cover image Atheist Awakening: Secular Activism and Community in America

Atheist Awakening: Secular Activism and Community in America

Richard Cimino and Christopher Smith. Oxford Univ., $27.95 (216p) ISBN 978-0-19-998632-3

Books on atheism often emphasize the individuality of the atheist, a person who has broken away from religious dogmatism to personally determine a worldview and morality. By welcome contrast, Cimino and Smith study the social aspects of atheist culture. At the core of atheist identity, they argue, resides an inherent tension between the needs for inclusion and autonomy. Their work historically situates the atheist movement, unearthing ways in which atheists have adapted social group behaviors and strategies from using evangelical Christian-style conversion to mobilizing via identity politics. The authors also consider the signal role of social media in the formation of atheist communities, suggesting that technology has shifted the ways in which people conceive of relationships and interact within them. This is a meticulous study that embeds atheist community in a larger context of subcultures, showing identity formation, the assertion of that identity, and the need to be included. The authors excel in demonstrating the inevitably social dimensions of human identity. (Nov.)