The Humanist/Atheist Controversy in Richard Wright's <i>The Outsider</i>

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:
The Humanist/Atheist Controversy in Richard Wright's The Outsider

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This chapter examines the tension in the writings of atheists and humanists. Humanists consider the humans as arbiters of their own destiny, often rejecting the appeal to the supernatural to ground the knowledge of the human. Instead of relying on a theological system to define the human, they acknowledge that it is the humans who determine humanness. The atheists, who on some points share the same core values of the humanists, reject the idea of human nature. This chapter focuses on Richard Wright's The Outsider, a novel which explores the humanist/atheist tension. While Wright sympathized with the humanistic impulse to treat all humans as human irrespective of colour, race, and nation, he was also aware of the potential inconsistencies and dangers implicit in the humanist position. To better understand Wright's distinctive post-God political vision in The Outsider, the chapter examines the work in light of the tension between humanism and post-humanism. It specifically looks at the tension between these two traditions, which provide a basis for understanding the humanistic and atheistic impulse to critique faith systems, to secularize culture, and to formulate a post-God vision of social justice.

Keywords: atheists; humanists; Richard Wright; humanness; humanism; post-humanism; social justice

Chapter.  13615 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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