Saturday, May 30, 2009

Cracker on the Cross?

I'm almost speechless, and I dare not comment. I discovered this image online today, but I have no idea who originated it or what that person intended to convey. For instance, I do not know whether the individual concerned is protesting or celebrating the crucifixion of the cracker. Perhaps deifying the cracker in his own image?

Of course the big question is, just what is the word "cracker" intended to convey here?

The First Annual Conference of Black Nontheists

A breakthrough event! The First Annual Conference of Black Nontheists, Friday, 7 August – Sunday, 9 August 2009, Atlanta, Georgia, is an initiative of The Gary C. Booker Mental Self-Defense Foundation. Gary Booker, whom I first encountered on my Black Freethought group, declares: "Mental Liberation is the final frontier of the civil rights movement."

These are the keynote topics up for discussion:
1. Why a secular solution to teen pregnancy in Black America is needed.

2. The role of the Black Church in the promotion of homophobia and AIDS hysteria

3. Where was God during slavery and segregation?

4. Misconceptions about Charles Darwin, Evolution and race

5. How Black stereotypes have become a 2nd religion

6. Why the Black church receives too much credit for the civil rights movement (and why this is harmful)

7. Is organized religion a sufficient tool for repairing Black male-female relationships?

Out of the Closet — Black Atheists

An important new article is making the rounds:
"‘Out of the Closet’ — Black Atheists" by Sikivu Hutchinson
in the L.A. Watts Times, 28 May 2009
at Afro-Netizen
at blackfemlens, 13 May 2009
Hopefully this will lead to a publicity breakthrough. Wrath James White's blog, whose correct title is Godless and Black, is referenced in this article. There is also a passing reference to an article mentioning black atheists in The New York Times, but I've not seen it.

See also Hutchinson's article "The Moral Choice: Blacks, Homophobia and Proposition 8," 29 Oct 2008.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Marx on religion

I've begun organizing quotations by Karl Marx on religion, accompanied by sources and web links, as well as a listing of the major English-language anthologies on the subject:

Karl Marx on Religion: Sources & Quotations

I will add to this compilation as I examine more quotes. I will probably add a listing of relevant writings by Friedrich Engels and possibly quotes as well. I will move on to organize the various quotations on this blog into pages on my web site. Also, I will begin to compile a working bibliography of important works by and about Marxists on religion and atheism.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Eddie Glaude Jr. &

Eddie Glaude Jr. evidently found my previous post on him here, as he re-posted it, without comment, on his own blog on There were two initial responses by others. After I discovered Glaude's blog: I responded to one particularly irritating individual who calls herself Brilliantrose. This is my retort, written on 2 Jan 2009:
Clearly, Brilliantrose did not understand a word I wrote. Checking my original blog, I do not see any confusion between "ethic" and "ethnic"; hopefully Brilliantrose knows the difference. I chose to write "ethnic" instead of" racial" because "ethnic" suggests a cultural formation rather than a biological category, and hence speaks more directly to mindset.

Brilliantrose also mistakenly assumes that I have a high regard for the Ivy League, but my point is that whatever their origins, however humble they may be in some cases, black intellectuals who have made it to the level of professor at Ivy League institutions have enjoyed opportunities for expansion of their ideological perspective than average uneducated persons do, and so they have a choice whether to undergo the risky business of ruffling the feathers of their own alleged constituency or pander to popular ignorance, an ignorance which obviously pervades the middle class as it does the poor.

As for needing many voices, additional voices are useless unless they have something enlightening to say. One essential property of a modern democracy that black communities as well as fundamentalist rednecks have yet to learn is the precious principle of separation between church and state. Religious revelation has no place in public argument or policy. Eddie Glaude, as an allegedly progressive theocrat, is apparently too dense to understand this. He gets away with it by basing himself on ethnic provincialism, i.e. a narrowly tailored black religious rhetoric, peppered with scraps of philosophical concepts totally at odds with the irrational basis of religious belief. This just serves to retard the intellectual development of black America as surely as the black church has done.
And that's where it ended. I looked further into and found it as disgraceful as I had been warned about.

I found two active groups of relevance. Freethinkers New Trinity is as full of crackpots as the rest of this site. Today's Atheists of America is much more reasonable, but still extremely limited. So, while a few people with intelligent thoughts emerge on this site, it is so hopelessly idiotic and oriented toward the lowest of low common denominators, no one should be caught dead on it. Glaude hasn't posted on it all year to date: if there is a reason for this, it's anybody's guess.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

W. E. B. Du Bois on Religion (4): Edward J. Blum's theological conversion of Du Bois

Written 20-21 April 2009:

Check out the publisher's description of:

Blum, Edward J. W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007. viii + 273 pp. Notes, index, acknowledgements. $39.95 (cloth), ISBN 0-8122-4010-3.

