Press release

For immediate release – 5 April 2019

Dr Patrick Pillay South African Secularist of the Year

Ground-breaking academic, Dr Patrick Pillay, has been named South Africa’s Secularist of the Year for 2018 by the South African Secular Society (SASS). Dr Pillay’s PhD study on “The Emergence of Atheism in South Africa” is the first serious academic scholarship into the field of non-religion and secularism in the country. His academic work and his efforts to publish on secular topics in South African media won approval from the SASS leadership.

Apart from his local academic endeavours, Dr Pillay was invited to present a paper at the London 2018 Conference of the Non-Religion and Secularity Research Network, which was the first such South African representation at this international academic research network. While in London, he also met renowned international scholar on Secularism and Humanism, Professor Anthony C. Grayling, with the hope of opening collaboration in these fields. In September 2018, Dr Pillay presented a seminar entitled, ‘Non-Religion, Secularity and Pluralism in South Africa’ at the University of the Western Cape, which was hosted by The Desmond Tutu Centre for Spirituality and Society.

In his own words, Dr Pillay aims to “challenge the religious normativity that we are made to get accustomed to in South Africa. Alongside many other academics and secular activists, I do hold that the cause for Secularity and Constitutionalism is central to our wellbeing as a nation.” Dr Pillay holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree (UKZN), an Associate Diploma in Banking (SA), a Certificate in Estate Agency, a Masters Degree in Theology (UKZN) and a Doctorate in Philosophy (UKZN – Sociology of Religion).

About the South African Secularist of the Year award

The South African Secularist of the Year is awarded annually in retrospect by the South African Secular Society (SASS). The award goes to the individual, or organisation, the judges consider to have made the greatest contribution to the separation of religion and government in the country for that
year. It was first awarded in 2017. Factors considered in the award include, but are not limited to:

  • The extent of benefit accrued to, or harm averted from, the secular cause in South Africa
  • Contribution to the normalisation of secular views in the public eye (awareness, media coverage)
  • Current – or groundwork for possible future – legislative impact of the nominee’s actions
  • Nominee’s overall presence in South African society as a positive role model for secularism

About the South African Secular Society (SASS)

The South African Secular Society promotes secularism and a naturalistic worldview. Secularism is the strict separation of religious institutions from the state, and the equal recognition of all people regardless of their religion or lack thereof, before the law. The Naturalistic Worldview is a comprehensive worldview based on a scientific, empirical understanding of reality. It offers a positive, rational and fulfilling alternative to faith-based religions and non-empirical worldviews. The naturalistic worldview supports atheism, agnosticism, non-theism, freethought, and humanism.

For further information:

Charles Webster
charles@secularsociety.co.za