Mandisa Thomas, a native of New York City, is the founder and President of Black Nonbelievers, Inc. Although never formally indoctrinated into belief, Mandisa was heavily exposed to Christianity, Black Nationalism, and Islam. As a child she loved reading, and enjoyed various tales of Gods from different cultures, including Greek and Ghanaian. “Through reading these stories and being taught about other cultures at an early age, I quickly noticed that there were similarities and differences between those deities and the God of the Christian Bible. I couldn’t help but wonder what made this God so special that he warrants such prevalence today,” she recalls.
Mandisa has many media appearances to her credit, including CBS Sunday Morning, CNN.com, and Playboy, The Humanist, and JET magazines. She has been a guest on podcasts such as The Humanist Hour and Ask an Atheist, as well as the documentaries Contradiction and My Week in Atheism. Mandisa currently serves on the Board for American Atheists and the American Humanist Association, and previously for Foundation Beyond Belief, the 2016 Reason Rally Coalition, and the Secular Coalition for America. She is also an active speaker and has presented at conferences/conventions for the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Secular Student Alliance, and many others.
In 2019, Mandisa was the recipient of the Secular Student Alliance’s Backbone Award and named the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s Freethought Heroine. She was also the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association’s Person of the Year 2018.
As the president of Black Nonbelievers, Inc., Mandisa encourages more Blacks to come out and stand strong with their nonbelief in the face of such strong religious overtones.
“The more we make our presence known, the better our chances of working together to turn around some of the disparities we face. We are NOT alone.”
Here, we talk about maturity with time.
*Interview conducted before September 4th.*
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Your birthday is on September 4th. What is some of your commentary based on that birthday – of getting older, being more mature, and letting certain things go over time?
Mandisa Thomas: Yes, on September 4th, I turned 43. As I have gotten older and over the course of my life, I realize that first, maturity doesn’t necessarily come with age. I see a lot of people who have gotten older physically, but they haven’t aged well mentally.
What I see as maturity is that you are not just thinking solely of yourself. However, there are moments that you must take for yourself, which is absolutely important. But it isn’t completely about self gratification.
Knowing that there’s some give and take in life is usually lost on younger people, which is understandable. Though I certainly do not think that younger people should always have to take on mature matters. Unless, it is absolutely necessary. But as we get older, there are life experiences that we process better, or at least we SHOULD.
Unfortunately, I have seen some of my peers not do that at all, which is very interesting, but also sad at the same time. But I realize that I have been mature most of my life. So it just seems like I’m just physically one year older with every birthday.
But at the same time, I’ve learned to process some things in ways that I would not have when I was younger. So there’s definitely been some growth over the years.
Jacobsen: By “mature,” this phrase can get thrown around at a lot, what do you mean by mature? What are some obvious stages of more maturity, not only in general terms of thinking of other people and taking time for yourself simply for health and well-being?
Thomas: Again, to me, “mature” is also how one thinks, and lives in this world. Being more mature means that you take situations on a case-by-case basis, you look at things more objectively than you would have a few or many years ago, whether it is through life experiences or it is through education.
You begin to reflect more. You are able to say, “Well, maybe there was a reason for this,” and not make excuses. Whereas before, you may have just had an opinion on something and just automatically thought it was wrong, that you begin to take a second (and even third) look, and gauge things based on the situation and also make an informed decision, not necessarily one that would best fit your viewpoint.
You begin to understand certain things and how they affect other people, and even how they may affect you in one or more ways. Learning to accept that sometimes we may be wrong. There are things that we may have to do that we would have never thought of before.
That, to me, is a good example of being mature. How we think, how we process, and how we adapt.
Jacobsen: Does this speak to more a universalization of principles then applied to people when you are having that thought process that is more mature?
Thomas: That is part of it. Because principles are a very interesting thing. It almost seems to border on the whole idea of what morality it is. Principles and moralities aren’t necessarily synonymous with each other, but they also harness the antithesis of each other.
I would say my principles are to ultimately treat people the way I want to be treated. Although, I think it is good to treat them accordingly at times, because there are some people who just aren’t deserving of your kindness.
I do try to be courteous and nice to everyone though. If someone needs help. I do not turn them away. I try to be as hospitable as possible.
I also look at how people treat others on a regular basis as opposed to when they are standing on a platform because that, to me, informs their principles. How they would treat someone when the rest of the world isn’t watching. Just because someone says they are “moral” and ethical, doesn’t mean they really ARE. It just takes paying close attention.
As we get older, our life experiences, our ability to educate ourselves when we do research, our ability to make decisions, as well as being able to change our minds and our actions when necessary, also informs our maturity and principles. It separates our reality from our idealism, which can be a glorious thing.
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.
Canadian Atheist 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, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists,American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.
Image Credit: Mandisa Thomas.