Interview: Mandisa Thomas of Black Nonbelievers


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Black Nonbelievers:

Women of Color Beyond Belief 2022!:

S3E25 TRANSCRIPT:----more----

Mark: Welcome back to The Wonder: Science-Based Paganism. I am one of your hosts, Mark. And today we are really excited because we have an interview with Mandisa Thomas of the non-profit group, Black Nonbelievers, and we expect to have a really interesting, exciting conversation about the intersectionality of atheism with, black indigenous and people of color and all of the, the unique situations and challenges that go with that.

So welcome Mandisa.

Mandisa Thomas: Hi, thank you both for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

Yucca: Thank you for coming.

Mark: Yeah, we're delighted.

Yucca: Do we maybe wanna just start with, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and about Black Nonbelievers and.

Mandisa Thomas: Absolutely. So I am a New York city native born and raised. I have lived in the Atlanta Georgia area since I was 21, which is over half my life. And I wasn't formally raised religious. I wasn't indoctrinated into a Christian or a formally religious household. However, my upbringing consisted of many of to various religions and, and mythology and folklore.

So it was early in my years that sort of had a peripheral, experience with However, it was enough for me to conclude that it just really wasn't for me. My mother made a conscious decision. Not to raise my brothers and I in the church. And my father who raised in the church really, really hated it.

he just did not get anything out of it. So realized that experience is of an anomaly, especially coming from black communities. But as the years went on and my family and I relocated to Georgia where a most common question is, what church do you go to? And realizing really just coming to terms with my atheism and my humanism.

I wanted to seek out community and I found that it was very lacking for people of color. In the Atlanta area in like in person community. And so while I did connect other local groups, it became very important or apparent that a group for that, that helped bring out black atheists, more black folks who were questioning and doubting their religious beliefs.

It became apparent that it was necessary. So in 2011 the group called black nonbelievers was formed, but then we, it turned into an organization simply titled black nonbelievers in 2011. And later that year in November. And we have been going strong since then more sub substantive community and support for blacks and allies and other people of color.

Who are living free of religion, who are questioning those beliefs if they were believing. also who need to know that there are others who can identify and as an organization, also work on diversity equity and inclusion efforts along with other organiz. And I really take from my upbringing.

When I take my approach comes from upbringing growing up, seeing religion, learning about how the church in particular in Christianity was very much a catalyst for white supremacy, racism, as well as the subjugation of people of color, but understanding that the church, the black church in particular.

Really played a strong role in those communities.

Yucca: Mmm.

Mandisa Thomas: it is very, very paradoxical in that way. And having been a student of black history in particular I know that the church and Christianity does not totally define black communities. and that it shouldn't be seen as an anomaly in any way.

And also to help normalize atheism and what it means to be an atheist, that stigma also helping others who are coming to terms with that and, and letting them know that there is, there is support out there for.

Mark: for you. That's such important work. We, we contend as, as atheists, we contend much with the stereotype of, the kind of snotty white guy the argumentative snotty white guy. Who's gonna tell you how it is. And that doesn't reflect well on any of us. It's so harmful and it's so uninclusive, it, it doesn't make room for, for the diversity of people that's actually out there.

Are the goals of black? Non-believers sure.

Mandisa Thomas: So, and, and let me just say that there will absolutely be times where. We, we can't be as tactful as we want to be when it comes to engaging religious folks, because the stigma of atheism is still so very, is still so very strong that sometimes we have to defend ourselves and sometimes we have to call out.

That, that Christian nationalism, especially as we see the rise of white Christian nationalism rare is, and it is rearing its ugly head. We really do have to say those things. However, it doesn't always have to be condescending. It doesn't have to be a dismissive of what other marginalized communities go through.

