Black Nonbelievers, Inc.

Headquartered in the Atlanta area, we connect with other Blacks (and allies) who are living free of religion and might otherwise be shunned by family and friends in a caring, friendly, and informative environment. Instead of accepting dogma, we determine truth and morality through reason and evidence.

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Black Nonbelievers of Detroit

This group has been a long time coming. It is a pleasure and honor to create a group that not only focuses on the needs of the African American nonbeliever (and doubter), but will also have its primary meetups in DETROIT!! Black Nonbelievers of Detroit (BNOD) understand great care, patience, and empathy must be utilized…

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Promoting community and solidarity among black nonbelievers

National Day of Solidarity for Black Nonbelievers

Because such a large percentage of the black community is highly religious, black nonbelievers find themselves in a minority within a minority, with scarce opportunities to connect with other black skeptics and freethinkers. In addition to that, there’s a lack of outreach and support for black nonbelievers in the wider freethought community, a group with a lot of work to do when it comes to diversity and inclusiveness. In response to these problems, Donald Wright created the National Day of Solidarity for Black Non-Believers.

Celebrated the fourth Sunday of every February, the National Day of Solidarity promotes community among black nonbelievers. According to Donald, “DoS has been organized as a way to counter the religious voice that all too often serves as the lone voice of black consciousness and experience. These gatherings will promote fellowship and the pursuit of humanist strategies to solve the problems facing humanity—especially those affecting the black community.”

To learn more about the Day of Solidarity and how you can get involved, visit these links:

  • The official Day of Solidarity blog has information about events taking place in New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Orlando, and Los Angeles.
  • Check out the Day of Solidarity Facebook page.
  • Mandisa Thomas, one of FBB’s newest board members and the founder and president of Black Nonbelievers, Inc., wrote about the Day of Solidarity for the Friendly Atheist blog.
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An introduction to Black Nonbelievers, Inc.

Mandisa Thomasby Mandisa Thomas, Foundation Beyond Belief board member and president of Black Nonbelievers, Inc.

When I was asked to write a guest entry for FBB, I had a whole rant planned about the need for more atheists (black in particular) to become more active offline—emphasizing less talking, and more doing. Instead, I decided to talk more about my organization, Black Nonbelievers, Inc.—our origins, accomplishments, upcoming events, and what we want to establish for the future.

BN, Inc. was co-founded by Benjamin Burchall and me in January 2011. The mission was primarily to connect with other blacks offline who were in the closet with their nonbelief, and provide a social and support base surrounding relatable issues. We started out as Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta, and in February of that same year, we held our first general meeting. There were about 15 of us in attendance, which spoke to the importance of our existence. This told us that our premise for starting this group was indeed correct, that there was a need that the overall freethought community was overlooking, and that most important, we had to be the ones to initiate this venture instead of totally depending on others coming around to a resolution.

BN is very dedicated to maintaining a festive and grounded environment. While we strongly advocate for, and participate in, educational and informative activities, we also stress the importance of having fun and creating a relaxed atmosphere amongst fellow nonbelievers. Many of us are responsible for not only our careers and families, but also ourselves, and so having this outlet where we can let loose and let our hair down while building a strong foundation for support is crucial.

In the two years since our inception, BN has been featured in a number of podcasts and radio interviews, news outlets, focus groups, film student documentaries, and freethought-related events, including rallies and conventions. We also continuously host our regular meetings and events in the Atlanta area, including a New Year’s Bash along with Black Atheists of America. BN is also proud to be affiliated with and support such organizations as African Americans for Humanism, American Atheists, Camp Quest, Recovering from Religion, and most recently, Foundation Beyond Belief.

In March 2012, BN held our very first out-of-state gathering in Washington DC after the Reason Rally—an after party that turned out to be a huge success. This year, we are hosting a Freethought Jam in Austin, TX. This event is included on the itinerary of the 2013 American Atheists Convention and will feature great music and dancing, as well as an up-and-coming BN-affiliated lyricist, MC Brooks. Tickets are $20 in advance, and slightly more at the door. All proceeds go toward BN’s efforts to establish an extensive support base in our community, including financial help for members who need immediate assistance—especially surrounding complications as a result of revealing nonbelief to a loved one.

More information about BN can be found at Information, events, and appearances are updated regularly.

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Humanist Action for Black Lives

For 400 years, violence and oppression have been the law of the land in the United States. For those who aren’t born white, the term “united” is a cruel irony. We are now, and have always been, a nation bitterly divided. These divisions are not equal, nor are they just. Existing while Black puts one…

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Social psychology of groups: How can we get nonbelievers to join our groups?

