This is a small book with a pivotal message. Pinn holds an endowed professorship at Rice University in Texas, and a PhD in the study of religion from Harvard. He’s a Black scholar who works at the intersection of African American religion and humanist thought.

His intention is to dispel a misconception: “According to popular imagination in the United States, to be a Black American is to be a Black Christian.” He explains how in recent years the percentage of Black Americans without any connection to Christianity has grown.

Then he demonstrates how Black Humanism has become a religious movement all its own.

Most fundamentally, Black Humanism is nontheistic. Black humanists, according to Pinn, view religion as “simply a tool for exploring experience, a method for making life meaningful — it requires no attention to God or gods.”

Pinn wants readers to begin speaking of Black Humanism as a kind of religion and Black humanist communities as religious, in order to “acknowledge the depth and range of its impact, its ability to foster life meaning in ways that connect individuals to something greater — in this case, expansive social networks and communities.”

Alice Walker, James Baldwin, and Richard Wright are shown to be instrumental in the formation of Black Humanism in America, with their legacy carried on today by the likes of Ta-Nehisi Coates. Pinn lifts up writing — common to all of these teachers — as a kind of religious practice (he wouldn’t call it a “spiritual” practice) essential to Black Humanism.

Pinn writes of a common sense of “the orienting and meaning-making possibility found in producing the written word,” for Black humanists in response to injustice. Also: “There is a sense of wonder, of (human) potential, that frames … life without reliance on hope for cosmic transcendence.”

The book’s concluding chapter points readers in direction of communities for like-minded Black humanists. Pinn refers to some communities as having a kind of “churchiness” that may or may not be “too reminiscent of what they meant to leave behind.” Nevertheless, a section on Unitarian associations is followed by a section on the American Humanist Association and related groups.