Norm Allen – Science, Humanism, and the Black Community

November 23, 2006

Norm Allen is executive director of African Americans for Humanism, an educational organization primarily concerned with fostering critical thinking, ethical conduct, church-state separation, and skepticism toward untested claims to knowledge among African Americans.  He is the editor of the ground-breaking book African-American Humanism: An Anthology, AAH Examiner, and Deputy Editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He has traveled and lectured widely throughout North America, Europe, and Africa and his writings have been published in scores of newspapers throughout the U.S. He has spoken on numerous radio and television programs and his writings have appeared in such books as Culture Wars and the National Center for Science Education’s Voices for Evolution.

In this talk with D.J. Grothe, Norm Allen explores the relationship between Christianity and American slavery, the history of freethought in the abolitionist and civil rights movements, the gullibility of the black community, the explosive growth of skepticism and humanism in Africa, the impact of religion and the paranormal on the working poor.

This is point of inquiry for Friday, November 24th, 2006. 

Welcome to Point of Inquiry, I’m D.J. Growthy Point of Inquiry is the radio show and podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank collaborating with the State University of New York at Buffalo on the new science and the public master’s degree. CFI also has branches in Manhattan, Tampa, Hollywood and Washington, D.C.. In addition to now 14 other cities around the world, every week on this show, we look at some of the big questions of society through the lens of science, the scientific outlook. And we focus mostly on three research areas church, state, separation, secularism and religion. That’s one area. The second, alternative medicine. And third, we look at pseudoscience and the paranormal, fringe science and the supernatural in society, beliefs about that. We look at all these things by drawing on CFI, his relationship with the leading minds of the day, including Nobel Prize winning scientists, public intellectuals, social critics and thinkers and renowned entertainers. Before we get to this week’s guest, Norm Allen, I want to welcome the new campus group that has joined up with the Center for Inquiry since last Friday’s show. This is a new group called Freethought Alliance at Seattle Central Community College in Seattle, Washington. We have a network of 100, 80 or so campus groups all across the United States and around the world who work with us to advance science and reason at their campuses. Now, 180 may sound like a lot of groups, but when you compare our outreach, as funded as it is to groups like the Campus Crusade for Christ, which has an annual operating budget surpassing 400 million dollars, you see that there’s a lot of work to still get done. If you’d like to work with us at your school, go to Campus Inquirer dot org and sign up. Doing so gets you a free educational and organizing materials in the mail and you’ll be able to work with us to advance rationalism in your neck of the woods. And now a word from our sponsor. And then we’ll get to this week’s guest. 

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I’m pleased to be joined in the studio by Norm Allen, one of the international directors here at the Center for Inquiry, where he also heads up African-Americans for Humanism. It’s a project of the Council for Secular Humanism. African-Americans for Humanism is the nation’s only black humanist outreach program. Norman’s traveled the United States and the world widely. He’s spoken to audiences in dozens of countries, as well as dozens of campuses, the leading campuses across the United States and Canada. He’s the editor of the book African American Humanism, and he’s joining me on point of inquiry today to talk about science, secularism and the growth of humanism in the black community in the United States and in the continent of Africa. And especially we’re going to talk about the influence of religion in the African-American community. Welcome to Point of inquiry, Norm. Thanks for having me. Norm, in your talks, in in your outreach to the black population in the U.S., you seem to suggest a kind of controversial to many leaders of the black community that religion itself has hurt blacks, especially the Christian religion. 

Yes. And if you look at the history of Christianity in this country, you’ll see that slavery was, for the most part, backed up by the churches. I wouldn’t say our churches, who always have some progressive churches, but in general, the churches were in support of slavery and how could they not be? If you look at the many passages in the Bible glorifying slavery, defending it, for example, if you look in the New Testament, in the Book of Athenians or a one timothee, if you look in the Old Testament as well, you’ll see so many passages defending slavery. So that was up a big problem there. But you don’t even have to go back to slavery. 

So we’re not just talking the antebellum South. We’re not talking American history. Slave owners used Christianity to make slaves be better slaves. But that’s ancient history. Well, I want to talk about today. 

Right? Well, even closer to the day, if you look at what happened back during the 1950s and 1960s with the civil rights movement, that was in large part our response to what was going on as far as white supremacy and the south, which was run for the most part by religious people. And so you did have black people and other white progressives who fight against it. But the way I look at it is if it wasn’t for antebellum slavery and there wasn’t for the white supremacy of that time being advocated by the church, I would have never been a need for Martin Luther King or for any other progressive. The fight against it. 

