By addressing identity at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels, this introduction to the volume employs a three-layered approach to explore how individuals construct their own atheist or non-religious identities, how they construct community, and how identity factors into atheist interaction at the social or institutional levels. The chapter outlines some of the key issues in the social scientific study of atheism and religious nones while emphasizing the plurality of ‘atheisms’ and irreligiosity in the North Atlantic context. It highlights eight important themes, (the nuance of religious and non-religious identity; societal secularization and shifting religious demographics; the construction of communal agendas; debates about gender equality and feminism; atheist criticisms of ‘New Atheism’; the regulation of religion; atheism as ‘lived’ experience and expression; and the current state of academic literature on atheism). The authors explore some of the most pressing issues pertaining to atheism, arguing that a major site for identity construction occurs at the level of community building from a frame of negation (i.e. ‘who we are not’) toward the implementation of a positive public platform (‘who we are’). Ultimately, this chapter is concerned with contextualizing the larger debates surrounding atheist and non-religious identity formation and related discourse, from individual (non)religious self-identification to the organizational negotiation and navigation of internal politics and external agendas.
KeywordsReligious Affiliation Religious Identity Humanist Association Identity Shift Legal Arena
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