And that, with that being said, the mission of black non-believers and our goals. Are there, there we have multiple missions and multiple goals. So first and foremost, we provide and, and cultivate a very safe, informative, friendly community where people will feel, like, it's not just simply about many books we've read and how much we know, but how we can communicate and support each other.

also we do try to encourage, open identification as a nonbeliever and openly advocating for our voice openly advocating for our rights and openly stand openly openly sharing what we stand for. And we also, and we encourage pride in those identities. There's nothing shameful about being a nonbeliever.

nothing shameful about being an atheist humanist, however you choose to identify and what we also encourage people to stand on those identities on an informed basis. So, and then we also educate about the history of atheism and humanism. In black communities, which there is, is a history, even though it is, it still isn't as well known as it should be. There have always been black folks with question religion who've rejected the concepts of God on the principles of Christianity, as well as what we see in like, like in the public, in the public sphere.

Mark: mm-hmm sure.

Mandisa Thomas: And we also are an organization that organizes we, we organize our own events.

do also, we, we also do charitable initiatives and we also partner with other organizations on, on projects that benefit all communities. So we do a lot. pretty much do a lot. We are very, very proactive and on the ground as an organization. So, and we take on many components, like education, networking, community, and support.

and those are all very, very important to us.

Yucca: Hmm.

Mark: That sounds like a lot. And it sounds so important. I mean, especially in the deep south, it's just incredible that you're doing that work. I, I, I just wanna thank you for, for taking that on and, taking that role on that's that's. Incredible.

Mandisa Thomas: Thank you.

Mark: what do you see as the top priority issues facing black non-believers and, and your community?

Yeah, mm-hmm

Mandisa Thomas: Um, let's so of course, now we are seeing what's going on in the media. We are seeing, mass shootings, we are seeing gutting of reproductive rights here in the United States, those issues directly and disproportionately. Impact black communities, especially black women and other women of color to deny a re abortion access to deny access to birth control.

But yet we are still dealing with these racist stigmas of, well, these black folks are less than or inferior too. We we also see a lot of these conservative Christians and also some conservative athe. Who, thumb their nose and who and, and, and ignorantly dismiss critical race theory.

They are very uninformed about that. And they're they're, they're, they're getting up in arms in it without even really understanding what it And they falsely paint this picture that we're just teaching white people to hate themselves which isn't true. And so those are when it comes to directly issues that directly impact, black communities in particular and, and, and the black non-religious demographic, all of these things are a result of Christian, nationalism Christianity roots and racism and white supremacy.

And people don't even realize it because how you perceive. lot of people of color to be, and you're going by the stereotypes. It's, can be, it can be very easy or even subconsciously play a huge impact on how you engage people of color. And also how much do you care about our, about the issues that we. and whether it is steeped in, white saviorism or this idea of elitism it also plays a huge part. So, we, we have people, we, we deal with folks who wanna get involved or they say that they care about these things, but then either still aren't ready to listen to those of us who are doing this work and who are experiencing.

Or they are very reluctant to support our efforts and, and, and the work that we do, because we certainly have just never waited for these issues to resolve themselves. look back to the civil rights movement. can look back to the suffrage movement. We can even look back to the feminist movement in which there were many black women with that, even though their voices tend to be overlooked.

So we can look to many of these, of these movements here and, and, and see that never just stood by and engaged in suffering, at least for the most part. However, we still do. We still do encounter a lot of Christians and others who think that God is just going to resolve this problem. And it's like, well, if God didn't resolve it during slavery.

And also if you look in the Bible, says that the, which condos slavery, which was the there, there comes. There, there, there lies a very important question about what it means for liberation, which does include the elephant in the room conversation about religion and how it has impacted black communities.

So there are a number of, there are a multitude. of things that we face and and, getting people to understand that church separation activism does and should also include people of color go through how it, it, how it shows us how white supremacy shows itself and an evangelicalism shows itself in the way law enforcement interacts with black communities and people of color.

How, how, when we talk about the wealth gap, we talk about health disparities, all of these things intersect, it goes simply beyond people wanting to pray in schools or, these things, these things have impacted us institutionally and trying to get more people to understand how all of these things and how they also impact all of.