So you’re saying it was really religion that created the environment for all of that to occur? 

Right. In fact, I have an a newsletter called The A.H. Examiner, which comes out quarterly and in a few articles written by a historian from Louisiana named William Syrinx. He pointed out that if you look at Christianity as it was practice in the United States, that for the most part, without Christianity, we might not have even had slavery because what people were doing in slavery times was trying to convert black people to Christianity. And according to them, without Christianity, they couldn’t be slave. They couldn’t have their souls saved. And so if you take out the Christian aspect of it, according to theorists and many of the other scholars that he quotes, there might not have been slavery in the first place. 

Wow. You’re basically blaming slavery in America on Christianity? 

Well, that is pretty much the bottom line, as I say. If you look in the Bible, you can’t help but see exactly how it was condoned. Their slaves obey your slave master, right? You will. 

You’ll see those types of passages in the Fijians in one timothee. I don’t see it all throughout the Old Testament. And people will say that people are taking passages out of context. But the entire context was one rooted not only on slavery, but in patriarchy and the oppression of other peoples. So it’s been a problem for many years. And fortunately, we don’t have that problem today as far as people being literally enslaved. But it does have a legacy. And many of the people who supported slavery in the past now have descendants who might not support slavery, but they still support that white supremacist mentality. 

I want to talk more about the civil rights movement in a moment. But on that last point, yes. Maybe Christianity was used to support the institutions of slavery, but wasn’t it also really beneficial to slaves or after slavery? The black community in general, because of its support, the meaning that religion gives to the black community as it’s experienced, all the travails that’s gone through in history? 

Well, the way I look at it is that you can get a positive out of a negative, but that doesn’t justify the negative. For example, if I burned down your home, I don’t. Thank you to thank me for calling the firemen. 

I mean, I burnt down your home. So I have to be blamed. I have to take accountability for that. So, yes, while there is some positive that came out of the slave experience and some positive attributes that can be attributed to the Christian church still is very problematic. And that there were also a lot of the negative aspects. Look at what happened with the destruction of the black family. You have people who had their children taken away from them, and you can’t really justify that simply by saying that there were some positive aspects. 

Well, you’re not blaming that on Christianity, though. 

Christianity destroy the African-American family, not Christianity, per say, but the institution of slavery that was supported by Christianity that was largely responsible for it. And I have no problem with giving religion is credit where it’s due. As I said earlier, we did have a civil rights movement and there were many progressive and black religions involved with that movement. And you also had back join slavery times, people such as Nat Turner, Gabriel Prosser, Denmark, FEC and various other slave opponents who use Christianity to fight against slavery. 

These were people who were informed by the Christian lead to work against the injustice of slavery. Doesn’t that contradict you? Earlier, you were blaming slavery on Christianity, but you admit now that Christianity helped end it? 

Well, that doesn’t contradict me as an example with Christianity contradicting itself. In fact, if you look at a lot of slaves, many of those slaves literally took those passages condoning slavery as something that they had to take to heart. For example, I mentioned earlier at Denmark thesea, and he was a very well-known slave, a slave rebel. But at the same time, his slave is that rebellion had been crushed because there were a couple slaves, one of them named George, who took it upon themselves to report him to the slave master. And a lot of people look at him as a traitor, which, you know, that’s understandable. But if you look at the Bible, when a Bible says that slaves had to be obedient to their masters, he was trying to be a good Christian. So as a result of him being good Christian, he was pretty much trying to take down those who would have liberated him. And he wasn’t alone. There were many people who took those passages seriously. And if we’re going to blame the people for taking those passages seriously, we have to blame those passages themselves. And so I don’t think you can separate the Bible from as negative as well as positive teachings. So, yes, Christianity helped end slavery. Yes, it helped end slavery, but it wasn’t strictly Christianity. There were also a lot of activists, such as free thinkers who were involved, for example. If you look at John Brown, who was well-known for his raid on Harpers Ferry, John Brown was a Christian minister, but John Brown was not a close minded Christian minister. He had free thinkers, Jews and others involved with them as well. How are you defining freethinker? 

