From “Superman” to Man


J. A. Rogers

Religion and the Negro

“You were speaking a while ago of that great infidel Ingersoll, what do you think of Christianity and the black man?”

“Now, sir, I appeal to your common sense,” replied Dixon. “Consider this—but wait, let me first differentiate between any religious sect that practises the sublime command; 'Love thy neighbor as thyself,' and the Christianity of white Gentiles in general, for these Gentiles, though worshipping a Jew, have persecuted the Jews for over fourteen centuries. I have found in my travels that these Gentiles do not like the Jews and the darker races taken collectively; that is, in some parts of the world the Jew is disliked as in all European countries, while there is no antipathy against the Negro. Then in some places as in the United States and South America both Jews and Negroes are disliked. On the whole I have found that the Christianity of the English-speaking Gentile, however devout, when it comes in contact with the darker races in larger numbers, simply does not work. The temptation to exploit them reduces the injunctions of Christ to merest mouthings, as in the Southern States, Australia, India and all Africa. The religion of the Latin races is decidedly more sincere, even in the United States. The Caucasian countries with the lowest degree of prejudice are the Catholic ones, like France, Spain, Italy and all South and Central America.

“Now to speak of Christianity in the United States Here is a religion that repeats Sunday after Sunday, year after year, century after century, that the one whose name it bears died to save all men regardless of color—a religion that avers it is a great unifying force. Now here is a people of the same nationality, language, dress, customs, and ideals, and to some extent blood relationship, worshipping this great unifying force, and expecting as a reward to go to the same place; yet because it happens that a certain number of that people are somewhat different in complexion all cannot meet in the same church or even worship in the same neighborhood. And why? For fear of what they call social equality. Can you think of anything more absurdly inconsistent? If they can't harmonize on earth, if they can't live in the same block or work in jobs of equal importance, will they agree in heaven? White God! Colored God, too, eh? Whom does the white American really. worship, I ask? The fetish of color, or the Christ whose name he mouths? What material for a satirist! Voltaire nearly laughed the Pope off his throne in the Vatican for less than this. In Florida where white cannot teach black, three white women, nuns, were arrested for endeavoring to instill into Negro children the love of that same God whom the Christians of Florida habitually implore to send light to 'heathens.' For the life of me I can't understand the sort of sentimentality that will weep over Christ lynched nineteen hundred years ago and accept as a matter of course the burning alive of human beings today, even take part in it. Some morbid Negro-haters like Cole Blease are never tired of spouting of Jesus and His love.”

“Then you are against Christianity for the black man?”

“If Christianity is that kindliness, courage and courtesy attributed to its Founder in the Bible;—no. The religion of the white Gentile which I have just described;—yes. From what I have seen, and read as occurring, in Africa I know that this sort of Christianity is one of the greatest enemies of the darker peoples and the poor white ones also, and the sooner both see it, the better. I do not mean to disparage the great work by men like Livingstone, Moffat, Dan Crawford, and Father Damien, but I do know that these good men are usually followed by the dishonest Christian trader with his whiskey, diseases and immorality under the pretext of bearing the white man's burden, which, is only a polite name for loot. The white man must first be humanized, Christianized, if you will. Until that is done the weaker varieties of mankind may expect very little else from his Christianity than the prospect of being plundered. Let the white man, I say, put into practice those Christian principles, he accuses the darker races of not having.”

“But,” objected the senator, strenuously, “Christianity has done a great deal for the Negro. Look what a solace it was to him in slavery.”

“Solace! Solace! did you say? To enslave a man, then dope him to make him content! Do you call THAT a solace? Would you call a chloroform burglar, for instance, a solace? No, that's the work of an arch-devil and a cowardly arch-devil at that. The honest fact is that the greatest hindrance to the progress of the Negro is that same dope that was shot into him during slavery. Many Negro sects, perhaps the majority, never stop to think what they are doing. They have accepted the white man's religion pretty much in the same manner as, if they had remained in Africa, they would have worn his old tin cans, as a charm. As I sometimes watch these people howling and hullaballooing, I cannot but think that any other process, religious or otherwise, would have served just as well as a vehicle for the release of their emotions, and that, so far as Jesus is concerned, any other rose by that name would smell as sweet to them. The same holds true of the poor white mountaineers of Kentucky and Tennessee who are also violently religious and immoral. The slogan of the Negro devotee is: Take the world but give me Jesus, and the white man strikes an eager bargain with him. The religious manifestations of the Negro, as a group, need to be tempered with hygiene, in the same manner that those of the whites need the spirit of Christ.”

“Another fact,—there are far too many Negro preachers. Religion is the most fruitful medium for exploiting this already exploited group. As I said, the majority of the sharpers, who among the whites, would go into other fields, go, in this case, to the ministry. In most Northern cities dinky Negro churches are as plentiful as dinky Negro restaurants. Many of these preachers are thorough-going rascals who have discovered a very easy way get money and to have all the women they want. Needless to say, they are a great hindrance to those earnest ones really working for the betterment of their people.”

“You said you had been in the Near East. What do you think of Mohammedanism and the Negro?”

“From what I saw of it in Egypt, Turkey and other Islam countries I think that while its pretensions are lower than Christianity, it is more humane. Islam is as liberal to its dark-skinned followers as Christianity is illiberal. In fact, every other form of religion is more liberal than Christianity. Ranking next to Mohammed is a Negro, Bilal. Islam knows no other bond but religion. White, black, yellow, brown, it matters not as long as you are of the faith. Christianity—I speak almost entirely of the Anglo-Saxon brand—likes the Negro only when he is content to be a flunky, just so long and no longer. Islam, with all its faults, on the other hand, inspires him to be a man.”

SOURCE: Rogers, [J]oel A[ugustus]. From “Superman” to Man, 5th ed., revised (St. Petersburg, FL: Helga M. Rogers, 1968), pp. 112-115. (1st ed., 1917.) (From conversation of the third day.)

Index to From “Superman” to Man by J. A. Rogers

Race, Equality of Intellect, & the History of Civilization
(extract from From “Superman” to Man)
by J. A. Rogers

First Universal Races Congress, London, July 26-29, 1911: Selected Bibliography

Black Studies, Music, America vs Europe Study Guide

Atheism / Freethought / Humanism / Ethical Culture / Rationalism / Agnosticism / Skepticism / Unbelief / Secularism / Church-State Separation Web Links


"Joel Augustus Rogers: Negro Historian in History, Time, and Space" by Malik Simba

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