Science of GivingBrittany Shoots-Reinhard has a PhD in social psychology with a specialization in attitudes and persuasion, and judgment and decision making. She is also Foundation Beyond Belief’s Beyond Belief Network coordinator.

While there is no doubt that the Internet is one of the best tools of the secular movement, it does have a downside in that local communities might be neglected as atheists interact with each other online. One of the challenges we face as a movement is getting people involved in service, activism, and community-building in real life. This is easy for religious groups, which require or encourage attendance at weekly services, but more difficult for atheists, particularly with resistance to “churchiness” and organization. In addition to making atheism more visible and acceptable, having a tribe has some psychological benefits for individuals, too. Keeping these in mind can both grow our movement at the grassroots level and minimize the happiness gap between believers and nonbelievers

Flagstaff FreethinkersHumans appear to have a need to belong, or a fundamental motivation to have some minimum level of friendship in their lives (e.g., Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Forming quality bonds produces positive emotions; a lack of them is associated with depression, loneliness, and lowered well-being. Even the threat of loss of close relationships will produce anxiety (e.g., Leary, 1990). Inadequate support can lead to health problems. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser and her husband have a program of research on the effects of stress and relationships on health. Not meeting our need to belong depresses the immune system and exacerbates stress (e.g., Kiecolt-Glaser & Glaser, 1987; Kiecolt-Glaser, Garner, et al., 1984). Social interaction and support is a likely explanation for the link between happiness and religiosity, so local groups serve a very important function in the well-being of their members.

This is not to say that one must go to a weekly meeting of atheists to be happy. Like any motivation, our need to belong can be met in a variety of ways. It can be satisfied by one or two good friends, a work or social group, family, or even a larger group. Numbers of friends are not nearly as important as relationship stability, supportiveness, mutual concern, and opportunities for interaction (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). As a result of the substitutability of relationships, other factors have to be considered when predicting what type of groups we might join.

When people are choosing groups (or groups are recruiting members), they focus on mutual goals (e.g., Moreland & Levine, 1982). Those of us who belong to humanist, atheist, or skeptic groups have goals in common with those groups. The goals of various groups may or may not overlap, which can be seen in a lot of the debate over inclusion or exclusion of various topics at secular conferences. The narrowing of focus is actually a sign of increased involvement as groups tailor their goals to their groups and new groups form. The groups that people are involved in can hint at their goals. For example, groups that are members of Foundation Beyond Belief’s Beyond Belief Network or Humanist Giving programs are signaling that community service and charity are among their goals.

In addition to goals, people also consider whether they are similar to other members in other ways. People are more likely to identify with (and participate in) a group whose members are similar to them. Over time, this often results in homogeneity (Hogg & Hains, 1996) in terms of race or gender. Without realizing it, groups may be unwelcoming to minority groups because of the lack of diversity in their membership (in this context I mean minority relative to the group, so men could feel unwelcome in a parents group, although atheism as a movement has tended to have white men as the majority). From the group’s perspective, they are not doing anything to discourage minorities, but the minorities assume that they do not belong. Thus, the only way to achieve diversity is to make it a priority (Jehn, Northcraft & Neale, 1999). It will not happen on its own; in fact, it’s more likely for a group to become less diverse over time (Hogg & Hains, 1996). So groups like Black Nonbelievers and Secular Woman serve an important purpose in bridging the gap between nonbelievers and the larger atheist movement. Similarly, making diversity of speakers a priority is likely to increase attendance at meetings and conferences.

To attract new members to our groups, then, we need to be cognizant of our goals and how well we’re communicating them. Considering the perceptions of potential members is also important. A pub meetup with an active community service schedule might need to emphasize that in their description because it’s less expected. A group with a Facebook page with lots of anti-religious jokes should not be surprised if they struggle with interfaith partnerships. A group of mainly men who want to get more women involved might invite some women to speak and publicize their anti-harassment policy. It may make sense in some cases to start subgroups for certain types of activities or demographics to attract unaffiliated nonbelievers. Anecdotally, many people I’ve talked to were involved in smaller special interest groups (e.g., parenting, women, racial minority, or activity based) before becoming members of larger local and national groups. So rather than being resistant to new groups or splitting into smaller groups, we should recognize the opportunity they provide for growth.

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The FBB board election results are in!