OFF-SCREEN thinker is basically someone who forms his or her opinions about religion based on reason and experience and observation, as opposed to having their beliefs forced upon them by the church or as opposed to having a dogmatic mindset. 

So you’re saying there is a freethinker push, there was a secular or non-religious ethical push to end slavery. 

Right. And you could see that during slavery. But you can also bring it up to more current times with the civil rights movement. Now we look at Martin Luther King and numerous other religions. 

Yeah, these are religious people who played an overwhelmingly positive role in the civil rights movement, informed by their religion. Martin Luther King, a minister. 

Right. And Martin Luther King would be the first to tell you that there were thousands of human is also involved with that movement. Not only union is involved with the movement as far as followers go, but if you look at some of the most influential leaders of that movement, such as James Forman, James Farmer, A. Philip Randolph and numerous others, they were also secular humanist, really. In fact, if you look at James Farmer and A. Philip Randolph, James Farmer, he was heading an organization back during the civil rights movement of the 1960s called CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality. And he was a secular humanist. 

Now, why do you say what he said? He was a secular humanist. 

He didn’t go by that term secular humanist. And you’ll get that with a lot of people within the secular humanist movement. Some of them don’t like that term. Even some that belong to our organization don’t like the term humanist. But I use that as a catchall phrase sometimes for free thinkers, agnostics, atheists like that. 

You mean they’re basically that they’re not religious, but they’re pushing an ethical viewpoint right now. 

What James Farmer, he signed Humanist Manifesto to as long as well as a.. Philip Randolph, who was regarded as the grandfather of the civil rights movement. And these people were a straight up secular humanist and they were involved, but they didn’t feel they had to be religious in order to get involved. And they weren’t alone. There were people who weren’t. Necessarily secular humanist, but they were very close to us, such as Bayard Rustin, who was both gay and they was a Quaker. And if you know anything about the Society of Friends, that’s an extremely liberal religion and always has been. So you have many people from different aspects of the black community involved. You had Muslims involved. And so it wouldn’t be accurate to say it was strictly a religious movement, especially strictly a Christian religious movement. But it was obvious that Christianity had a great deal to do with the success of the movement. 

I want to talk, given your experience in the black community, a leader in the black community. I want your opinion about African-Americans in America. I get the sense now I’m ignorant of the topic. I’m not a sociologist. I’m not a scholar of black studies. But what little I know about the black community, the history, the civil rights movement, the culture of the black community in America, it seems overwhelmingly religious right. 

If you look at the latest polls, most of the latest polls show that between three percent or four percent of African-Americans are nonreligious atheists or agnostics. And some of us don’t really like those numbers. But to me, that seems to be pretty accurate. So for the most part, you do have a very religious group of people among African-Americans. But when you look at the secularists, we also have a secularist aspect of our community which has been extremely influential. And so that can’t be denied. But it has been pretty difficult doing what I’m trying to do, get more African-Americans involved with organized humanism. But there are humanists out there and they do feel very much isolated. And in fact. I just received a phone call today from someone in North Carolina who said that it was just difficult being in the Bible Belt, being an African-American and not being able to work with like minded people. And so I’m trying to get him in touch with other black humanists in his area. And so our numbers are small, but our influence has been great. Not only in the civil rights movement, but as far as intellectual ism goes. And that can’t be denied. 

Do you think that in general the black community is because it’s more religious, it’s more anti science? Let’s just say less interested in what science says about the big questions. I don’t see in the vehicles for transmitting culture in the black community. A lot of focusing on science and the scientific outlook. 

Right. I tend to get that as well. 

For example, back in Abullah, 1994, African-Americans for Humanism issued a statement against creationism and intelligent design and in defense of the teaching of evolution in public schools. And we were the only black organization to to make a statement in that regard. 

Appeared in the Bullecourt Voices for Revolution, put out by the National Center for Science Education in California. And, you know, I sent out copies of that statement to black newspapers and black radio stations throughout the country and nobody picked it up. Now, when I sent out other statements on different issues, I would get the statement picked up by numerous newspapers and radio stations. So. 

Right. You’ve been featured in black papers all across the United States. And Rand appeared widely in media outlets focusing on the black community. But they didn’t focus on the statement about creationists. 

Right? They wouldn’t focus on that statement. However, they did focus on some other statements which would be considered to be greatly controversial. Such is the topic of faith healing. I also wrote an article on the topic of faith healing, and they were very much interested in that. 

