My initial intention with this week’s post was to discuss the little differences we might imagine between cultural and national identities, particularly concerning the notion of ‘community’ in regard to the odd liminality felt by the ‘foreign’ PhD student. That will be next week.
Today, a special edition of the journal Science, Religion, and Culture on Atheism, Secularity, and Science was published, for which I contributed. Not one to let the iron cool before striking, I thought it might be useful to use this week’s post as a blatant and entirely shameless plug not only for my own article, but for the others that accompany it as well.
I first came to learn of this special issue through Tommy Coleman, a colleague at the Religious Studies Project, who has made quite a name for himself in the field of the Psychology of Religion, and its influence on the study of Atheism, secularity, etc. He is quite the proliferate scholar, so here are some useful sources for reading about his work:
- His many interviews for the Religious Studies Project
- His role in the Non-Belief in America Research project with Christopher Silver
- His contributions to the Center for Inquiry
- His contributions to the Non-Religion and Secularity Research Network’s Blog
- As well as his academia page
As the co-editor of this special issue along with John R. Shook and Ralph W. Hood Jr., Tommy has played an integral role in communicating and assisting throughout the process. For that, I am quite grateful.
The issue itself (as I perceive it) is an attempt at tackling the ever-growing identity crisis within the field of Atheist Studies, particularly in reference to the fact that there are some (perhaps many) who would likely disagree with my notion that this field should be, in any way, referred to as such. In fact, this is rather well said in the issue’s Introduction:
Where it was once typical to begin a research article, introduction to a book volume, or special journal issue such as this one, by the researcher lamenting their particular field of study for neglecting such topics, this kind of pleading is no longer tenable (Bullivant and Lee, 2012). Nonetheless, as researchers we cannot afford to rest on our laurels for very long. While studies on atheism and secularity now exist across disciplines ranging from psychology, cognitive science, sociology, religious studies, philosophy, anthropology, and many others, this provides only a theoretical and methodological starting point from which to explore the given topic. Importantly, within each of these disciplines lay multiple competing frameworks, field-specific conceptualizations, and inter-disciplinary scuffles as to precisely what secularity is, and how to study it. Typically, pre-existing frameworks developed for use in religious believing populations are modified to fit nonbelievers, as nonbelief is often presumed to be the dark shadow of whatever belief or religiosity is (Coleman and Arrowood, 2015; Silver, Coleman, Hood, and Holcombe, 2014). How far this approach will go toward answering whatever questions the scholar is interested in is an open one.
While there are points and theoretical positions within the articles published here with which I find myself in disagreement (such as Jonathan Jong’s “On (not) defining (non)religion”), the issue itself makes a number of quite useful strides toward an establishment of some sense of academic identity. Which is no small endeavour.
For years now I have been referring to this area of interest as a ‘flying dutchman,’ cast about in a sea of opposed approaches and interests, without a distinct port-of-call. Where before I might have lamented this fact, such as we might do when presented with the myriad ways in which the very terms we use are defined, my position has shifted a bit.
No longer do I think our ‘flying dutchman’ status is detrimental to our cause. After all, while many voices proclaiming different things might seem to some as an atonal din, for others, that might sound like a chorus.
Or, said otherwise, and as I argued in my article, rather than dismiss this discourse because it reflects many voices saying different things, why not embrace it and simply allow people to say what it is they think and believe.
It is my opinion that this special issue does just that.
For this reason, not only was I quite happy to have been considered for this publication, I am also hopeful that it might be perceived as an example of how our theoretical and methodological hodgepodge might also prove ultimately beneficial to the academy’s larger understanding of Atheism and its many cognate terms.
For the benefit of the reader, then, I’ve provided the following links:
“An Introduction to Atheism, Secularity, and Science,” by Thomas J. Coleman III, Ralph W. Hood Jr., and John R. Shook.
“On (not) defining (non)religion,” by Jonathan Jong
“Discourse Analysis and the Definition of Atheism,” by Ethan G. Quillen
“The NonReligious-NonSpiritual Scale (NRNSS): Measuring Everyone from Atheists to Zionists,” by Ryan T. Cragun, Joseph H. Hammer, and Michael Nielsen
“Atheism, Wellbeing, and the Wager: Why Not Believing in God (With Others) is Good for You,” by Luke Galen
“Atheism Looking In: On the Goals and Strategies of Organized Nonbelief,” by Joseph Langston, Joseph Hammer, and Ryan T. Cragun
“Explaining the Secularity of Academics: Historical Questions and Psychological Findings,” by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi
“The God of Nonbelievers: Characteristics of a Hypothetical God,” by David F. Bradley, Julie J. Exline, and Alex Uzdavines
“When Rabbis Lose Faith: Twelve Rabbis Tell their Stories about their Loss of Belief in God,” by Rabbi Paul Shrell-Fox
Research note: “A Profile of the Members of the British Humanist Association,” by Gareth Longden
Research note: “Simple Markov Model for Estimating the Growth of Nonreligion in the United States,” by John Stinespring and Ryan T. Cragun
Book Review: Trent Dougherty, The Problem of Animal Pain: A Theodicy for All Creatures Great and Small, by Liz Goodnick
Book Review: The New Atheist Novel: Fiction, Philosophy, and Polemic after 9/11, by Marcus Mann
Book Review: Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions, by Amanda Schutz