Skip to main content

The Church on the Margins: The Religious Context of the New Atheism

Part of the Boundaries of Religious Freedom: Regulating Religion in Diverse Societies book series (BOREFRRERE,volume 2)

Abstract

Stahl’s contribution points to a decline in membership in previously hegemonic Canadian churches (Catholic in Quebec, Anglican, United), which has placed them on the margins of society, as symptomatic of the end of Christendom. He highlights three narratives which have been used to address the decline in church membership: the secularization thesis; a narrative of renewal (religions fluctuate between decline and renewal); and Charles Taylor’s work on the changes in the nature of social solidarity in the contemporary world. Stahl argues that an extension of Taylor’s work helps us to understand both the decline of mainstream churches as institutions which have failed to adapt to these changes and the rise of fundamentalism and the New Atheism as protest movements against them.

Keywords

  • Political Identity
  • Moral Order
  • Christian Faith
  • Social Solidarity
  • Early Modern Period

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

We can’t just identify “religion” with twelfth century Catholicism, and then count every move away from that as decline

Charles Taylor

A Secular Age

The old ideals and the divinities which incarnate them are dying because they no longer correspond sufficiently to the new aspirations of our day; and the new ideals which are necessary to orient our life are not yet born.

Émile Durkheim

“La conception sociale de la religion”

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

Chapter
USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-09602-5_2
  • Chapter length: 19 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
eBook
USD   99.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-319-09602-5
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD   129.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book
USD   119.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Fig. 2.1
Fig. 2.2
Fig. 2.3
Fig. 2.4
Fig. 2.5
Fig. 2.6
Fig. 2.7

Notes

  1. 1.

    Whether the concept can be applied at all anywhere else is debatable, but beyond the scope of this chapter.

References

  • Amarasingam, Amarnath. 2010. Introduction: What is the new atheism? In Religion and the new atheism, ed. Amarnath Amarasingam, 1–8. Leiden: Brill.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Bellah, Robert. 1970. Beyond belief. New York: Harper & Row.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bellah, Robert. 1975. The broken covenant. New York: Seabury Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bellah, Robert. 2007. A secular age: After Durkheim. The Immanent Frame. http://www.ssrc.org/blogs/immanent_frame/2007/11/23/after-durkheim/

  • Bellah, Robert, Richard Madsen, William M. Sullivan, Ann Swidler, and Steven M. Tipton. 1985. Habits of the heart. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beyer, Peter. 2006. Religious vitality in Canada: The complementarity of religious market and secularization perspectives. In Religion and Canadian society, ed. Lori Beaman, 71–91. Toronto: Canadian Scholar’s Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bibby, Reginald. 2008. The perils of pioneering and prophecy: A response to Thiessen and Dawson. Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 37(3–4): 417–425.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Bibby, Reginald. 2011. Beyond the gods and back. Lethbridge: Project Canada Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bibby, Reginald. 2012. A new day: The resilience and restructuring of religion in Canada. Lethbridge: Project Canada Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bibby, Reginald. 2007a. Nevers, nones, and nots: Latent life in unexpected places: A research note. http://www.reginaldbibby.com/images/NNNpaper07.pdf

  • Bibby, Reginald. 2007b. Religion à la carte in Québec: A problem of demand, supply, or both. Prepared for a special issue on religion in Québec in Globe, ed. Robert Mager and Martin Meunier, 151–179. Volume 10(2), 2007–2008, appearing as “La Religion à la carte au Québec: Un problème d’offre, de demande, ou des deux?” http://www.reginaldbibby.com/images/Québec_Paper_July07.pdf

  • Bibby, Reginald. 2009. Restless gods and restless youth. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Sociological Association, Ottawa, May. http://www.reginaldbibby.com/images/Revision_Bibby_CSA_Presentation,_Ottawa_May_09.pdf