You mentioned faith healing. Do you think the black community is more superstitious, more gullible, if that’s not too incendiary, a suggestion more gullible than the population at large? You look at people like Creflo Dollar, his ministries, Benny Hinn, Peter Pop off the old psychic 900 lines. They seem to be preying on the black community. Is that because the black community just swallows it hook, line and sinker much more than the population in general? 

What I could be in fact, there was a recent poll that came out recently is a major study on religion done in the United States, and it showed that black women tend to be much more inclined to believe in something such as astrology than other people. Really. Right. And if you look at, you know, the African-American community, for the most part, we didn’t have much of a chance to do anything without religion. If you look back at through slavery, it was about the only time we could get together. The only time we could get a break was on Sundays. I go to church. And you also had what I consider to be a pathological dependance among many African-Americans on the churches. And so when you look at our entire history in that regard, it’s been difficult. Plus, our education level isn’t as high as other other. In the United States and so I think a whole lot of that comes into play. 

He will get African tradition and history, not just African-American tradition in history. There is a focus on freethinking and native or African religious traditions or more open minded and less reliant on Colomb, the reigning mythologies of the day. There’s a prizing of science and the empirical method. Has all of that been arrested away from the black community because of the church? 

I don’t know. It is kind of difficult to say. But I do note that a lot of the churches, they put too much emphasis upon theology. 

And I spoke earlier about some of the great African-American leaders who are humanists. One of those was WBB Dubois. And Dubois was always critical of the black church because he thought they put too much emphasis on trying to save people’s souls and not enough on being involved in trying to solve problems in the here and now. 

If the church changed in that way, became more conscious, socially, looked at pressing social questions and tried to fix them, would that satisfy you? Would you be fine with religion in the African-American community if it was a little more of this worldly in that way? 

Right. I would. And. And to their credit, some churches are this worldly. Some churches do put a lot of emphasis on progressive politics. They put a lot of emphasis upon getting involved politically. They put emphasis upon trying to feed the hungry and things of that nature. So whenever they have that type of progressive mentality, I don’t have a problem with it, but there are too many. You find a lot of storefront churches all over the black community and a lot of them just don’t focus on things that we need to focus on to help people in the here and now. 

They’re just praise and worship or these big mega ministries like Creflo Dollar, they’re really just moneymaking opportunities for the evangelists, for the ministers, in the opinion of many. I saw Creflo Dollar service. My partner at home hates when I go home after working at the Center for Inquiry all day. I watch televangelism on TV. I’m watching Creflo Dollar few weeks ago and at one part in the service, no exaggeration. People just start coming to his podium and putting money at his feet and he’s elated. Of course, he’s saying praise God for this. And he’s implying in this kind of prosperity gospel way that the more money you give him, the more money God will give you. What kind of effect is that belief have on the black community as people are striving to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and make good in this world? 

It has a very negative effect. In fact, as I alluded earlier to faith healing. And when you look at a faith healing, you find disproportionate number of African-Americans involved in a lot of these faith healing ceremonies. James Randi, the great magician who exposed many faith healers back earlier in the later part of the 20th century, he was amazed at how many African-Americans he would see in the pews or at these various faith healing gatherings. Right. 

Peter Popoff is predominantly on Black Entertainment Television. 

Right. And you’ll also see a lot of them very popular in Africa as well. And so when people skip this notion that if you give us money, not only do they lose their money, but if they happen to be sick, they lose their health as well. Because of all these people, they’re not using that money. Some of these people won’t even use their medicine anymore because they believe so strongly in the power of prayer and the power of healing. And so are these these types of problems to have very real negative effects in the real world. 

It’s not just a matter of differences of opinion, you’re saying. It really has real world effect for the adherents to these mega ministries. So your network of a a H. Groups, African-Americans for humanism groups across the United States, they work to respond to these forces in culture. How many A.H. groups do you have in the U.S.? 

Well, at the moment we don’t have many. We have one group, Center for Inquiry, Harlem and Harlem, New York. We had some others that are really aren’t around anymore. They come and go. Right. It’s it’s a loose organ. Is that a loose organization of about maybe 500 members or so? And we haven’t really had growth in the United States. We haven’t had major growth in the Caribbean. But in Africa, the growth has been absolutely phenomenal. 

