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Atheist Identities: Spaces and Social Contexts

Thu, November 22, 2012

From November 22 - 24, 2012 (keynote speaker - Thursday Nov. 22, 2012 from 4:00 - 5:30pm)

Workshop Description:

The recent popularity of the ‘New Atheists’, a neologism denoting a group of bestselling atheist authors, and The Atheist Bus Campaign by atheist organizations to gain recognition, has contributed to atheism attracting significant popular media attention. Public policy debates surrounding the inclusion or removal of prayer from government and schools, and even the mention of God in the Canadian National Anthem, have also provided material for the national media. The study of atheism from a social scientific perspective, however, has only recently begun to receive scholarly attention. In fact, the Statistics Canada category of ‘religious nones’, under which atheists are placed, constitute a category about which little is known. The small amount of existing scholarly literature on the subject has tended to concentrate mainly on discussions of theology, philosophy, or debates around prominent atheist media personalities, such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Lacking in the scholarship has been a comprehensive attempt to understand how atheism is lived or experienced by those who self-identify as such, and the significance, political and practical, of their growth in numbers. Needed is scholarly attention to the issue of freedom from religion versus freedom of religion, the nature of atheist identity in relation to the category of culture, and the impact of state policies and national contexts on the formation of atheist group identities. This workshop will bring together a multidisciplinary group of national and international scholars who are at the cutting edge of studying atheism from the social science disciplines of law, religious studies, sociology, anthropology, and political science to critically analyze current discourse on atheism and better understand the growing segment of ‘religious nones’ in Western societies.


Amarasingam, Amarnath
Beaman, Lori – Team Member
Beyer, Peter – Team Member
Bullivant, Spencer
Cimino, Richard
Cotter, Chris
Cragun, Ryan
LeDrew, Steve
Mumford, Lorna
Stahl, William
Tomlins, Steven – Student Team Member

Workshop Report

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