I just had a talk with a middle eastern friend of mine who has an African roommate. He said that he felt he had a special connection with black people and said that maybe it was because we had such a respect for religion that establishes our moral values .
I felt a bit uncomfortable since I knew that he would have no way of knowing he was actually speaking to a black atheist. I just simply asked him if he thought that if a person wasn't religious he would not have these same values. He quickly said that indeed he was not of that view and that in fact he himself was not religious. Seemed a little contradictory from his earlier statement, so I asked if it was actually more of a cultural connection he felt with black people. I then told him that I was also not religious and in fact I didn't even believe in God, really. I have no idea why I added the word really, but as they say, letting go really is hard to do.
He completely forgot the point he was making about the religious connection with blacks,but continued the conversation headlong in the opposite direction. He told me he doesn't believe either but there is no way he could tell this to any of his friends, most of whom are strong muslims. He then went on to talk about all the problems religions create and how none of the beliefs make sense. He said he had these views for the last five years or so but he could not possibly tell anyone. If he went back home he would not be able to marry anyone's daughter if he said he didn't believe in God.
I listened as he offloaded, telling me that religion was all about controlling the masses. He said that he knew of many people in the USA that had been persuaded to go to war because of their belief in God and many in Palestine for whom killing was justified once it was for Allah. He also ridiculed the notion of a God that could punish his own children,by sending them to hell . "What kind of loving parent, could that God be?" he added. He went on about how his roommate was sure Jesus saved him when he prayed to God in a motorcycle accident. Something he thought was just cray. "Everybody prays to God when they are in serious accidents, most of them die, what happened to them?" he exclaimed. He shook his head and then lamented that so many times he wanted to give the appropriate reply to religious people but he just couldn't.I just couldn't stop smiling, I knew exactly what he was talking about.
Wow, it was such a great thing to be able to witness this. He sounded like me at my first social with other atheists, just happy for the unique opportunity to say what I really felt to people who understood. What was amazing was that this conversation didn't start like that. On so many occasions before in similar circumstances I would have nodded at his initial comment about respect for religion, concluded he was a man of faith and moved on to another safer topic. Today, I just decided to ask him to clarify his position, minutes later, he transformed into an outspoken atheist before my eyes.
With this discovery I told him how I recently joined an atheist group where we had open discussions on many of these topics. He stopped me right there. "If anyone even smelled on me that I had been to any such gathering I would be a dead man," he said anxiously looking around to see if anyone was within earshot. What a pity, it would have been nice to have another minority in that group.
Anyway,I was so glad to be his atheistic ear today. This taught me a good lesson. I often hear of how hard it is coming out as an atheist, all the friendships and associations you risk. Today I "came out" and I helped a friend and it felt all so worth it. I of course will not "out" him but at least he knows that he can talk to me about issues like these with absolutely know worries. That must at least count for something.I am just left wondering now what is that intangible factor that really draws him towards black people. Maybe he doesn't know either.