Triangle Atheists: Stigma, Identity, and Community Among Atheists in North Carolina's Triangle Region
While there has been much speculation among sociologists on what the rise of religious disaffiliation means in the long-term for American religiosity, and if it can be considered a valid measure of broader secularization, the issue of if and how explicitly atheist communities are normalizing irreligion in the United States has received little attention. Adopting an inductive approach and drawing on one year of exploratory ethnographic research within one atheist community in North Carolina's Triangle Region, including extensive participant-observation as well as nineteen in-depth interviews, I examine in what ways individuals within this community have experienced and interpreted stigma because of their atheistic views, how they have conceptualized and constructed their atheist identity, and how both of these things influence their motivations for seeking and affiliating with atheist organizations and communities. On all these measures I found great diversity among my interlocutors along with a popular desire to shift the focus of atheist organizations, within their own community and in the public sphere, in a positive and value-affirming direction. I consider how these findings might reflect broader trends in how atheism is conceived of and enacted in the contemporary United States and where organized atheism might be heading in the years to come.
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