You should note something very fishy here.

Now the fact that Du Bois wrote sermons, poems, etc., and that he recognized the "spiritual" qualities of religious culture, does not make him a religious person whose secular thought should be re-spun in religious terms. And if you doubt that there's something dishonest about Blum's agenda, see this interview:

RD10Q: W.E.B. Du Bois, American Prophet
By Edward J. Blum
June 19, 2008 (Religion Dispatches)

Blum's agenda is overtly religious. I'm nauseated to read this interview. Furthermore, it is symptomatic of an intellectual degeneration permeating every area of thought. Important fields of study are being corrupted by either postmodernism or a theological turn. The very secularity of scholarship is under de facto assault by irrationalism.

The irrationalist colonization of academia proceeds apace. Du Bois is being converted from a secular to a religious thinker in the most disgusting fashion. Another example: a new book titled The Souls of W.E.B. Du Bois: New Essays and Reflections, edited by Ed Blum and Jason R. Young.

See this blog puffing the book:

Thursday, February 19, 2009
Du Bois and Religion
by Phillip Luke Sinitiere

Reportedly this volume has been praised by both James Cone, architect of black power theology, and Manning Marable, veteran Marxist scholar.

This blog is a document of a long-standing campaign to spiritualize intellectual history including Du Bois' intellectual achievements:

I have unearthed some more positively sickening examples of Edward Blum's agenda for recasting Du Bois as a religious thinker, enlisting him in the service of theocratic progressives.

W.E.B. Du Bois and Religion
Revising perceptions of the influential African American thinker.
Reviewed by Kathryn Lofton | posted 12/15/2008
Books and Culture: A Christian Review

Religion and the Sociological Imagination of W. E. B. Du Bois
by Edward J. Blum
Sociation Today, Volume 3, Number 1, Spring 2005

7-16-07, History News Network
What Barack Obama (and the Democratic Party) Can Learn About Religion from W. E. B. Du Bois
By Edward J. Blum

What Would Du Bois Say?: A Response to Hitchens and Dawkins
Penn Press Log, May 11, 2007

I think I'm going to barf. Now here is an extensive review:

W. E. B. Du Bois: A Spiritual Prophet and Religious Sage?
Reviewed for H-Amstdy by Curtis J. Evans, University of Chicago Divinity School.
Review of: Edward J. Blum. W. E. B. Du Bois: American Prophet. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.
Published by (October 2007)

The reviewer acknowledges the extensive engagement with religious metaphor on the part of Du Bois but questions Blum's premises. Note:
"By paying attention to the performative aspects of Du Bois's autobiographies and writings, Blum is able to avoid traditional biographical questions such as whether or not Du Bois "believed" in God, the psychological and social bases of his belief or unbelief, and how his personal religion changed over time (pp. 15-16)."

"Although Blum successfully makes the point that most historians and biographers have been too eager to depict Du Bois as a dogmatic atheist or agnostic, I am not sure that Blum appreciates why Du Bois has been regarded as an atheist or agnostic. Blum's own analysis indicates the persistent criticisms of religion that Du Bois uttered throughout his long life. Although, he accounts for this by making a few remarks about Du Bois's normative or idealized conception of "true Christianity," I do not think this will persuade most specialists that this is the best way to understand Du Bois's animus against religion as it existed during his lifetime (not as "religion" may have been in some idealized ahistorical realm). At one point, Blum comes close to getting at a better description of Du Bois and his religious sentiments when he briefly notes that Du Bois regularly minimized the supernatural in his reimagining of religion and should therefore be seen as a religious modernist (p. 160). I have always felt that this is a much more fitting description of Du Bois in light of his constant criticisms of black churches for their alleged backwardness and puritanical prohibitions, and his scathing critiques of white churches for their failure to treat blacks fairly.[2] Du Bois's emphasis on ethics at the expense of traditional doctrines and theology places him firmly in the religious modernist or Protestant liberal camp. If Blum had set out to argue that Du Bois was a religious modernist rather than an atheist or agnostic, I think his book would have been richer and this approach would have taken the unnecessary edge off the book in its strong stance against those who reportedly have underappreciated Du Bois's religiosity."