  • Blanning, Tim. 2007. The pursuit of glory: Europe 1648–1815. London: Penguin Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Borer, Michael Ian. 2010. The new atheism and the secularization thesis. In Religion and the new atheism, ed. Amarnath Amarasigam, 125–137. Leiden: Brill.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Cimino, Richard, and Christopher Smith. 2010. The new atheists and the empowerment of American freethinkers. In Religion and the new atheism, ed. Amarnath Amarasigam, 139–156. Leiden: Brill.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Clark, Warren, and Grant Schellenberg. 2006. Who’s religious? Canadian social trends. Ottawa: Statistics Canada Catalogue No. 11–008.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cristi, Marcela. 2001. From civil to political religion. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dawkins, Richard. 2006. The God delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • Durkheim, Émile. 1915. The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. Trans. Joseph Swain. New York: The Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Durkheim, Émile. 1933. The Division of Labor in Society. Trans. George Simpson. New York: The Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Durkheim, Émile, 1973. La conception sociale de la religion. Cited in Emile Durkheim on morality and society, ed. Robert N. Bellah. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, xlvii.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eagleton, Terry. 2009. Reason, faith, and revolution. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fuller, Steve. 2010. What has atheism ever done for science? In Religion and the new atheism, ed. Amarnath Amarasigam, 57–77. Leiden: Brill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Grant, John Webster (ed.). 1972. The church in the Canadian era: Volume three of a history of the Christian church in Canada. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

    Google Scholar 

  • Greenwald, Glenn. 2013. Sam Harris, the new atheists, and anti-Muslim animus. The Guardian, April 3. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/apr/03/sam-harris-muslim-animus

  • Harris, Sam. 2004. The end of faith. New York: W.W. Norton.

    Google Scholar 

  • Haught, John F. 2008. God and the new atheism. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hedges, Chris. 2006. American fascists. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hitchens, Christopher. 2007. God is not great. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rostow, W.W. 1971. The stages of economic growth, 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sandel, Michael J. 2012. What money can’t buy: The moral limits of markets. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shapin, Steven. 1996. The scientific revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Sparrow, Jeff. 2012. The weaponization of atheism. Counterpunch. http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/04/09/the-weaponization-of-atheism

  • Stahl, William. 2007. Is anyone in Canada secular? In Secularism and secularity, ed. Barry Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, 59–72. Hartford: Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stahl, William. 2010. One-dimensional rage: The social epistemology of the new atheism and fundamentalism. In Religion and the new atheism, ed. Amarnath Amarasingam, 97–108. Leiden: Brill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stahl, William, Robert A. Campbell, Yvonne Petry, and Gary Diver. 2002. Webs of reality: Social perspectives on science and religion. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Taylor, Charles. 1995. Two theories of modernity. Hastings Centre Report 25(2): 24–33.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Taylor, Charles. 2004. Modern social imaginaries. Durham: Duke University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Taylor, Charles. 2007. A secular age. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • The Sunday Assembly. 2014. Sunday assembly: A global movement of wonder and good. http://sundayassembly.com

  • Thiessen, Joel, and Lorne L. Dawson. 2008. Is there a ‘renaissance’ of religion in Canada? A critical look at Bibby and beyond. Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 37(3–4): 389–415.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Tocqueville, Alexis de. 1945. Democracy in America. Henry Reeve text, revised by Francis Bowen, edited by Phillips Bradley, first published 1835. New York: Random House.

    Google Scholar 

  • Turner, Chris. 2013. The war against science. Vancouver: Greystone Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Watson, Rebecca. 2011. The privilege delusion. Skepchick, July 5. http://skepchick.org/2011/07/the-privilege-delusion/

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to William A. Stahl .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2015 Springer International Publishing Switzerland

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Stahl, W.A. (2015). The Church on the Margins: The Religious Context of the New Atheism. In: G. Beaman, L., Tomlins, S. (eds) Atheist Identities - Spaces and Social Contexts. Boundaries of Religious Freedom: Regulating Religion in Diverse Societies, vol 2. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-09602-5_2

Download citation