I wanted to love this book
. I wanted to hate this book.
Sikivu Hitchinson is female, black, and, I seem to recall, a communist. So based on thumbnail identifications, it wouldn't seem we had much in common. Then again, she's an atheist from Los Angeles. (Indeed, recently when fracking in the Baldwin Hills was in the news, I learned that her father
lives a stone's throw away (though he's in the black Beverly Hills (we'll skip over why the black Beverly Hills is in the middle of an oil field) while we would be stretching the truth to claim being in black Beverly Hills adjacent.)).
Anyway, I keep an eye on her blogs, and find my reaction a mix of agreement and disagreement. And the same is true in the case of her book, though for the most part I can't say anything rose to the level of either love or hate.
On the good side, the book provides a very comprehensive look at the 'lived experience' of black America as it related to religion. The church is very central to black experience, both for direct services it may provide (food, tutoring, childcare, etc.) and for the general center of community it provides. And she spells out how a more successful atheist/humanist campaign would strive to duplicate or replace that social network, but with a humanist face. If you like, there are benefits that accrue to religious 'privilege' that the non-religious currently don't have the network to replace.
As a *practical* way of spreading atheism to the black community, this is probably a very valid tactic, and something organizations should address. At the same time, it smacks of bribery. Oh, you have cookies over there? Well, we have cookies that are even better over here! The missing ingredient is the actual truth of the matter. The book is curiously incurious about the actual state of affairs in the universe. (This, of course, is just my reaction as one of the old, white, scientist, atheists.)
Maybe atheism is simply assumed by the book, but if I were to characterize the implicit argument for it in the book, it would go something like this:( Oh shit, he's still typing )