As the slave traders, murderers, and rapists descended, the frightened black child looked to his mother and cried for reassurance:

“When is God coming to save us?”

“Don’t worry dear,” she reassured, “he will soon come to save us all. He won’t tell us when, but he will come in the still of the night with fire and brimstone.”

Fast forward to the 20th century. Numerous blacks were by then “washed in the blood of the lamb” with the promise of salvation and eternal life to those who believe.
It was a terrible period back then. The Jim Crow era justified the indiscriminate lynching of black men, raping of their women and children, denial of basic social services, and the constant subjection to ridicule.

As the mob disguised in hoods, white robes, and burning crosses, descended upon the black society, a frightened child turned to his mother and pleaded:

“Mama, when is God coming to save us”?

“Don’t worry dear,” she reassured, “he will soon come to save us all. He won’t tell us when, but he will come in the still of the night with fire and brimstone.”

It is written that The Second Coming is important because it will come at the time when the world is most in need of a righteous king.


Was the slave trade or the Jim Crow era that facilitated the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives not significant enough to warrant the intervention of such a righteous and loving king?

Blacks' fascination with Christianity

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Jamaica (my country of birth, and predominantly black) has the highest number of churches per square mile than any other country in the world.

I was born and raised in a Catholic family, and progressed through Catholic elementary and high schools. Throughout my childhood, adolescence and adulthood, I was inundated with various reasoning why Christianity was the only route to prosperity. They varied from social governance to outright fear.

Social structure

Black communities believe that Christianity and the church are the centre of ethical and morality values. We often turn to this foundation to solve and resolve various social issues. For years, black churches served as a place of worship, as well to plan and galvanize against racist and oppressive attacks.

For centuries we have turned to religion to find the answers to our various sufferings. Many social problems are solved by churches that run local food banks, as well as provide daycare, marriage counseling, and skills training.

It is seen as important to work with religious leaders and organizations to solve various social issues facing the community.

Fear driven

Christianity was widely packaged and sold to us with fear driven pronouncements.

Today, some ordained leaders have since shifted their preaching towards the more palatable prosperity approach.

As children, we were constantly warned that if we did not believe in God, or honour his teachings, then we were evil. Blacks who were reluctant to convert to Christianity or those who renounced the faith were in fear of being "ostracized and demonized”. Some were even attacked and accused of being on the side of the devil – the price for which would be God’s wrath with eternal damnation in burning hell.

If I failed an exam, or a tree branch fell on my head, it was judged by my elders that God was punishing me for a sin I had committed earlier in time.

These kinds of retributions wreaked havoc on an innocent child’s mind.

We inevitably held fear and awe in this deity who watched over us and evaluated our every move.

With the events of slavery behind us, it was plausible to see why blacks readily aligned ourselves to this faith, out of fear of not wanting to endure anything close to the horrendous pain, suffering and continuous misfortunes that befell our forefathers.

Good vs. Evil

The late, great author and columnist, Christopher Hitchens posed the following questions to a group of Christian leaders:

“Name one good deed only a Christian can perform, because he is a Christian that a non-Christian cannot perform, because he is a non-Christian.”

The room went silent, searching for answers

He then reversed the question:

“Name one evil deed that a non-Christian has committed, that a Christian is not able to commit, because he is a Christian.”

Again, silence.

I support most of the core principles of Christianity. The commandments five through ten support this foundation that was created to foster and encourage loving, respectful, and harmonious family and community gathering. Its values are similar to most well intentioned faiths throughout the world.

My struggles with Christianity are the numerous and conflicting directives, interpreted through ordained ministers and handed down from a deity who we have yet to behold, as promised through his Second Coming.

Secular groups broke away from the original Christian foundation and formed various denominations which led to different interpretations and teachings, and ultimately confusion among society, whose sacred desire was simply to seek love and happiness among themselves.

A realistic, omnipotent, and loving deity would not stand by and “see all and hear all” the suffering that his people has (and continue to) endure, with the repeated assurance that he is coming soon.

We have been promised his impending salvation since the 18th century.

Karl Salmon
Toronto, Canada
Reads: 8840

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