Norm Allen – African American Religiosity, Humanism, and Politics

March 14, 2008

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 wide-ranging discussion with D.J. Grothe, Norm Allen explores some of the challenges advancing science and secularism within the African American community. He examines the pressure to conform to the religious ideal among various black skeptics and atheists, including many historical African American figures such as Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Nella Larsen, and Faye Wattleton, former president of Planned Parenthood of America. He debates whether religion is a liberating or oppressive force for African Americans. He also details many anti-science trends in the Black community, including those coming from Black entertainment outlets promoting anti-science such as psychic 900 lines, televangelists and belief in prophecy. He ties all of this discussion to an exploration of religion and secularism as they relate to political activism, including the influence of such high-profile Black preachers such as Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Senator Barack Obama’s spiritual advisor.