Interview with Black atheist author Donald Wright

Donald Wright is a Houston-based freethought activist and the author of The Only Prayer I’ll Ever Pray: Let My People Go.In recognition of the seminal yet historically overlooked impact of black freethought traditions, he has proposed the fourth Sunday in February (February 27) as a "Day of Solidarity" for African American freethinkers, humanists, and atheists.

You were once a deacon and devoted member of your church. What was the catalyst for your journey to non-theism?

If I include being born into a Christian family, I have over 50 years of experience of being involved in religion. My parents and sisters were active members of a Christian church so I followed in their footsteps. Aside from the five years of college, which I did continue attending church especially since I wanted to maintain a relationship with my church going college sweetheart, I had been an active and devoted church member until September 2006. My church activities included: Sunday school, choir, usher, youth groups, fundraising committees, co-leader with my wife of new members’ orientation, and being a deacon.

To describe the catalyst for my journey to non-theism, I must provide some background information that represents my church/religious experiences. There is not a shortage of malfeasance among black church pastors and leaders. The claim against Eddie Long in Atlanta, Georgia, is a well publicized example. Describe it as naïve, but I expected pastors, men called by God, to be of higher character and dedication to the instructions of the Bible. Not that they don’t exist, but I had not been a member of a church with a female pastor so pardon my gender reference. I assumed that the God-calling provided a spiritual strength, humility, and godly insight that was unavailable to normal everyday Christians. A pastor’s inappropriate behavior was very disturbing to me and it was amplified when he lacked a display of remorse. To add to my discomfort, majority of the members were too tolerable and readily to forgive. I can’t count the number of times I heard “the pastor is just a man” as a reason to not demand accountability. Most pastors are arrogant and demand a stature position that requires hero worship and most members in black churches accommodate.

I was a member of this pre-dominantly black mega-church in Houston for 19 years. It was the church where I was a deacon. In 2003, the pastor’s involvement in a homosexual scandal was exposed. It found its way into the local and national media. The pastor was portraying a happy heterosexual marriage. This was devastating to the membership. A special meeting was held to determine his fate. The membership voted and by a small margin, the majority preferred him to remain as pastor with the condition that he would agree to counseling.

Our family was not alone in leaving...


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Comment by John Camilli on February 23, 2011 at 4:39pm

I am in support of freethought and equality amongst all peoples, but I think a large part of the reason that people like Wright get overlooked is because ethnicities insist on distinguishing themselves as separate. He is not a black free thinker: he just a free thinker.


Think of someone like Gandhi or Mandela. Gandhi-ji worked toward the liberation of his native people, but he didn't insist on the distinction that because they are Indian they deserve rights, he just wanted them to have their rights because they are people. Same with Mandela: he wanted equality, not just greater rights for black people in South Africa. I'd bet Wright is the same kind of person - I noticed that he took time to explain his use of male terminology, so that women would not feel left out from his message either. If he is a true activist for freedom, then he is a proponent of freedom and equality for all people, not just blacks, and he would probably get greater recognition for his efforts if his message weren't getting lost in the anger and vindication of people who claim to be following his example. Stop trying to distinguish him as a black freethinker and more people who aren't black will pay attention to what he says. As soon as you make that distinction, every other ethnicities thinks 'Oh, well that message isn't for me.' Just a thought.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on February 23, 2011 at 10:49am
How to come through, Sikivu



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