Mandisa Thomas is the Founder of Black Nonbelievers, Inc (Twitter & Facebook). One of the, if not the, largest organization for African-American or black nonbelievers or atheists in America. The organization is intended to give secular fellowship, provide nurturance and support for nonbelievers, encourage a sense of pride in irreligion, and promote charity in the non-religious community. I reached out to begin an educational series with one of the, and again if not the, most prominent African-American woman nonbeliever grassroots activists in the United States. Here, we talk about the recent murder of an evangelist.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Recently, there was an incident. It was illegal for a man to go into the Indigenous community. The reason was for missionary and evangelistic purpose. Why don’t you feel so bad for him?
Mandisa Thomas: For one, the person felt as if it was their purpose to preach the word of God to the Indigenous folks, even though it was illegal. These people were protected by the law of the land they were in. The person tried to get into their land illegally to preach to them.
He was shot on the spot by bows and arrows. In the same way, we have laws here in the States. Other countries have laws and guidelines. There are many Americans think that they can go to different countries and ignore the laws.
It was dangerous for this person to ignore these folks. He paid a local fisherman to go around the around. They have since been interested because it was illegal. I do not feel bad at all. Here was a person who caused their own death.
They were responsible for the dangerous situation that they put themselves.
Jacobsen: What have been the reactions?
Thomas: Most on social media have been the same. This person got what they deserved. You should not force religious beliefs on others. I have others who expressed the idea that this person deserved to die. There could have been a better way to handle that.
However, even if someone thinks that it is right or wrong, it was a consequence of this person’s actions. Even if this person had done some research on the people, they had to know that there was a possible dangerous outcome for engaging with them.
So, as soon as you know a group is that violence, then, you leave them alone. Even if people do not want to admit it, as it is still taboo to say that people bring their deaths upon themselves, that’s true.
In this case, that person was ultimately and solely responsible for the outcome. If they had parenting from a parent organization, they should be responsible as well. Because it is stupidity and blatant disrespect for their culture and ways.
Historically, there have been visitors to third world countries that have been invaded. There is a reason for this group being protected. It should have been respected.
Jacobsen: How does this relate to the objectivity, universality, and subjectivity of ethics?
Thomas: It relates to the idea that we as human beings see things differently. We have to take our nature into account as human beings. In the interest of exploration or what people think what they are doing is right, it often can be very wrong.
There are some people who are rigid in what they think their ethics should be. It can be very, very what is considered “tunnel vision.” That what they think is right is, therefore, right without regard for other people.
Every situation is different. It is important to take evidence as well as what is going on in our society and in our world to make that determination. In this case, I can only speculate that this person who was killed by the Indigenous community may have felt that these people were evil and it was his job to convert them, to the way of Jesus Christ.
However, someone looking at Christianity. It could be said that its own set of ethics and values are above reproach. If anything, Christianity, in and of itself, can be very immoral. Much of this can come from skewed perceptions of what they think is right.
Oftentimes, without really thinking about the consequences, they think that they are changing the world in some way. Sometimes, it is not for the better. This person did not realize that his attempting to “cleanse” these people may have been bad, because he may have been contacting them with foreign antibodies from his own person.
Thinking about this from a well-rounded perspective: what good or harm can come from it, it should inform people’s ethics about circumstances when they are traveling and are trying to spread their good word to people.
Jacobsen: This relates to universal ethics as well. The December 10, 1948 document the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be a good framework to view the rights of Indigenous peoples as well as the rights to freedom of belief and freedom of religion, which seems more in line with the things that you’re speaking about.
Jacobsen: Even though, we will have different surface ethics. There does seem to be a consensus in the international community in what tends to be right and what tends to be wrong, whether in religion, belief, or in regards to Indigenous status.
Does the ability of individuals and groups to have rights conflict with evangelism seen around the world for many faiths, not simply Christianity alone?
Thomas: Sometimes, it does conflict. Because we often push that people are allowed to believe what they want to believe. If it is an isolated incident where people are practicing their belief and not harm others, that is one thing. It is within the communities.
There can be people harmed by the set of beliefs, often women and children. However, there must be lines drawn when it comes to actually try to go about evangelizing, awareness, or ‘education’ – if you will.
In those cases or most of them, they are by a case-by-case basis. It can be seen subjectively. Even when we see things that are wrong, certainly, it can be within certain communities and peoples throughout the world.
There may be things that we see as horrendous. But it is still our responsibility as human beings to know when to intervene and when not to intervene. In particular, when it came to colonialism in countries in Africa and elsewhere, I do not know if it is a lesson that we will learn anytime soon.
We will have to see and then make a determination from there. We will have to keep informed about what’s going on in other countries, especially before we have the opportunity and to go and visit.
Travel is something that we encourage people to do, but also travel with caution and engage all circumstances with caution, where you can make an informed decision and informed actions as a result.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Mandisa.
Thomas: Thank you!
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.
Image Credit: Mandisa Thomas.