All right. I want to talk about this phenomenal growth in the continent of Africa. But before we get to that, I’m just curious why you think there’s not more attention given to humanism in the black community in the United States? 

Well, actually, I’ve been trying to figure that out for the past 17 years, and I don’t know exactly what the answer to that is. 

Well, your guess one day when we were talking was that, look, blacks in America are about a tenth of the population and secular. Are about a tenth of the population, so you’re market for A.H. is one tenth of one tenth of the population. Not a lot of people to reach out to, right? 

That’s true. But I would like to also say that I believe that the message is something that could also be of value to people who even believe in God. I always was attracted to secular humanism even when I was a theist, because I was impressed by the emphasis upon critical thinking, church, state separation and lot of the values that I hold very dear. So even though there are people out there who might not necessarily embrace the secular humanist message in its entirety, there’s still certain aspects of it that I think needs to be put out there. I believe that no matter what your religious persuasion is, church state separation is important. I believe good science teaching is important. I believe it’s important to contend against intelligent design and other pseudoscientific ideas. So I was basically attracted to it because so much of what it had to offer to human beings, whether they’re religious or not. 

So now to talk about Africa over the last five or six years or so, even while there necessarily hasn’t been that much growth of humanism among U.S. blacks, there has been an explosive growth in the continent of Africa. You were talking about that. There are a number of branches of the Center for Inquiry in Africa. 

Right. Others, the Center for Inquiry, for example, in Nigeria, one in Uganda, one in Senegal. 

Now, do these branches do the same thing that the branches in the United States do? 

Yes, they do. And they do have different types of programs, though. A lot of problems that they’re facing we don’t face here. 

For example, female genital mutilation is a huge problem in in in in Africa. Now, there have been some aspects or some instances of people in the United States involved with female genital mutilation. In fact, just last week, there was a man sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking his child from the United States will actually be at the female circumcision here in the United States, I think, with a pair of scissors. 

And so he was sentenced. But after about 2000 people in Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa, who came out protesting in his defense and these are the type of things that they deal with in Africa. 

Female genital mutilation, there’s still witch burning in Nigeria. 

Right. There is still ritual killings, whereas people believe that if you take the origins from a dead person, you can have magical powers. You might be able to improve your health. You might be able to make wealth. And so they’re fighting against things over there that just aren’t really a huge problem here. Like take the problem of left landmines. There are many landmines in African nations that have been left over from previous wars. And you have a humanist groups, they’re fighting to try to have these landmines eliminated or the problem of corporal punishment in schools, which at the Uganda You Miss Association was very instrumental in having a law passed just recently against corporal punishment. So, you know, they’re dealing with a lot of problems that we don’t have to deal with. And it takes a lot of courage for them as well. 

So these branches of the Center for Inquiry in Africa, they’re doing the same thing that we’re doing in the United States insofar as they’re advancing science and reason. They have the same mission. Right. But it plays out in different ways. Right. 

And one different way it plays out is where homophobia is concerned. And the United States, gays, for the most part, don’t have the type of oppressive forces working against them, as you will find in, say, some bob way. 

But even in the United States, would you say that the black community is overwhelmingly anti-gay or at least against the gay agenda? 

I would say that’s probably the case. And it’s not just a matter of gays. 

According to many polls there, there’s also a problem with anti-Semitism, really among African-Americans. And also, you know, a lot of African-Americans tend to have a patriarchal mindset. So it’s difficult. We’re not a woman, especially in the various churches and mosques. 

So you’re talking about homophobia in Africa. Right. 

And it’s really difficult there, because if you look at, say, Zimbabwe, where the president, the president is going to come out and say gays are lower than dogs and pigs. You know, when you have people in that position of power, you couldn’t imagine the president of the United States making such a statement. And so it’s difficult. 

But still, these humanists in Nigeria and Uganda and various other nations are fighting against it. And it takes a lot of courage to do that over there when the entire culture looks upon homosexuality as being something brought by the white man or a remnant of colonialism. And, you know, these types of. These types of. There’s floating around, it’s really difficult to fight against it. 

I want to talk about another issue where I think there is a very obvious clash of cultures between the scientific outlook and the religious worldview in Africa. And that’s when it comes to AIDS education and condom distribution, safe sex education. Why is there such opposition to applying the best scientific knowledge of the day when it comes to preventing HIV AIDS in Africa? 

