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.
Here we talk about secular communities and current issues (2020).
*This was conducted June 15, 2020.*
Scott Jacobsen: What is the state of things, now, in secular communities and in those with an interest in non-intellectual stuff, in the activism? What is the state of things now?
Mandisa Thomas: There is a huge focus on what’s happening right now in the world – current events. There’s a lot of interest in the black community, and what was going on with the systemic problems of racism and economic injustice. People wanting to know what they can do: how do they support organizations that are working specifically in these areas. Also, they want to know how they can better support organizations like BN that are on the front lines. So, it is very interesting to see that shift; to better understand how they all connect beyond church-state separation.
Jacobsen: And what do you make of more prominence for the voices who have always been there, but have not been noticed as much because they’ve been living in the shadow of what, more or less, has become an echo chamber? People like yourself for community organizing. People like Dr. Hutchinson for a lot of the intellectual sociological commentary. We could go to list some relative to numbers within that particular demographic, as you say, for instance, a secular bloc in the United States. What do you make of this not massive rise, but a modest attempt in light of recent protests to reach out, to fund, to platform some of these voices who have always been there but just were not used properly before?
Thomas: So, of course, I think it is always great when we activists, authors, and organizers finally get the support that we deserve. We understand that even though it can be frustrating, that it takes some time for the importance of our work to catch on. But sometimes, we cannot help but wonder: Why all of the interest now? Is it because these issues are trending, or are people truly looking to be part of long-term solutions? But of course, we are optimistic, and are confident that people will continue to support our work for years to come.
Jacobsen: I noted this to you before. My own assumption: It is going to spike now and dip back down, but remain above baseline moving forward. That seems to be the general trend. And it is kind of a spike.
Thomas: Yes, we are definitely seeing a spike at this time. And we want it to continue, because this fight is not over. These changes need to go beyond the cycle and not go back to where they were before. The key is to support us consistently.
Jacobsen: Ma’am, thanks so much for your time.
Thomas: Thank you.
*Associates and resources listing last updated May 31, 2020.*
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.
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Image Credit: Mandisa Thomas.