Disproportionately. So there's a level of education and information that sometimes that many times falls on deaf ears, which can be very, very frustrating. And it's also seen as if our voices are invalid and we often sound like broken records. People ask about how we can recruit. You know how we can recruit more people of color, more young people, more women.

thankfully that's changing in the community. That really is, we are seeing a lot more people of color, women of color getting involved. a lot of student activism and also there is a fundamental approach being taken what it means to be hands on and on the ground when it comes to our activism community building. Part of the, what part of the problems though, is that so many people have been indoctrinated by that That they tend to forget that community organizations still need support none of us are trying raise funds simply for our own gain or, or I wouldn't say everyone, but most of us in this because we do care about what, what is going on.

We, we care about what people go through and that does warrant a a significant amount of support. I mean, this position for me is still volunteer. But we still do the things the resources that we, that we have, because they're important. So I'm sorry if that went a little too long, it's just, we know we have a lot, it's a lot to, so many things to do.

Mark: I should say well, on the topic of fundraising, we will put a link to black non-believers in the podcast notes we encourage our listeners to contribute and we will also be contributing to black non-believers as well. as the society. So, definitely a very worthy cause. And as somebody who's worked in the nonprofit sector for 35 years, you, there are limits to what you can do without money.

You, you need money in order to achieve your mission. So, I really encourage people to support,

Mandisa Thomas: Thank you so very much.

Yucca: Well, actually we've got a lot more things to talk about, but I wanted to circle back around to something that you had mentioned at the beginning. And you said, moving to the Atlanta area, one of the first questions you get is, okay, well, what church, what church do you go to?

And how. How do you answer that? And how do you encourage people who are just coming into the community who are uncomfortable with, with admitting that, that they aren't believers? Because there's a lot of shame around all of that in a.

Mandisa Thomas: So that has been a challenge over the years. I remember when I was first asked it was by a my, my former hairstylist. And I was caught off guard because I was not expecting that question. And I think I might have said, well, I don't really go to church. That's not really a thing, that I do.

I didn't outright say I was an atheist or nonbeliever because at that time wasn't really sure of where I stood.

I do. I think I do tend to tell people about that. Yeah. I don't go to church. And, I've had like the from other folks, particularly black women who, when I say that they, they respond well, he look so familiar and church is where I spend all my time and I'm like, yikes.

that may not necessarily be a good thing. I do remember one person inviting me to world changers ministries, which is which to lead evangelist there is Creflo dollar. And he's, he's very, very, I mean, he has a huge mega complex, not too far. It's right up the street from where I live and There are so many, I mean, a few years ago, he, there was a video that he made where if you don't pay your ties, you should get shot. He has recently recanted that statement saying that he was wrong for yes. Yes he has. Since recanted. This was also, if you can recall, this is also the, the, the, the one who. Needed a new private jet. And so his board, or, the, the church created a GoFundMe to try to finance that. And there was so much ridicule behind that, that I think they just ended up approving it to get him a new private jet, to, to, to travel across the world, to do his ministries. And I thought, wow, it is it is a shame these, these guys are, or these people are able to generate that much in revenue that they can actually afford to live well beyond the means of the people of their parishioners and the people who support them. it is just, it is astounding how much the prosperity gospel has taken off and actually affected.

People it is just, it is, it, it, I wouldn't even say it's astounding. It's disgusting and far be it from me to denounce anyone who wants to make a better living for themselves. But how can people who are already at a disadvantage that for themselves, if they are just constantly giving to their church, or if they're giving their last penny or dollar to their churches.

Which there are many of them that who, who have, who have encouraged that type of giving. And it's like, wow, how can we better? How can we help people in communities to help themselves? When there is a mentality of the more you give, the more your blessings will come. But the only one who is being blessed is the person in charge.

Mark: Right, right, right. Yeah. Boy, that's just a whole huge can of worms. We could talk about the whole hour just by itself. But I, I so completely agree. I mean, Christianity, especially evangelical Christianity is so exploitative it exploits people's prejudices, it exploits people's anger and their resentment and their want.

