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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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Maintaining Atheist Identities

Maintaining Atheist Identities

Stigma, Reason, Feelings

(p.75) 3 Maintaining Atheist Identities
The Varieties of Nonreligious Experience

Jerome P. Baggett

NYU Press

Whereas only a minority of American atheists participate in atheism-related groups and communities, this chapter describes how many more of them maintain their atheist identities by situating themselves within an “imagined community” of nonbelievers. They do this by telling “stigma stories” that range from minor suspicions about being treated differently by believers to outright rejection by them. Next, they cast the believers in their midst as being irrational insofar as they are deemed insufficiently equipped, unable, or unwilling to properly use their reason when addressing matters of faith and religion. Finally, they access and rely upon their feelings as a kind of affective confirmation that they are living decent and purposive lives without religion. These feelings include regret about their religious pasts, a feeling of freedom from religious strictures in the present, and a sense of responsibility for carving out meaningful lives into the future.

Keywords:   imagined community, stigma stories, irrational, feelings, regret, freedom, responsibility

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