Thanks to everyone who voted in our recent board election! We’ve assembled a fantastic new slate of volunteer directors who will help determine the Foundation’s path moving forward. According to Executive Director Dale McGowan, “The Foundation has been incredibly lucky from the beginning in the board members we’ve had. Our founding board set us on course beautifully for the first three years, and we’re delighted to have Jerry, Mandisa, and Clare joining us for the next three.”

In this month’s FBB board election, you elected the following individuals to the FBB board of directors:

Trish Hotze Cowan. Trish has been honored to serve as a member of the board of Foundation Beyond Belief since its inception. She is active with the Ethical Society of St. Louis (serving as Sunday School Director from 2005 to 2011) and enjoys being involved with the larger Ethical Humanist Movement through the American Ethical Union. She is currently the national advisor for the AEU’s annual teen conference and assists with the national religious education and family conference as chair of the AEU Religious Education Committee. Trish’s greatest joy is raising her two critical thinkers, Porter and Jessie.

Jerry DeWitt. Jerry was a Pentecostal minister in Louisiana for 25 years and recently earned the distinction of being the first graduate of the Clergy Project, supported by Richard Dawkins and Dan Barker. His ministerial background provides a broad understanding of the religious lifestyle and its effects on personal well-being, and he strives to be both a dramatic and entertaining speaker/activist with a heartfelt compassion for those struggling with their negative religious experiences. Jerry has great fondness for the “Challenge the Gap” initiative at the Foundation, and is particularly interested in helping to guide this unique project.

Hemant Mehta. Hemant Mehta is the author of The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide and creator of the popular blog. He previously served as chair of the Secular Student Alliance before joining the board of Foundation Beyond Belief, an organization he has been with since its inception. He is also a National Board Certified high school math teacher in suburban Chicago.
Zachary Moore, PhD. Zachary Moore was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, but got to Texas as quickly as he could. He is an active leader in the freethought community of Dallas/Fort Worth, serving as the executive director of the Fellowship of Freethought in Dallas, coordinator of the Dallas/Fort Worth Coalition of Reason, and treasurer for Camp Quest Texas.

Clare Wuellner. Clare was formerly with the Center for Inquiry in Austin, where she worked and collaborated with other secular organizations, helped design pro-science educational resources, and garnered the attention of local and national media to help spotlight and criticize the Texas State Board of Education. Trained as an entomologist, Clare is a skilled researcher, writer, and educator. Through her efforts to partner with the Clergy Letter Project in the interest of promoting acceptance of evolutionary theory among religious believers, Clare is passionate about finding common cause to serve the greater good. Clare would like to help the Foundation continue to make a positive impact on the growth and development of our community. 

Mandisa Thomas. Mandisa is the founder and current president of Black Nonbelievers, Inc., an organization based in Atlanta. Their mission is to provide socialization and support for other atheists and nonbelievers primarily in the black community who would otherwise be shunned by family and friends. She has been focused on creating community centers that provide financial assistance, educational resources, and creative outlets from a secular perspective. Her organization also sponsors a recovery group for members who are still overcoming religious beliefs, a resource that is sorely needed in the black community. Mandisa is interested in helping the Foundation identify optimal fundraising approaches, as well as helping expand awareness of the Foundation within the black community.

Kate Miller of Charlie’s Playhouse has played a crucial role in guiding the Foundation’s work from Day One. She has now stepped down after a full term on the board to focus on other projects. We will miss you, Kate!

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Announcing the 2019-2020 Heart of Humanism Award winners!

Foundation Beyond Belief is proud of the many individuals and local groups who made extraordinary contributions to compassionate humanism last year. Their tireless work has improved countless lives in communities throughout the world. Our Heart of Humanism awards recognize some of these dedicated volunteers and we are thrilled to announce this year's winners, honoring their…

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A Call to End State-Sanctioned Violence

An uprising for racial justice is sweeping the country. News and videos of state-sanctioned violence have flooded our televisions and social media, raising our awareness of the countless Black men, women, and children whose lives have been violently stolen. We know some of their names: Tony McDade. George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Atatiana Jefferson. Eric Garner. Tamir…

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Rising for Racial Justice

Get involved in ending sanctioned racial violence in America Contents Introduction Organizations What happened in Minneapolis with George Floyd is not an outlier incident. People of Color have endured hundreds of years of systemic racism and oppression. Law enforcement has its roots in slave patrols and holds an interest in protecting the status quo for…

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