Challenges to the secular age viewed through the work of Anthony B. Pinn
: Black humanism and Christian apostasy in African American communities

  • Graciëlla Ritfeld

Student thesis: Master's Thesis: Humanistic Studies


Although we might live in a secular age, African Americans often see themselves embedded in a religious community. As a result, losing one’s religion can be a lonely endeavor for some. The Black religious experience has a predominantly Christian exterior, but consists of a spectrum of theist and nontheist religious expression. This thesis applies the work of Antony B. Pinn to address the tensions between religion and secularity among apostatic African Americans. By building up a framework of our current understanding of the secular and placing the secular within the historic context of enslavement and diaspora, we have the opportunity to give new meanings to religion and secularity. We trace the foundations of the Black religious experience and Black humanism in order to understand why dilemmas continue to exist in the lives of Black apostates to this day. The experience of the enslaved Africans, at the edge of the (Western) secular imaginary, resulted in a transformed religion with a distinctly humanistic core. Suggestions for a collective way forward are to be found in critically reviewing the origins of theoretical concepts such as the secular and their practical consequences in the present world. With these new perspectives it is possible to offer understanding and support for the individual, along with the formation of a welcoming humanist community. Finally we must learn to constructively deal with different expressions of religiosity to help us bring together unexpected sources of humanistic thought.
Date of Award3 Feb 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorA. C. (Caroline) Suransky (Supervisor) & Laurens ten Kate (Supervisor)

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