And. And their fear of those who aren't like them. It's, it's just, it's just a really sad thing to see. And especially living in a culture where you're kind of to go to a church that must be super challenging. On a, just on a day to day basis, as you meet people, Our community the non FIAs pagan community.

And just to explain that in a super tiny teacup we are rationalists we're we're naturalists, meaning, we, we believe in what science tells us about the world. We don't believe in the supernatural or gods or spirits or any of that kind of stuff, but we do Revere the earth as sacred because it's what keeps us alive.

And it's where we came. So we celebrate holidays in honor of the turning of the seasons and so forth, but it's a very non supernatural kind of religious

Mandisa Thomas: mm-hmm

Mark: Our community contains a lot of former Christians, especially evangelicals, NX, Mormons, and also a lot of former how do you support your communities?

Folks as they're going through their deconstruction. . And how would you say that their experience may be different than say white deconstructionists

Mandisa Thomas: So many of we have very, a lot of members and, and a lot of our A lot of our members are former like Jehovah's witnesses. That, that cult very much has impacted a number of people, black and white. But definitely a huge of, of the black community. So we tend to be a very we, we do, we love celebrations.

We love holidays.

And we also try to educate. Folks on the origins of holidays, or we encourage people to educate themselves. Like for those who think Halloween is evil, it was a pagan holiday. Of course the church villainized it the, the holiday of Christmas, which was originally Saturn, Alia was not a religious holiday.

And so anything that we can do to bring people together, especially around food, music, any of those things is always good. And the one thing I can say is that having been and raised explicitly specifically in the black community is good for us. To we don't have to reinvent certain wheels because a lot of things that a lot of black folks do are secular.

Anyway, just don't realize it and it may be hard to separate the idea of, church or religion, but it isn't, it actually isn't as hard to do as people think it is. So I take a lot of what I learned. And, and speaking of like science and the scientific method, it is important to understand that, practitioners of the scientific method not always been genuine, there has been scientific racism at one time,

Mark: Oh, you

Mandisa Thomas: people use science justify or to say that blacks were inferior, that we have bigger, that we have bigger brains and therefore not smart.

So there was a lot of racist. There were a lot of racist practices had nothing to do well, or which had very little to do with religion at all. With, with religion, there may have been some, a lot, some byproducts of definitely white supremacy in that, but it's important for us as a community to acknowledge and be honest about that.

And also that, the scientific method is never 100%, AB it's not absolute. But what's important is the, the methodology, it it's the, the hypothesis, the testing, and then the conclusions. And if the conclusion calls for, for a different result, then what was originally intended, then you either go back to the drawing board or, and, and that, that's what I love about it.

It, you can, it can show itself to be about things. Unlike religion or unlike believe in God, right? God.

Yucca: self corrective.

Mandisa Thomas: Right, right. God is everything, even though we can't see, even though we can't hear, even though we can't, we, we just know because we know, and it's like, that is, that is not sufficient of, of a re that is not a sufficient enough reason to, to disbelieve and believe blindly.

But I, I think definitely and, and we, we have, we unpack that as an organization and as a community to just, having to unpack those, those those institutional race, institutional racism and injustice

Mark: good.

Mandisa Thomas: that has, that has very, very much impacted all of. So that is another layer that we find that many non people of color have never had to think about.

Now. Certainly have been a lot of, there are a lot of white atheists who experience economic disparities. But I mean, it, the thing is that what's important to know is that you will never, ever simply be judged based on your skin color, at least you don't have to have societal or institutional factors impact you because of your skin color

Yucca: Yeah.

Mandisa Thomas: And this is important for, for, for people to understand when it comes to public perceptions, stigmas, of those things, and it also makes it much more of a challenge. because to be seen as being black and atheist is to be seen as rejecting the black how can you reject the very thing that got us through all of these evils, all of these ills in the world, which it hasn't because we're still seeing things that are taking place affect our communities.

