27 June 2008

Black Atheist Series (2) - Dr. Anthony B. Pinn

I have promised to feature a black 'non-believer/atheist/freethinker/humanist' or whatever they wish to call themselves.
I have taken the liberty of including in this category freethinkers, skeptics, humanists, scientific naturalists and anyone else who debunks the supernatural or promotes rational thinking.

To be in any of the above categories in many black communities around the world can invite ridicule, censorship, ostracisation or even worse. I invite you to search the net for 'black atheist' and you may discover how few black atheists are 'out'.
To have someone brave enough to challenge irrational thinking at a time when people are and were victims of traditional myths, who stands up and promotes the idea of thinking for oneself, is truly admirable.

I nominate Dr. Anthony B. Pinn in my Black Atheist Series.

Dr. Anthony Pinn -is the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University (William Marsh Rice University) in Houston, Texas.
He has inspired me with his intelligence, historical analysis and vision, particularly in relation to black people and religion.

One of my queries concerns why black people have found themselves pigeon-holed into being and being perceived as believers in the supernatural. Dr Pinn outlines his take on why and how this has happened. His focus is on African-Americans, slavery, the Civil Rights movement and other freethinkers/humanists/atheists who acted as either agents of freethinking or supernatural belief.

I particularly enjoyed his article: 'On Becoming Humanist: A Personal Journey' - here's a quote from it:
"I could not accept the idea that the collective suffering of those I saw on a daily basis had any value at all. I needed to explore an alternate response that uncompromisingly affirms—at all costs, including even the rejection of Christian concepts such as God—the demonic nature of collective suffering because human liberation is more important than the maintenance of any religious symbol, sign, cannon, or icon.

Having worked through this problem, I could see nothing in history pointing toward the presence of something in the world beyond visible realities. There was no sneaking suspicion, no "smoking gun," pointing beyond humans. There is no God to hold us accountable, to work with us in moving beyond our current existential dilemmas. In the words of Oscar Wilde: "The true mystery of the world is the visible not the invisible."

After taking a deep breath, I spoke a new word: God does not exist. Even with this confession made, I was still committed to doing theology, but without reliance on notions of God. I would do theology as a humanist. And as such, I was no longer talking about God (at least not in positive terms), but talking about ultimate questions of life that are not dependent on some type of "Supreme Reality," a "Prime Mover." I continued my work with this commitment: religious questions can surely be posed without the assumption of God."

I recommend you read his recent book 'The African American Religious Experience in America'.

Black Atheist Series (2) - Dr. Anthony B. Pinn.


Ralph Dumain said...

Anthony Pinn is a religious humanist, a breed I still find dodgy, if an improvement over the usual theist. I distrust him as much as I distrust most religious liberals, but OK, he is an improvement. Note his continuing commitment to theology. For the granddaddy of black religious humanists, check out William R. Jones, Jr., beginning with my blog:


Zee Harrison said...

Hi Ralph,
Thank you for your comments.
I wanted to include in this category people who questioned religions and their existence. Dr Pinn is a humanist and the main reason for including him is to make other people aware of different views within the 'freethinking-humanist-atheist' sphere.
There may be some people who ae on the road to being freethinkers and Dr Pinn may just be that bridge.
We may not agree with everything he says but that's okay - it is an improvement on the 'others'!
I will check out your blog post in detail shortly.
Thank you again and I will be getting back to you very soon.
Kind regards,