A lot of that. The problem does come from religious leaders. The Catholic Church, a lot of Protestant churches, the Anglican Church, a lot of those church leaders really do have a backward mentality. And they just believe that by using condoms, you’re promoting sexuality itself. And, you know, that’s that’s a problem. Is a problem in Uganda, for example, with Janet, was that Museveni, who’s the wife of the president, and she has been largely responsible for trying to focus on abstinence only. And that’s a that’s a very unrealistic goal because you have young people in Africa who are just as sexually active as those in the United States or anywhere else. And, you know, these types of religious ideas are making it difficult to get good, comprehensive sex education to the people who need it most. 

And these religious ideas are actually killing people and our centers for inquiry in Africa. Do they respond with public awareness campaigns and safe sex education campaigns? 

Right of fact, in Uganda, there’s an organization called the Ugandan Humanist Effort to Save Women. And it’s an all woman’s organization for a woman between the ages of 18 and 35. And they’re actively going out talking to prostitutes, handing out condoms, trying to steer them toward programs where they can better themselves through education and through a job training. And so they’re out there. And you also have some of the leaders there who have been at the media writing newspaper articles, speaking on a topic on BBC radio and numerous other media outlets. So they’re out there doing what they can to combat a lot of these superstitious ideas which have been holding back the continent for so many years. 

You’ve been to the continent a number of times, how many times you’ve been there for. And each time you go, you don’t just fly in and give a talk and leave, but you visit with dozens of groups all over the continent and in many countries. There’s been a lot of growth and this surprised us when it happened and when it started happening on African campuses, college campuses. Why so much explosive growth on the campuses? I remember, you know, we sent a couple boxes of educational promotion materials. This is a few years ago. And we got back pictures of many events that they put on and universities. I think this was in Nigeria, people holding up the materials CFI provided. This was before we had a network of branches in Africa. There’s such enthusiasm. 

Right. And if you look at Africa, it’s really unique because I don’t know of any other country or continent where most of the organized humanists are young people, both them come straight out the college campuses, and they’re just, you know, looking for something new over there. And I think a lot of it has to do with the Internet prior to the Internet. A lot of people didn’t get this type of information right. 

That’s where they found out about us. They get to Campus Enquirer dot org. We have a number of listeners at point of inquiry in Africa. If you were in Africa listening to point of inquiry, get to Campus Enquirer dot org and avail yourselves of some of these free educational and promotion materials. Help us spread humanism in Africa. Go on. 

But it is it was interesting. The last time I was in Nigeria, which was in June of this year, we had a nice conference and quite a few people were there. They were very excited about the conference. And afterward there were about two or three different humanist groups. It just started up there on the campus at the university. We we went to Lagos. We had to attend this seminar on humanism. About 70 or so student showed up and they went those yardstick and afterword. About 20 of them decided to form a group right there on that campus. And so it’s just phenomenal in Africa that they really are looking for something new. They’re really excited about it. And you just give them a great idea and they’re ready to take off with it. 

And we’ve brought a number of African humanist and skeptic leaders here to New York for summer sessions and training, leadership training, and you’re regularly in contact with them as we grow our efforts for science and reason in the continent. Before we finish up, I want to ask you a question about James Farmer. You mentioned how he was, if not in the closet, about his secularism, his humanism, his skepticism. He, at the very least, didn’t broadcast it. It didn’t make a big deal out of it. Consequently. He worked very closely with religionists to advance his social agenda, this progressive agenda. Do you think that organized humanism put that in quotes because it’s not very organized? We’re working on that. Do you think organized humanism can learn something from James Farmer in that way, or is there a danger reaching out to liberal religionists? Does that muddy the waters too much about secularism vs. religion? 

I don’t think of muddies the waters. There are numerous organizations dedicated to church state separation, which are led by religious people. I think that we have to reach out to liberals. In fact, if you even go back before James Farmer to A.. Philip Randolph, A. Philip Randolph, he hated the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and he was one of the best labor leaders in the history of the United States. When he started out, he was openly atheistic. He was highly critical of the church, is highly critical of religion. But he saw he couldn’t really organize that way because too often they had to depend upon the progressive religions of the day. And so as he went on, he decided to put that on a backburner for the most part and just try to focus on building a labor movement, fighting for civil rights. So that’s what we have to do. We have to work with religion. As you know, as I say, I’ve worked with the king was a religious person, but he worked with humans and had no problem with that. And I think that if we don’t work with religion, this our numbers are so small, there’s only so far we can go. So I don’t have a problem with working with religion, those who are in our camp. 