And so, really getting people to. Understand that. And also just because of the still very high numbers in black communities, the very high numbers of, of, of religious people. It does make it a challenge for folks to find each other. And when you walk into a room of atheists and humanists, Most of the times they are gonna be white.

Most of the times they will be male. of the time they may be speaking on things that aren't necessarily relatable, even though the information can be good. It may not necessarily be relatable to some of the people who are looking to seek community as well as support. And so. That is that tho that is a, those are some challenges that we have to deal with as well. How do we, as a community that is on the ground and who directly relates to the black community, how do we, and also, how do we get folks to better understand that you don't necessarily have to come in and simply try to.

You don't have to overcompensate for the fact that you're not black, but simply supporting and listening to, to our listening to us is gonna be extremely important.

Yucca: one of the things for within our, within our community atheopagan or non Theus pagan community we really strive to welcome all comers, but. We're already coming from this predominantly white atheist communities.

We often really struggle bringing or attracting and making it feel welcome to members who are from other communities than just the white atheist or the white pagan communities. I know this is something that probably is, asked over and over again. But do you have any thoughts about, how we should proceed or how to make a community more attractive in a more safe space?

Mandisa Thomas: So what I find. Is happening is a number of things. So I know that there are so many people who mean well and would love to genuinely connect with other people of color. However, what, when we, when the issues that we face are directly discussed, we find that times it's not, not being discussed.

and when they're brought to the table, often dismissed. Also what's happening is that the leadership in many of these organizations are so predominantly white and also their policies dictate that, certain issues may or, or, or the programming it's like, well, you may or may not be appealing to, people from diverse backgrounds and ethnic.

And that's going to be important to incorporate, if you are being told or if you are, and, and also your imagery, if everything only represents a, an, it represents an overwhelmingly an overwhelmingly majority of people without any forethought as to what you are presenting, even in your, your, your marketing.

That can be a challenge as well. Of course you don't want to mislead people. However, it is important to encourage and incorporate incorporate the voices. Of people of color in your leadership does that necessarily mean that and, and does that mean they should be the ones responsible for solving those diversity problems?

No. And that's another problem. That's another challenge is that that is often solely on the backs of people of color to resolve an issue that has, like I said, been institutional, which means that has been taking place for a very long time. and then it's expected to be resolved in a shorter amount of time, which means that's a setup for failure.

So we have to, we have to cultivate an environment yeah, an environment of change and also doing things and seeing what, what has been, what has been done before, what is, or isn't working. including people and having people in your leadership that aren't afraid to try new things that will, that that is also very important.

Also how you engage the general public,

Yucca: Right.

Mandisa Thomas: which may not necessarily go over well with everyone at the time, but it's important to do it you never know you put yourself out there. And I know a lot of people are diverse. They are. To what they would be, what they would consider evangelizing or proselytizing, because that's what we got from religious communities.

However, it is important for us to put ourselves out there, even for those, especially for those who didn't know that our organizations and groups existed, but so that they can also be a part of it. And definitely. Retaining a community that people don't just come one time and then don't come back. Those, and, and those take on a, a variety of activities.

I, I think that many groups can benefit from incorporating more social events and and not just social, but also getting involved and, and know, and collaborating organizations that that uphold or that, that share our values

Mark: Mm-hmm.

Mandisa Thomas: many of us as atheist, humanists, pagans of us champion reproductive justice, many of us cha we, we champion racial justice, justice, even environmental justice, which is also.

For many people that, you know, or that intersects with racism, that intersects that intersects with economic injustice. So, and also really caring, genuinely caring about uplifting the voices and amplifying the voices of those who have been further marginalized. And again, not just as one time efforts.

It's gonna take a lot of work. It can be very, very difficult. And you also wanna make sure that you are not once again, not inundating that one loan or maybe very few people of color to, to just, to just be at the forefront of changing the community, it's gonna take everyone there. It's also, it is also going to take being mindful of how, previous members or current members.