"Attention to Du Bois's literary works, his "religious imagination," and religious sentiments and descriptions expressed by those at his funeral and admirers of his books, while important and enlightening, does not satisfactorily demonstrate that he was a religious prophet (not to mention the problem of gaining any consensus on this ambiguous and highly personal term). After all, religious language and rhetoric are enormously difficult to link to personal behavior and religious practice (as modern-day elections and campaigning clearly indicate)."
This brief critical review seems to me like it sums up the issue very well, and is enough to discredit Blum's agenda as a liberal theocrat.

Finally, here is Blum's autobiographical confession:

Interview with Edward Blum on Du Bois, Posted by Eric Redmond on May 12, 2007.
Edward Blum: "I grew up in a small white middle-class suburb of New York City where I attended a Presbyterian Church. I was active in the youth group and went to college intending to become a minister. The Christianity of my youth was inspiring. We were taught to think deeply about the sacred; to care about our community and others; we were taught to share the good news. What I did not realize, though, was that we were also being taught, subtly, that the people of God were all white. With all white people in the church and with visual depictions of white angels and Jesus in mass culture, I think I went to college with a subconscious belief that white people and white souls mattered most to God. I would not have said that at the time, but I think it was there. In college – at the University of Michigan – and then in graduate school – at the University of Kentucky – my entire religious view was changed. I encountered women and men of just about every national background, every hue, every persuasion, and I found that they had so much to teach me about God, about community, about justice and injustice, about how the world really was. At that point, I began a new spiritual pilgrimage: to find the faith that had been shielded from me in white suburbia. And, since I was always interested in history, I did so through historical texts. I began with Frederick Douglass, reading his grand personal narratives of slavery and freedom; I moved on to the liberation theology of James Cone and J. Deotis Roberts; I then read white evangelicals like sociologist Michael Emerson who were searching for ways for true racial integration. Then I found Du Bois and my entire mental landscape was opened. He seemed to unlock the doors separating religion and American society. He showed the connections between what and how people practice their faiths and the implications on society. So, in many ways, I am a white man who practices a black-based Christianity; politically, I am a Democrat; I focus on community over individualism; I see the work of God in the marginalized of the nation and of the world."
White liberal guilt explains it all!

W. E. B. Du Bois on Religion (2): The Negro Church

The Negro Church: Report of a Social Study Made under the Direction of Atlanta University; Together with the Proceedings of the Eighth Conference for the Study of the Negro Problems, Held at Atlanta University, May 26th, 1903. Edited by W.E.B. Du Bois, with [new] introduction by Phil Zuckerman, Sandra L. Barnes, and Daniel Cady. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press, 2003. ISBN 0759103283, 9780759103283. 212 pp.

And see this review:

McCowin, David. Review of Bois, W. E. B. Du, ed., The Negro Church: Report of a Social Study Made under the Direction of Atlanta University; Together with the Proceedings of the Eighth Conference for the Study of the Negro Problems, Held at Atlanta University, May 26th, 1903. H-AmRel, H-Net Reviews. July, 2004.

Note these extracts from the review:
"The data collected regarding black preachers' conduct was a scathing indictment of church leadership. A typical response, from one of the "Intelligent Colored Laymen" surveyed in Georgia, answered the question "Are the ministers good?" as follows: "Out of ten, three are sexually immoral, one drinks, three are careless in money matters" (p. 64)."

"Du Bois criticized preachers' tendencies to stress preparation for the next life at the expense of the resolution of this life's problems."

"Was Du Bois, then, truly interested in the faith of a people or only the potential for political and social change between the races? In closing, he claimed the former "religious and moral qualities are independent of the eventualities of the race problem; no matter what destiny awaits the race, Religion is necessary either as a solvent or as a salve" (p. 208). However, Du Bois, who by 1903 had abandoned the religious beliefs which characterized his early years, in fact, had little patience for theology and tended to distrust any evidence dealing specifically with faith."

W. E. B. Du Bois on Religion (3): Phil Zuckerman & sociology of religion

Du Bois on Religion, edited by Phil Zuckerman. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2000.
ISBN 0742504212, 9780742504219
209 pages

You can find excerpts from this book on google books.
"Phil Zuckerman here gathers together Du Bois's writings on religion, and makes a compelling case for Du Bois to be recognized among the leading sociologists of religion. Du Bois on Religion includes selections from his well-known works such as The Souls of Black Folks to poems, prayers, stories and speeches less widely available. Brief, helpful introductions preface each of the twenty-six selections. Also, a general introduction traces Du Bois's move from church-attending Christian to relentless critic of religion and evaluates Du Bois's contributions to the study of religion. Du Bois on Religion is an important text for sociologists or for anyone interested in the history of race and religion in the United States."
On the surface it's terrific that such an anthology exists. But what is Zuckerman's agenda? Let's look at a couple of reviews.

