Faculty & Staff


William Hart

William D. Hart

Professor and Head
Religion, Ethics, and Politics
Ph.D., Princeton University

Areas of Academic Interest:

  1. Theories of Religion  
  2. Religion, Ethics, and Politics
  3. African American Religious Thought
  4. American Religious and Philosophical Thought

Personal Statement:

As a critical theorist of religion, I explore basic questions such as “What is religion?” and “Why are people religious?”  My latest book, Black Religion: Malcolm X, Julius Lester, and Jan Willis (2008), explores the spiritual dimensions of Malcolm X’s life: his journey from Christianity to Islam, social parasite to “race man,” and libertine to ascetic. It also explores affinities between Malcolm’s spiritual journey and the journeys of Julius Lester and Jan Willis. I contend that the Muslim, Judaic, and Buddhist commitments of these autobiographers show that the black spiritual imagination—religious, political, and personal—cannot be limited to the Standard Narrative of Black Religion as the Black Church. Furthermore, spirituality cannot be limited to religion. Spirit is excessive. It overflows and encompasses the conventional religious-secular distinction. I am currently working on two projects. The first, Human Sacrifice: Dying and Killing for God and State, explores human sacrifice in religion and statecraft. The second, Slaves, Animals, and Fetuses, analyzes the use of anti-slavery models in the anti-abortion activism of Operation Rescue and the Army of God and in the animal rights activism of the Animal Liberation Front and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.


  1. Edward Said and the Religious Effects of Culture(Cambridge University Press, 2000).
  2. Black Religion: Malcolm X, Julius Lester, and Jan Willis(New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
  3. Afro-Eccentricity: Beyond the Standard Narrative of Black Religion (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

Current Research:

  • I recently delivered a keynote address to the Highlands Institute for American Religious and Philosophical Thought entitled "Reconstructing a Common Faith.”  It will appear in American Journal of Theology and Philosophy (2008).
  • I am currently writing a short essay on key early theorists of religion, race, and culture for Theory / Religion / Critique: Classic and Contemporary Approaches (Columbia University Press)edited by Richard King.

Courses Taught:

  • REL 207: Modern Problems of Belief: Blasphemy
  • REL 229: Introduction to African American Religions
  • REL 251: Topics in Religious Social Ethics: Slaves, Animals, and Fetuses
  • REL 258: Darwin, Evolution, and Human Nature
  • REL 259: Philosophy of Religion: Marx, Nietzsche, Freud
  • REL 315: Religious Autobiography in the West
  • REL 324: Issues in the Philosophy of Religion: Wright, Ellison, Baldwin
  • REL 332: Contemporary African American Religious Thought
  • REL 355: The Religious Discourse of Civil Rights
  • REL 356: Colonialism and Religion
  • BLS 360: American Dreams
  • REL 410: Senior Seminar
  • REL 503: Colonial Rites: Anguish and Otherness
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