Not Our Father: The effects of White Manmade Religion on the Black Community.
(ThyBlackMan.com) According to the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in 2007 by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, Black Americans “are markedly more religious on a variety of measures than the U.S. population as a whole.” It cited that 87% of Blacks (vs. 83% of all Americans) are affiliated with a religion. It also found that 79 % of Blacks (vs. 56% overall) say that religion is “very important in their life”. Many scholars estimate that 15-30% of Africans imported as slaves were Muslim. The majority of the remaining practiced indigenous forms of worship. All were CONVERTED to Christianity. Most became Baptist although slaves from Louisiana became Catholic because of the French settlers in that area.
Today 83% of African Americans are Christian, and only 1% identify themselves as Muslim. Data published by The Leonard T. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, the African American population has been shifting over the past 18 years. In 1990 half (50%) of African Americans considered themselves Baptist. However that percentage dropped to 45% by 2008. There was also a substantial decrease in the percentage of Mainline Christians (Methodist and Orthodox) from 12% in 1990 to 7% in 2008. Even among those African-Americans who report no
affiliation, more than two-thirds say religion plays a somewhat important role in their lives, according to Pew. And some nonbelieving African-Americans have been known to attend church out of tradition.
Here are three negative effects the black community deals with today from being deeply embedded in a white, manmade religion:
Moving family members from one another broke down the spirit of the enslaved, as they believed wholeheartedly in worshipping together. With their family units broken, their African beliefs were broken, too, making them more willing to accepting another religion.
Mixing of Religious Practices
Symbols and objects, such as crosses, were conflated with charms carried by Africans to ward off evil spirits. Christ was interpreted as a healer similar to the priests of Africa, according to PBS’ Slavery and the Making of America. In the New World, fusions of African spirituality and Christianity led to distinct new practices among enslaved populations, including voodoo in Haiti and Spanish Louisiana. Although African religious influences were also important among Northern Black people, exposure to Old World religions was more intense in the South, where the density of the Black population was greater.
In the Caribbean colonies of Cuba and Saint-Domingue, religion was taught to enslave Africans as a means of social control more than as a means to edify their souls. While the plantations were small and the enslaved population was not huge, plantation owners used religion to teach obedience. In Cuba and Brazil, Catholic saints were often equated with gods from Africa generating familiarity for the enslaved.
Where did African American’s learn these religious traditions from and how have they affected the community? Slaves, when hearing the Christian message, were struck by something that transcended their culture. Many of them described how they were seized by the Spirit, struck dead and raised to a new life. Such conversions took place in the fields, in the woods, in the slave quarters, or at services conducted by black people themselves. The Christianity that finally took hold of black souls, that grew and blossomed in its own distinct way, comforted and gave hope to a sorely oppressed people, was a different thing altogether than what whites had imagined.
Staff Writer; Amber Ogden
One may also view more of her work over at; AmberOgden.com.