a Negro infidel quest for freedom, justice and equality

Get Up Off Your Knees. Go Home. Organize.

In Uncategorized on September 21, 2010 at 11:37 am

“James Baldwin, arguably America’s greatest black writer, was a popular Pentecostal preacher in Harlem at age 14 – but at 17 he renounced religion as a sham.”

“James Baldwin recounted his growing cynicism about spreading “the gospel.” Lamenting the grip of religion on poor blacks, Baldwin said, “When I faced a congregation, it began to take all the strength I had not to…tell them to throw away their Bibles and get off their knees and go home and organize.”

In Baldwin’s view, organized religion’s requirement that believers suspend disbelief and submit to “God’s will” is a liability for working class African Americans. Religious dogma anesthetizes as it bonds, a dangerous combination in an era in which the proliferation of storefront churches in urban black communities is a symptom of economic underdevelopment.

“Baldwin wrote that he might have remained in the church if “there was any loving-kindness to be found in the haven I represented.” But he finally concluded that “there was no love in the church. It was a mask for hatred and self-hatred and despair.” So his religion ended.

Years later, he visited Black Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad and concluded that Elijah’s “revelations” about Satan creating “white devils” were just as irrational as Christian beliefs.”

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