His efforts were at the forefront of a movement, committed to free people from the oppression of discrimination. Free them from the injustice of segregation. Free them to exercise the same rights that the Founding Fathers reserved only for the white majority. It represented a major step in the transition from 3rd class to 1st class citizenship.
But, what he failed to do, which he was in a position to do, was to spearhead the final step of freedom for his people … emancipation from the bondage of the White Man’s religious myth.
91% of African Americans compared to 88% of White Americans describe themselves as religious.* While not a dramatic discrepancy, one can’t ignore the well established fact that there is a high correlation between religiosity and lower income. 25% of Blacks in the US live below the poverty level, twice the rate of Whites.**
Victim’s of their slave ancestors acceptance of the White culture’s prevailing Christianity, African Americans have for 150 years been a favored target of televangelist fakes, tent preacher charlatans, faith healers, even cult leaders (Jim Jones’ suicide denomination was predominantly Black).
If as James Madison said "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect." then the very last thing an undereducated, poverty ridden, newly “freed” people need are the shackles of religious mind slavery, much less the drain on their finances or distraction from secular self interest that invariably comes along with it. Prayers to Jesus to win the lottery, or deliver a financial windfall ("God will provide!"), or to rely on the promise of “Pie in the Sky By and By When You Die” as a reward for their poverty in this life, is at best repressive, at worst self imposed slavery. It works in direct opposition to self reliance, ambition, and personal responsibility, all qualities necessary to rise above and be freed from poverty.
Unfortunately, Dr. King himself was religiously enslaved, and could never have seen or accepted the fact that it represented one of the last great barriers to Black progress. So much the loss.