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February 04 , 2008

Atheist Awakening: Secular Activism and Community in America


Surveys over the last twenty years have seen an ever-growing number of Americans disclaim religious affiliations and instead check the none box. In the first sociological exploration of organized secularism in America, Richard Cimino and Christopher Smith show how one segment of these nones have created a new, cohesive atheist identity through activism and the creation of communities. According to Cimino and Smith, the new upsurge of atheists is a reaction to the revival of religious fervor in American politics since 1980. Feeling overlooked and underrepresented in the public sphere, atheists have employed a wide variety of strategies-some evangelical, some based on identity politics-to defend and assert themselves against their ideological opponents. These strategies include building and maintaining communities, despite the absence of the kinds of shared rituals, texts, and laws that help to sustain organized religions. Drawing on in-depth interviews with self-identified atheist, secularist, and humanist leaders and activists, as well as extensive observations and analysis of secular gatherings and media, Cimino and Smith illustrate how atheists organize and align themselves toward common goals, and how media-particularly web-based media-have proven invaluable in connecting atheists to one another and in creating a powerful virtual community. Cimino and Smith suggest that secularists rely not only on the Internet for community-building, but on their own new forms of ritual. This groundbreaking study will be essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the growing atheist movement in America.
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