Black Lives and Sacred Humanity: Toward an African American Religious Naturalism

Black Lives and Sacred Humanity: Toward an African American Religious Naturalism

Black Lives and Sacred Humanity: Toward an African American Religious Naturalism

Black Lives and Sacred Humanity: Toward an African American Religious Naturalism

Synopsis

Identifying African American religiosity as the ingenuity of a people constantly striving to inhabit their humanity and eke out a meaningful existence for themselves amid harrowing circumstances, Black Lives and Sacred Humanity constructs a concept of sacred humanity and grounds it in the writings of Anna Julia Cooper, W. E. B. Du Bois, and James Baldwin. Supported by current theories in science studies, critical theory, and religious naturalism, this concept, as Carol Wayne White demonstrates, offers a capacious view of humans as interconnected, social, value-laden organisms with the capacity to transform themselves and create nobler worlds wherein all sentient creatures flourish.

Acknowledging the great harm wrought by divisive and problematic racial constructions in the United States, this book offers an alternative to theistic models of African American religiosity to inspire newer, conceptually compelling views of spirituality that address a classic, perennial religious question: What does it mean to be fully human and fully alive?

Excerpt

This study arises out of my ongoing interest in the creative interface of religion and science, or, more specifically, in current strains of religious naturalism. At Bucknell University, colleagues and students alike have experienced my enthusiasm for religious naturalism’s emergence within the larger field of religious studies. In various academic settings beyond Bucknell, I have also shared my convictions about the pivotal role religious naturalism can play in helping humanistic scholars challenge outdated conceptions of a distinctive human nature in the West.

As an avid proponent of religious naturalism, I have been struck by the potential of its key ideas to address in innovative ways some major themes or concerns of African American religious thought, such as the effects of racist discourse on influential conceptions of our humanity. Sadly, many influential religious naturalism writings have not actively pursued this line of thought. (In a similar vein, as a philosopher of religion, I have found that major themes and contributions from black religious scholarship are seldom represented in the subfield of philosophy of religion.) Additionally, a survey of African American religious scholarship reveals a predominance of historical, theological, social-political, and cultural analyses that often ignore many of the epistemological and philosophical orientations that I find appealing within religious naturalism and critical theory or philosophy of religion. Black Lives and Sacred Humanity thus represents my desire to bring these fields of knowledge together as I focus on the conceptual, epistemological, and axiological import of a recurrent theme within black religiosity: the necessity of establishing and valuing blacks’ humanity. In doing so, I aim to describe the emergence of an African American religious naturalism.

In a much wider theoretical context, the book addresses unexamined philosophical and humanistic assumptions embedded in contemporary African American religiosity. As an alternative to theistic models of African American religiosity and spirituality, this study is an unabashed celebration of religious humanism. I am hoping that its perspectives and main . . .

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