Are engaging in treating new people. Because if they say something that is off putting then the other, the other people may not come back and there's also an accountability piece there. We can't just say that it mean it, or, there's a, there's a, there's an age gap there. People need to be held responsible the things that they do.

There is there's, it is good to redirect and try some correction for, not the church. We, we, we can't just try to sweep that under the rug and it's important to be honest. And, and I will just speak for myself when I say that don't like doing the guilt and shame thing, or I don't intentionally do that, I do, I, I do point out the challenges as well as solutions possible solutions, because this is something that we can all learn from because mistakes happen.

When you come out of, when you come outta religious indoctrination, you realize how much you really didn't know and how much you realize that are responsible for when you say certain things and do certain things. If you can't just hide that behind religion. So, understanding that accountability is a, and, and really correcting ourselves a lifelong process.

And just even admitting, okay, well, I didn't know this before. I am going to do better, listening, and also doing have been my main principles for, for this. And there are so many other groups that could benefit.

Yucca: Wow. Yeah. Thank you. There there's so much in that. I'm gonna be re-listening to, to everything you just said there. One of the things that I really appreciate you pointing out is the. took a really long time for us to get to where we are here and it's not gonna be a quick, it's not a flip a switch, right.

We're not gonna just fix everything just because, we have the intention to, there's so much to unpack and, and, just figure out what's going on. And that it's gonna take a long time to fix as well. And as long as we keep working at it and being consistent at working at it and not just thinking, oh, it's done.

Mandisa Thomas: Right, right.

Mark: I think of it kind of like way trails get built in parks or, or roads, even to cities, you just, somebody goes and then somebody else goes and then somebody else goes, and pretty soon there's a Warren trail, but we want to go somewhere else. And it's gonna take a while to wear a trail to the new place.

we wanna arrive. We wanna arrive in a different location and that means we're going, and it's gonna take some Bush whacking for a while before we, it, before it becomes easier for us to be on this, on this better path. Mm-hmm

Mandisa Thomas: also what's important is that, it's important to understand that these things know, just like rose, they, they need, they need repair. Do they? They need it's, they need maintenance. You don't just build it and then just let it, crumble. You have to put resources into it to keep it going. And it, it takes not just one person or one entity to do that. It takes many it takes many things to do so. And you also don't ignore the people on the ground doing it, the person who, it. And the per and everyone from the person actually doing the work to maintain it.

And those are often the ones who are overlooked the workers on the ground.

Mark: Right,

Mandisa Thomas: So I love that. I love that comparison, and I love that correlation because are so many things that can be taken from that. And that we can learn as a community many, many of us pride ourselves on our intelligence and our intellectual capabilities. But what about improving on our practical skills? How are we engaging? How are we, how are we directly resolving the problems and not just simply talking about them or simply reading about them.

Mark: That's a great question. Yeah. Thank you. I'm, skip down to our last question, cuz I think we already covered of the stuff in the rest of the questions that I had there and that is we as a community and we, we have this enshrined in our documents and in our policy positions and all that kind of stuff.

We are. deliberately antiracist anti homophobic, anti transphobic, inclusive community. And you think of ways that we can work together to advance free thought and to create a broader community?

Mandisa Thomas: first it is going to take for us to, or many to realize how they have been subconsciously impacted by racism and privilege, and also white supremacy, because often it's not as overt. Well, certain cases, it is still very, very overt. We can look at the January 6th shooting in 2021 or, or the insurrection.

We can look to the ma the recent mass shootings. We can look to a number of things where we blatantly see white supremacy and racism, but oftentimes it is more

Mark: Mm-hmm

Mandisa Thomas: Um, it, it comes, you, you see it in microaggressions and certain things that are being said people and that is where it is going to count.

And that free thought and that, and that, that evidence based premise doesn't just simply stop with with religion or it doesn't, it doesn't simply stop there. There are other things that we question, but not to the point where are simply skeptical of everything but. Having an approach to, I said, anti-racism a diversity, equity and inclusion of what that looks like supporting the organizations, the grassroots organizations, doing that, doing this work directly.

