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 2019 and the social skills in atheist outreach.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: The new year is in; we’re looking at new media, new exposure, and new interest.
Mandisa Thomas: First of all, Happy New Year to everyone, we really got support. We were published in the Miami New Times as well as the Indianapolis Reporter about black Millennials being less religious than the older generations.
I was also featured in an episode Freethought Matters put on by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. We also received an inquiry from a black travel magazine called The Grio. This is significant because the black community is still highly religious.
Which makes it more difficult for atheists coming from the community to find others as well as to speak about their non-belief and atheism, this publication reached out to us. It will be addressing the African Diaspora, which means the scattering of those with African heritage around the world.
They want to know about blacks who do not believe. Over the years, we are seeing some interest and curiosity from black media publication about our organization and what our point of view is, what our perspectives are. This is great.
Because as an organization, we encourage people to engage offline and in person. We host a number of events to encourage people to do so, to provide the opportunity in addition to hearing from some speakers and activists. To write for a publication that is targeting the black community, which will allow people to get a better understanding of our position, it is giving the opportunity to us.
We are looking forward to more of that in the future.
Jacobsen: How is it important to have a more diverse set of outlets from which to speak rather than those who are only, typically, within the community?
Thomas: It is important because it is an important part of the outreach that we do. It would be safe to speak only within secular publications. But when we reach out and accept invitations and engage other communities, it gives us the opportunity to reach people who did not know that there are organizations and a community that will support them.
We don’t always want to preach to the choir. We want to speak to those who do believe but do not understand who atheists are and what they do. Because you never know who you will be able to work with in addition to who you know from the past.
Jacobsen: What can secular organizations do in terms of being receptive to outreach to them and to reaching out to the religious?
Thomas: Other secular organizations can participate in more community activities, even if there is a religious presence there. It will be good for us to sign up, to set up a table at community events. it might be good to set up an “Ask An Atheist” table.
It might be good for us to simply put ourselves out there. As much as our community is looking to support our fellow atheists and humanists, we also find ourselves feeling pride in our intellectual skills. Our social skills can use some work.
It is part of it. We are people, just like everyone else. It is good for people to see that side of us and to speak up. Because, in this day and age, there are more people agreeing with us than we think.
Even though, there are some fundamental differences between us. We must become comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. We encourage believers to do that, to read their Bible, to do research on their religion. That, certainly, applies to other areas of our lives. We shouldn’t be exempt from that as well.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Mandisa.
Thomas: Thank you very much.
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.