Sunday, January 20, 2008

MLK, Jr. and an Opportunity Lost: A Reflection

Monday, January 21st is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Established to commemorate the preeminent leader of the Civil Rights movement, his name has become synonymous with the principle of non-violent protest and the struggle for equal rights for everyone. He will for all time be honored as a martyr for that great cause, and fittingly so.

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.




Balsam said...

What? A blogger that actually cites his statistics!?


Dromedaryhump said...

LOL...sorry, it must be a genetic defect.

Anonymous said...

Greetings from

Mr_Leo said...

The sad irony of slaves and their descendants being so dependent on Christianity as a beacon of hope is rather depressing.
I remember being slightly amused, as I was reading through the writings of 18th century slave and eventually freed man Olaudah Equiano, how he eventually finds religion, and how he could note the disconnect with the slave trade and the religion with which they claimed to follow and yet cling to that religion even more strongly. He eventually used his writings on religion as a way of getting people to listen to him and his reports on the horrors of the slave trade, so I guess it had its good side too.

Dromedaryhump said...

Very iteresting. Thank you for that thoughtful respnose. And great to hear from you.

Yes, certainly religion had some benefits to the newly emancipated slaves. It was a source of community, unity, and protection from a hostile world.

But now, after all these years, it is so ingrained in the Black culture and has taken on such a mantle of authority, that it has increased dependency on the Church and clergy, and feeds hopefullness for "mana from heaven". The cycle continues generation after generation.

I mourn the lost opportunities that the mind slavery of religion has taken from them.