As someone with no religious faith but lots of melanin, I was intrigued by the posts on Andrew Sullivan’s blog about the apparent “lack of black atheists.”
From one fellow’s story:
After numerous debates with classmates who came from a very church-grounded liberal politics, I found the notion of a “loving” god who allowed so many to suffer unbelievable. Because I believed there was no god, I must take care and do for myself, with no expectation of help. I was tired of my people believing “God will provide” and “He will save us,” which I felt generated the same sort of feeling about government help. Thus, I became a supporter of personal responsibility and free markets, culminating in me voting for GWB in my first presidential election.
The “personal responsibility” slogan also doesn’t track with much of modern conservatism. The banking crisis in 2008 was hardly an example. This poster came to the same conclusions I did as a youth regarding God but the extreme individualism (“I must take care and do for myself”) manages to reject the one positive aspect of religious faith — that people exist in the world other than yourself. There’s no God and the world is cold and cruel, so you should do what you can to make it less so for others. As Angel said, “If nothing you do matters, all that matters is what you do.”
The notion that there’s no God who loves you, so you should focus all your energies in loving yourself is small and juvenile, which is why I think Ayn Rand’s views are often dismissed as such. They remind me of the childhood phase when you are overly possessive of “your things,” without acknowledging that they were provided and maintained by your parents. One of the best things my parents did was to stress that my assigned chores were part of my duties in contributing to the overall “household community.” It wasn’t just about me, and it wasn’t just about an exchange of money (an allowance) for any work I did at home.
Not surprisingly, our black atheist eventually discovered that modern-day conservatism, based on the political right’s focus on banning abortion and gay marriage, has more in common with Cotton Mather than Ayn Rand.
Graduate school, maturity, and observation of bigotry and incompetence within Republican governance have moderated my politics substantially, but I’ve maintained the atheism.
There’s also the reality that a strictly individualistic Randian philosophy works best if you are not in any way a member of a minority group (gender, racial, or sexual). The glorified “free market” can easily lean toward “might makes right.” Martin Luther King obviously had some success through leveraging the free market system (the bus boycotts) but the larger impact came from influencing the hearts and minds of those in actual power (the majority).