If someone listening to a show gets as fired up as I do about this explosive growth in Africa or feels as concerned as you are about the African-American community to the black community in the U.S. and the need for advancing science and reason within it. Well, what can they do? Aside from getting your book, which I’d like to let our listeners know can be purchased through our website point of inquiry, dawg. Well, what else can they do, Norm? How can they advance this point of view, the secular humanist, the skeptic point of view among black people around the world? 

Well, they can become involved with the organization. They can email me if they like, at in Allen at Center for Inquiry Dot Net. They can visit our Web site as secular humanism dot org. They can get in touch with me. And if they’re interested in starting groups, I can help them to do that. And we can always use more support. We can use books, we can use money, we can use whatever people are willing to help out, because it’s really amazing what’s going on in Africa. And that you have people who really don’t have much. But it’s rain. And and that stream is really eye catching on that they’re really enthusiastic about it and they have really big goals and they’re trying to do something to affect society. So what people can do as us get in touch with us, support us in any way they can support us financially. We can always choose books because we have libraries over there now, humanist libraries. 

We’ve sent thousands of books over. But you’re requesting donations of books and we will mail them to our groups throughout Africa. 

Right. And so, you know, if they have magazines of interest, they can mail those as well. And so, yes, it’s just something that I think needs to be known that we’re not strictly a religious people. We do have a secular side and it’s growing more and more. And I think as more and more people get a chance to look on various Web sites and find out about it, they’ll be open to the message, I believe. They just don’t know there’s an alternative out there. And contrary to what people say, secular humanist do not own the media. You know, if we control the media, this wouldn’t be a problem. This wouldn’t be an issue. We would be talking about it now. But there are people out there are interested. So for those in arrested, you feel free to contact me and I’ll be happy to put them in contact with other people. And we’ll do what we can to keep trying to spread a good word, a secular humanism. 

Thanks very much for joining me, Norm. Thanks for having me. 

You’ve seen the headlines, Bill seeks to protect students from liberal bias. The right time for an Islamic reformation. Kansas School Board redefined science. These stories sum up the immense challenge facing those of us who defend rational thinking, science and secular values. One adviser to the Bush administration dismissed as the reality based community who could have imagined that reality would need defenders. The educational and advocacy work of the Center for Inquiry is more essential than ever. And your support is more essential than ever. Show your commitment to science, reason and secular values by becoming a friend of the center today. Whether you are interested in the work of psychology and skeptical Inquirer magazine, the Council for Secular Humanism and Free Inquiry magazine, the Commission for Scientific Medicine or Center for Inquiry on Campus. By becoming a friend of the center, you’ll help strengthen our impact. If you’re just learning about CFI, take a look at our Web site. W w w dot center for inquiry dot net. We hosted regional and international conferences, college courses and nationwide campus outreach. You’ll also find out about our new representation at the United Nations, an important national media appearances. We cannot pursue these projects without your help. Please become a friend of the center today by calling one 800 eight one eight seven zero seven one or visiting WW w dot center for inquiry dot net. We look forward to working with you to enlarge the reality based community. 

Thanks for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry. Join us next week for another discussion about these kinds of issues to get involved with an online conversation about today’s episode with Norm Allen. Go to CFI dash forums. Dot org views expressed on point of inquiry don’t necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Inquiry, nor its affiliated organizations. Questions or comments on today’s show can be sent to feedback at point of inquiry dot org or by visiting our Web site. Point of inquiry dot org. 

Point of inquiry is produced by Thomas Donnelly and recorded at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York. Executive producer is Paul Kurtz. Point of Inquiries Inquiry’s music is composed for us by Emmy Award winning Michael Dwalin. Contributors to today’s show included Sarah Jordan and Debbie Goddard. I’m your host DJ Grothe. 

DJ Grothe

D.J. Grothe is on the Board of Directors for the Institute for Science and Human Values, and is a speaker on various topics that touch on the intersection of education, science and belief. He was once the president of the James Randi Educational Foundation and was former Director of Outreach Programs for the Center for Inquiry and associate editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He previously hosted the weekly radio show and podcast Point of Inquiry, exploring the implications of the scientific outlook with leading thinkers.