Baptist-Turned-Atheist, Nicome Taylor on the challenges of being a black atheist


Nicome Taylor is a California native, with a religious background rooted in the Baptist Church. Now 30, she admits that this type of upbringing had a great impact on her worldviews especially during times of hardship. Her grandmother’s principles and values were heavily influenced by the Bible and her southern roots laid the Christian foundation that would be adhered to by her children as well as her grandchildren.

Nicome’s mother battled with kidney failure, so having faith in “God’s promise” of an afterlife played a significant role in her life. Knowing that her mother’s condition was temporary, that in the next life she would be pain-free, she had peace of mind. When Nicome was only 17 and her mother passed away, this is what she clung to. Still, like so many theists, she struggled to understand why God would allow her mother to die instead of healing her illness.

Nicome remembers: “I would always resort back to what I was taught about God having a will of his own that reached far beyond my own understanding. [Still] it didn’t make any sense that an all-powerful being displayed such powerless capabilities.” Fearing those critical thoughts, Nicome began a journey that she thought would lead her to be “A True Christian.” She hadn’t actually read the Bible and figured she should since she wanted to be able to defend it.

“Becoming an Atheist was not in the plan,” she said, but the more she researched the topic the less it appeared to be true. Reaching a new level of understanding made her more consciously aware of the world around her and helped her gain a greater appreciation for the life that she currently has since it is the only one that she is certain exists.

Nicome has informed her family that she is an atheist… Some of these discussions turned into heated debates which caused a temporary distance between her and various family members, but over time reconnections were made…

The fact that they continue to consider me to be a positive loving person even without the belief in a God made our relationship sustainable. I’m sure some of them may still believe that I will burn in hell for my lack of belief, but it doesn’t bother me as much anymore because I’m confident in the odds of it not existing. Even if it did, I would still be without fear because it would be out of my control.

What believers do not understand is that you can’t be granted with the freewill of choosing what to believe while at the same time being forced to believe what a god wants you to believe and being condemned for it. That makes god look like a real asshole. Clearly if an all knowing god knows what it would take for each individual to believe that it actually exists then it would demonstrate itself in a manner that would leave no doubt.

…What makes the majority of black non-believers different from other ethnic groups is the percentage of our culture that are religious. Neha Sahgal and Greg Smith stated in the article “A Religion Portrait of African Americans” listed on The Pew Forum On Religion & Public Life that “while the U.S. is generally considered a highly religious nation, African-Americans are markedly more religious on a variety of measures than the U.S. population as a whole, including level of affiliation with religion, attendance at religious services, frequency of prayer and religion’s important to life. Compared with other racial and ethnic groups, African-Americans are among the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation, with fully 87% of African-Americans describing themselves as belonging to one religious group or another.”

When she came across these figures, she wasn’t surprised. Most blacks that she comes in contact with make the assumption that she is affiliated with religion —usually Christianity —simply because of her skin color. Nicome and I agree that often times in the black community we’re expected to belong to a church, attend church, or plan on being in somebody’s church by Sunday morning.

…“Many African-Americans find it insulting to our ancestors who carried the belief in God as they struggled their way through horrific stages throughout history. It never occurs to these same people why a God would allow these forms of adversities to exist in the first place.”

Nicome reflected on the fact that there are so many black secular historical figures that are not recognized as such, like Zora Neale Hurston, Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes,and A. Philip Randolph,who focused more on humanistic viewpoints as opposed to theistic perceptions… In many cases, folks automatically assume that one must “be a devil worshiper or upset with God” if they do not believe in a God.

…She remembers that one of her cousins made a comment at one of her family gatherings that “atheism was a white man’s religion” when he found out that Nicome was an atheist.

This in not uncommon (see Acting White) and it’s a major reason why being a black atheist is difficult and unique. It also helps to explain why some choose not to tell other blacks they’re atheists. Of course, Nicome then had to explain why atheism is not a religion as well as share some history on how black people were introduced to Christianity by white slavemasters…

She stated further:

I’ve had a great experience helping with the development of BSLA (Black Skeptics Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA) – Meetup) and am looking forward to our future plans within the community. I’ve met some really nice down-to-earth people whom I consider to be extended family…

In addition to the business aspect: we promote fun activities for those who would prefer to just meet and mingle with those they can relate to… it’s always a pleasure being around them. I’m looking forward to working together on our scholarship fund for students within the LAUSD, 2012-2013 school year.

Nicome shared her advice to closeted black atheists: “Be comfortable being who you are and know that you are not alone.” It can be difficult, being a minority within a minority group and coming out to friends and family. Risking the social disconnection that comes with being honest can be challenging, but it’s worth it in the long run. Only you know when the time is right for you. She suggested finding a support group within their area or online that can help alleviate the discomfort of not being able to fully express yourself.

Nicome’s book, YouTube and music recommendations.