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African American Atheists and Political LiberationA Study of the Sociocultural Dynamics of Faith$
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Michael Lackey

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780813030357

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813030357.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM FLORIDA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.florida.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Florida, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FLASO for personal use.date: 15 October 2019

No Means Yes

No Means Yes

The Conversion Narrative as Rape Scene in Nella Larsen's Quicksand

Chapter:
(p.73) 3 No Means Yes
Source:
African American Atheists and Political Liberation
Author(s):

Michael Lackey

Publisher:
University Press of Florida
DOI:10.5744/florida/9780813030357.003.0004

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

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