No Means Yes

Michael Lackey

in African American Atheists and Political Liberation

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780813030357
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813039459 | DOI:
No Means Yes

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This chapter features the most shocking treatment of God and religion. It focuses on Nella Larsen's Quicksand, which likens and compares a community of believers to a band of gang rapists. On the surface, such a view of theists is not too terribly offensive because there has been tradition of treating God as rapist such as in Jeremiah wherein Yahweh not only seduces but also rapes the unwilling prophet. Such a view of God as a rapist has inspired writers such as John Donne, Therese of Lisieux, and Teresa of Avila to use this rape trope to highlight their rebellious natures and God's need to use violence to enforce compliance. This chapter addresses the issue of knowledge of a person's fundamental nature and deepest desires. For the believer, the union with God is the primary objective of life. When the rebellious individuals say no to God, they are acting against their human nature. Believers, therefore, interpret no as really saying yes, a rationale that makes them believe in the imposition of their belief on infidels as just. The atheists meanwhile, who believe in the non-existence of God, believe that the believer's rapelike behaviour is a futile attempt to bring the apostate back into the group and a justification for impunity against the infidel. In Larsen's Quicksand, the conversion of the main character occurred during a prayer meeting, a metaphorical gang rape that trained Helga to accept on faith that humans have a distinct nature and that preachers have epistemological access to that nature, and when challenged or questioned, the believers can enforce belief in sophisticated ways. Helga becomes a militant atheist who discovers the violent psychology that believers use to entrap people into their system and the God concept used to violate African Americans.

Keywords: God; religion; Nella Larsen; violence; compliance; Quicksand

Chapter.  10230 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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