And how to do that without a sense of privilege or this idea that somehow you must absolutely be involved in every aspect. And just throwing your weight around learning how to take a step back and let the people support, support those who are doing this work in specific without, without centering yourself, we talk about decenting whiteness and de decolonizing, These, and, and also getting away from these Eurocentric ideals of what atheism and humanism are and learning more about perhaps more indigenous people.

what practices and, and, and practices that, that are along the lines of humanism, because many of them are learning more about those. and getting out of that comfort zone, , that's what it's gonna take as well. Because there are, and, and, and when, like I said, we're a community that prides ourselves on when we leave religion behind and to build supportive communities.

That's a huge part of it is, is learning more. And Perhaps sitting with some things that you weren't necessarily prepared to hear and could, can be uncomfortable, but that if you are willing to put in the work it is possible. It, it, it is possible. You can accomplish it.

Mark: Mm. Great. Great. Thank you. at, at this point, do you have questions for us about our community or our approach to things or for us personally, or any of those kinds of things? Mendi? So.

Mandisa Thomas: I can. I definitely wanna ask that, but, but first I would like to encourage people support and attend the women of color beyond belief. If, if they, if they can, if they can it takes place from September 30th to October 2nd in Chicago, Illinois, and online all of the speakers and producers are women of color and you hear the perspectives of women of color and how these issues us.

And we can, if, if folks will love to support that, we welcome it. . And so I would like to put in a plug for that, if I could.

Yucca: Oh, absolutely. We'll put the link to that in the show notes as well. Yeah. Thank you. Yeah.

Mandisa Thomas: It's gonna be great. This is our third time doing it. A joint production of black non-believers black skeptics and the women's leadership project. other two organizations are based in Los Angeles.

Mark: Oh,

Mandisa Thomas: so how long has. community been around? How long have y'all been doing the podcast well?

That would be I would love to know that

Yucca: this is this is our third year. So we started just a couple weeks before the COVID stuff

Mandisa Thomas: mm-hmm

Yucca: That was one of our early podcasts looking at that and going, huh? This, we better talk about this. this is something's happening in the world, so yeah.

Mandisa Thomas: Okay. Cool.

Mark: The, the atheopagan community specifically has been around for about 10 years.

Mandisa Thomas: Okay.

Mark: We started on Facebook now we're up to about 4,000 members. And though, but that's all over the world. So still spread pretty thinly in most places. And we have a. Blog and the society has a website. I can send you some links if you're interested. Great happy to do that. So yeah, we're, we're working to build a community of people who experience their spirituality without the supernatural and who understand activism for a better world as a part of our spiritual responsibility. One of the things that I find really kind of infuriating about most flavors of Christianity is that, you go to church on Sunday and then on Monday, you're a rapacious capitalist again.

Right? It's like you throw your morals out the window except on Sunday. And I really feel like, we need to, if we want a better world, we gotta work for it. We gotta. it's everybody's responsibility and we all gotta do it

Yucca: And that happens a lot in, in many pagan communities where it's like, don't bring, don't bring your politics in here. It's like, well, but, but we're all saying that we, that we believe that, nature is important and that we believe in like equality and all of this, then how can we not bring.


Mandisa Thomas: Right. We wanna know that. that's a part of our civic duty is to vote and to vote for people who represent our values. That is very important. And, and, and not discussing that. Tends to breed a lot of very, very bad ideas and keeps people in certain groups who can be very, very disruptive to the community, to the community building aspect.

And so what we've seen now is you, you see a faction of communities, especially in the atheist community, who's talking about the woke people or, their anti woke. now there are more, there's more dialogue and conversation and actually practices that are more inclusive of the issues that folks face people of color face that, whereas they didn't have to deal with that before.

They tried to, they tried to make it seem like it was an umbrella issue and it ISN. . And so how people were being treated within our own communities when ignored for a very long time. But as there, there was, there were calls and actions for accountability, for even those who were upholding patriarchy, misogyny, and white supremacy in our communities.

