Secularist Rituals in the US: Solidarity and Legitimization

  • Richard CiminoEmail author
  • Christopher Smith
Part of the Boundaries of Religious Freedom: Regulating Religion in Diverse Societies book series (BOREFRRERE, volume 2)


In a responding to the new atheism, some secularist groups and leaders have been advocating a more positive atheism that seeks to create non-theist alternatives to traditional religion. These alternatives include rites-of-passage usually associated with religious services, such as funerals, These rituals can also include secularist public events ridiculing and protesting religion in order to foster a positive atheist group identity. We examine specific secular rituals organized by secular humanist groups, arguing that such rituals serve both a function of creating solidarity among participants as well as legitimizing secularism to the wider society. We specifically look at the celebration of Darwin Day and how it plays a legitimizing function among secularist groups. At the same time, the use of rituals has divided American secularists.


Intelligent Design Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Ethical Culture Wedding Ceremony Identity Commitment 
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.


  1. Budd, Susan. 1977. Varieties of unbelief. London: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  2. Center for Inquiry. 2012. Unpublished ritual texts from Secular Celebrant Program.
  3. Collins, Randall. 2010. The micro-sociology of religion: Religious practices, collective and individual, ARDA Guiding Paper Series. State College: The Association of Religion Data Archives at Pennsylvania State University. Scholar
  4. De Botton, Alain. 2012. Religion for atheists: A non-believer’s guide to the uses of religion. New York: Pantheon.Google Scholar
  5. Epstein, Greg M. 2009. Good without God. New York: William Morrow.Google Scholar
  6. Flynn, Tom. 2005. Glimpses of nirvana. Free Inquiry 25(2).
  7. Flynn, Tom. 2012. Why seculars still don’t sing: Response to James Croft.
  8. Harris, Sam. 2004. The end of faith: Religion, terror, and the future of reason. New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  9. Harris, Sam. 2007. The problem with atheism. Paper presented at the Atheist Alliance conference, Washington DC, September 28.Google Scholar
  10. Hunsberger, Bruce E., and Bob Altemeyer. 2006. Atheists: A groundbreaking study of America’s nonbelievers. Amherst: Prometheus Books.Google Scholar
  11. Kurtz, Paul. 2008. Secular humanist convictions. Secular Humanist Bulletin 24(1): 2.Google Scholar
  12. Lawton, Graham. 2012. The God issue: Alain de Botton’s religion for atheists. New Scientist 213(2856): 48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Myers, P.Z. 2011a. Atheist church? No thank you. Freethought Blogs, October 17.
  14. Myers, P.Z. 2011b. A common atheist delusion. Freethought Blogs, December 14.
  15. Myers, P.Z. 2012. I’m officially disgusted with Alain de Botton. Freethought Blogs, February 28.
  16. Pasquale, Frank. 2010. A portrait of secular group affiliates. In Atheism and secularity: Volume 1: Issues, concepts and definitions, ed. Phil Zuckerman, 43–47. Santa Barbara: Prager.Google Scholar
  17. Smith, Jesse. 2011. Becoming an atheist in America. Sociology of Religion 72(5): 215–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Snider, Chris. 2005. Five questions with Sam Harris. The Eudaimonist Newsletter 7(1): 1–3.Google Scholar
  19. Wilson, Jane. 1990. Funerals without God. Buffalo: Prometheus Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyHofstra UniversityHempsteadUSA

Personalised recommendations