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The Varieties of Nonreligious ExperienceAtheism in American Culture$
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Jerome P. Baggett

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781479874200

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479874200.001.0001

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Acquiring Atheist Identities

Acquiring Atheist Identities

Four Acquisition Narratives

(p.41) 2 Acquiring Atheist Identities
The Varieties of Nonreligious Experience

Jerome P. Baggett

NYU Press

This chapter explores people’s accounts of what it felt like to first identify as atheists. In talking about this, they rely on one of two acquisition frames. The teleological frame depicts atheism as an outcome of one’s personal growth, whereas the situational frame casts it in terms of being a consequence of one’s lived context. In providing these accounts, they also say that identifying as an atheist took either a modest or a considerable level of effort on their part. Taken together, these two sets of categories provide four “ideal types” of atheist identity acquisition narratives: inquisitives (teleological frame, modest effort); searchers (teleological frame, considerable effort); consolidators (situational frame; modest effort); and responders (situational frame; considerable effort). Most of this chapter is focused on describing these four narrative types in detail.

Keywords:   acquisition narratives, modest effort, considerable effort, teleological, situational, inquisitives, searchers, consolidators, responders

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