Now, all of a sudden, they can't say what they want anymore. And, and this idea that, oh, you are so woke now and, and we're being canceled. we can't say things that we used to say anymore.

Yucca: Yeah, so we can't oppress you as easily anymore. So our, our freedom is being

Mandisa Thomas: Denied,

Yucca: our freedom's denied because we can't like oppress you. Yeah.

Mandisa Thomas: Yeah. It's just like Christians who say, well, their rights are being trampled on because they, they they're complaining that they, they can't pray anymore. Like the, like the high school coach who prayed on the 50 yard line. It's like that, that is a gross violation. One church and state separation, but also that should be a gross, that's a gross violation of school policy and that you don't.

Yucca: your students, right? You're pushing your stuff on them. How do you know that they're not uncomfortable with it? They're not gonna tell their coach that they're not uncomfortable with it. What's what's coach gonna do, right.

Mandisa Thomas: right.

Yucca: You still wanna play next season, right?

Mandisa Thomas: Right. Yeah, it's a bully pulpit and it's, it can be a bully platform and we have to discuss these things, because now as we're seeing the erosion of reproductive justice on the national level, even though president Biden signed an executive order, which is great, but we saw the, the decision when it came down to overturn Roe V Wade and where that came from, which is absolutely horrific. And so yes, there, there is a point in time where we have to talk about where our values are in politics who our elected officials are who is representing us. That is very, very important.

Mark: Yeah. Yeah. So all of those things that in spiritual circles, you get a lot of what Yucca was talking about, where it's like, oh, don't bring your politics in here. And. The truth is it's like, no, we need to be talking about voting. We need to be talking about lobbying. We need to be talking about protesting.

to talk about boycots. We need to talk about supporting unions. We need to talk about all kinds of stuff here, because how does, how do our spiritual values get implemented if none of those things happen, right? Yeah. Yeah. Yucca, where are we for time?

Yucca: We are coming close on about an hour now. Yeah. So we've, this has flown. Yeah, I am so inspired by all of this. Thank you for, for sharing with us and just bringing so many things to think about. And just the way that you've, you've talked about and expressed these things, are just, it encourages me to just read more and learn more and listen more.

So I really value you coming on and sharing with us.

Mandisa Thomas: Thank you. And if you look on our website on under we do have a recommended reading and viewing tab under and there is, there are works black atheist authors content creators to better understand. How religion impacts black communities in particular, as well as, as well as the history of, of humanism and free thought in, in black communities.

not just how that benefits black communities or black history, it, it, it actually benefits American history.

Yucca: that's great.

Mandisa Thomas: So, that is, that is that is another important aspect. So yes, there is a, if you're, if you wanna get into some reading, we definitely have some some material for you.

Mark: Great. great. Yeah. Yeah, I'm really inspired too. I'm I've, got all kinds of things spinning around in my brain now for things we need to be talking about and things we need to be doing and it's yeah, it's very exciting. Yeah. I am so glad that that your name was, was recommended to us for an interview for the podcast and that you so generously agreed to come on and give us your time.

Mandisa Thomas: Problem.

Mark: I will say that, one thing that I have, that's really been impressed on me by other folks has been that when dealing with marginalized communities, the people that are doing the work, you don't ask them to do it for free. So, I, so I, once again, want. Say, we're gonna make a contribution to black non-believers I really wanna encourage our our listeners to do the same.

This is work that's happening in our sphere, in the sphere of, of, non-believers and it, it is so important that we be doing this work towards inclusiveness and justice. And thank you once again, for being with us Mandisa, it's been a fantastic conversation.

Mandisa Thomas: Thank you very much for having me. And I'm so happy to learn of your community as well. So, if there's any way that we could work together on things, I would love to

Yucca: Yeah,

Mark: Great. Yeah, I will take you up on that.

Mandisa Thomas: perfect.

Yucca: All right. Well, thank you so much, everybody.

Mark: see you next week.

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