Newman, Mark. Review: Phil Zuckerman, editor. Du Bois on Religion, Journal of Southern Religion, vol. 7 (2004).

Note that Newman questions Zuckerman's selection process.

Pierce, Yolanda. Review of Zuckerman, Phil, ed., Du Bois on Religion. H-AmRel, H-Net Reviews.
July, 2001. URL:

Pierce notes the contradictory attitudes to religion revealed in Du Bois' corpus. Pierce also criticizes the lack of cohesiveness and support for Zuckerman's selection of material.

To learn more about what Zuckerman is up to, see this article:

Zuckerman, Phil. "The Sociology of Religion of W.E.B. Du Bois," Sociology of Religion, Summer, 2002.

Zuckerman is impressed by Du Bois's primary research and his empirical backing of his claims. He covers the variety of Du Bois's reaction to religion and churches, black and white. Here is the conclusion:
W.E.B. Du Bois's work on religion has, for too long, been ignored. His exclusion from the canon has had significant consequences for the development of the sociology of religion, especially here in the United States. His numerous analyses of black religious sacred group enthusiasm and dramatic emotional ritual (as in the "rock Daniel rock" excerpt quoted earlier) preceded and anticipated Durkheim's theories of "collective effervescence." His exploration of the role of the black church as a safe haven for African Americans in a world of racist segregation/persecution greatly embellishes Freud's understanding of religion as a source of comfort and Weber's focus on theodicy; specifically, religion does not only serve as some sort of "cosmic" or existential balm in the face of life's deep mysteries or questions, but religious institutions can also serve as immediate, everyday, this-worldly sources of communal comfort in the face of everyday oppression.

In sum, what Du Bois wrote on religion was insightful, relevant, and specifically sociological in nature. He should be regarded as the first American sociologist of religion. He employed standard sociological research methods to a degree unparalleled by the canonized classical sociologists of religion. He focused specifically on the important phenomenon of black American religious life, providing landmark contributions in that area. And most importantly, Du Bois stressed the ways in which religious institutions can be recognized as social, communal centers which provide this-worldly rewards and comforts. He implicitly argued that religious involvement need not solely be explained as a quest for cosmic communion or psychological compensation, but as an avenue for communal refuge and social bonding. [ . . . . ]
Note also footnote 2:
It is crucial to highlight that Du Bois died an agnostic, but not an atheist, per se. In 1948, a priest wrote to Du Bois asking him whether or not he believed in God. Du Bois replied: "Answering your letter of October 3, may I say: If by `a believer in God,' you mean a belief in a person of vast power who consciously rules the universe for the good of mankind, I answer No; I cannot disprove this assumption, but I certainly see no proof to sustain such a belief, neither in History not in my personal experience. If on the other hand you mean by 'God' a vague Force which, in some umcomprehensible [sic] way, dominates all life and change, then I answer, Yes; I recognize such Force, and if you wish to call it God, I do not object." (Aptheker 1978:223).
That Du Bois contributed specifically to sociology of religion is not at issue. The question here is, is Zuckerman's agenda strictly an acknowledgment of Du Bois as sociologist, or is it the rehabilitation of Du Bois as a religious thinker? You be the judge.

W. E. B. Du Bois on Religion (1): Autobiography

Let's begin at the end:

The Autobiography of W.E.B. Du Bois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century (New York: International Publishers, 1968), pp. 285-286.

Google books provides excerpts from this work. If you click on the title, you will get the search results on the keyword 'religion'. If you click on the page numbers, you will find a brief account of
Du Bois' engagement with religion. Or see my web page:

W. E. B. Du Bois on Religion

Another excerpt of Du Bois's views constitutes the chapter "On Christianity" in African-American Humanism: An Anthology, edited by Norm R. Allen, Jr. (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1991; pp. 116-118). This is a commentary on white and black churches, taken from:

Against Racism: Unpublished Essays, Papers, Addresses, 1887-1961 by W. E. B. Du Bois, edited by Herbert Aptheker. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1985.

The web site Daylight Atheism features a summary, quotes, and discussion of The Contributions of Freethinkers: W.E.B. Du Bois.

An abridged version of the autobiographical quote cited above can also be found with a capsule biography as the Freethought of the Day for 23 February.

Here is an invaluable resource for Du Bois studies online:

The W. E. B. Du Bois Global Resource Collection and Directory

Du Bois pronounced himself on this subject in several writings. While usually taken as a secular thinker, Du Bois in recent years has become the victim of theology, reappropriated as a religious thinker. More on this to come.