Embodiment and Collective Identity at the Global Atheist Convention
Keywords:atheism, collective effervescence, collective identity, New Atheism, embodiment
The Global Atheist Convention (GAC) held in Melbourne, Australia on 13-15 April 2012 gave participants an opportunity to instantiate their atheist identities in the context of embodied, shared activity. The existence of “experiential atheism” – the embodied, collective, physical realization of the ideological position – has been proposed but not widely studied. This article uses the interaction ritual model of Randall Collins to understand the Global Atheist Convention as an example of experiential atheism. Being surrounded by a crowd of like identifying bodies, sharing a mood, behaviours and a focus of attention with them and having a boundary to outsiders created the conditions for collective effervescence at the convention. This ratified attendees’ shared representations of the atheist collective and emotively affirmed their affiliation with those representations.
Atheist Foundation of Australia. 2010. “Global Atheist Convention 2010,” Vimeo, 14 October 2010. http://vimeo.com/channels/gac2010
Bainbridge, William Sims. 2005. “Atheism,” Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, 1, 3–26.
Bell, Catherine. 1992. Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
—1997. Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bellah, Robert. 2005. “Durkheim and Ritual,” in Jeffrey C. Alexander and Philip Smith, eds, The Cambridge Companion to Durkheim. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 183–210. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CCOL9780521806725.008
Briggs, Carolyn S. 2011. “Waiting for Lightning to Strike: A Wobbly Agnostic among the Atheists,” Religion Dispatches, 18 October 2011. http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/culture/5283/waiting_for_lightning_to_strike%3A_a_wobbly_agnostic_among_the_atheists (accessed 18 October 2012).
Budd, Susan. 1967. “The Humanist Societies: The Consequences of a Diffuse Belief System,” in Bryan R. Wilson, ed., Patterns of Sectarianism: Organisation and Ideology in Social and Religious Movements. London: Heinemann, 377–405.
Bullivant, Stephen. 2008. “Research Note: Sociology and the Study of Atheism,” Journal of Contemporary Religion, 23.3, 363–68. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13537900802373114
—2010. “The New Atheism and Sociology: Why Here? Why Now? What Next?,” in Amarnath Amarasingam, ed., Religion and the New Atheism: A Critical Appraisal. Leiden: Brill, 109–24. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/ej.9789004185579.i-253.42
Campbell, Colin David. 1971. Toward a Sociology of Irreligion. London: Macmillan.
Canetti, Elias. 1973. Crowds and Power. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Cimino, Richard, and Christopher Smith. 2007. “Secular Humanism and Atheism beyond Progressive Secularism,” Sociology of Religion, 68.4, 407–24. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/socrel/68.4.407
Collins, Randall. 2004. Interaction Ritual Chains. Princeton: Princeton University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/9781400851744
Cotter, Christopher R. 2010. Qualitative Methods Workshop. PPSIS, University of Cambridge: Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network.
—2011. “Consciousness Raising: The Critique, Agenda, and Inherent Precariousness of Contemporary Anglophone Atheism,” International Journal for the Study of New Religions, 2.1, 77–103. http://dx.doi.org/10.1558/ijsnr.v2i1.77
Davie, Grace. 2012. “Belief and Unbelief: Two Sides of a Coin,” Approaching Religion, 2.1, 3–7.
Durkheim, Émile. 2001 . The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fine, Gary Alan, and Lisa-Jo van den Scott. 2011. “Wispy Communities,” American Behavioral Scientist, 55.10, 1319–35. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0002764211409379
Gillespie, Alex, and Flora Cornish. 2010. “Intersubjectivity: Towards a Dialogical Analysis,” Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 40.1, 19–46. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/
Greenwald, David E. 1973. “Durkheim on Society, Thought and Ritual,” Sociological Analysis, 34.3, 157–68. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3709771
Gross, Dick. 2012. “The Atheist Jamboree,” The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 April 2012. http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/blogs/godless-gross/the-atheist-jamboree-20120416-1x2lw.html (accessed 12 October 2012).
Harris, Rohan. 2012. “The Church that Wasn’t,” Martin S Pribble, 7 June 2012. http://martinspribble.com/archives/2621 (accessed 12 October 2012).
Holmes, Lee, and Tom Melchiorre. 2012. “Feedback From Near and Far,” The Australian Atheist, 33, 49–53.
Hubble, Cale. 2013. “The Sacred Things of Contemporary Anglophone Atheism: Celebrities, Books and Values,” International Journal for the Study of New Religions, 4.1, 81–112. http://dx.doi.org/10.1558/ijsnr.v4i1.81
Knott, Kim. 2005. The Location of Religion: A Spatial Analysis. London: Equinox.
Lee, Lois. 2012. “Research Note: Talking about a Revolution: Terminology for the New Field of Non-religion Studies,” Journal of Contemporary Religion, 27.1, 129–39.http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13537903.2012.642742
Little, Paul E. 1995. “Ritual, Power and Ethnography at the Rio Earth Summit,” Critique of Anthropology, 15.3, 265–88. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0308275X9501500303
Moore, Fiona. 2012. “4000 Hungry Heathens – the Food of the 2012 Global Atheist Convention.” The Little Lioness, 17 April 2012. http://littlelioness.net/2012/04/17/4000-hungry-heathens-the-food-of-the-2012-global-atheist-convention-melbourne-convention-centre-april-13-15-atheistcon/ (accessed 12 October 2012).
Mumford, Lorna. 2011. Atheism and Anthropology: Researching Atheism and Self-Searching Belief and Experience Workshop. University College London: Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network.
Pasquale, Frank L. 2010. “A Portrait of Secular Group Affiliates,” in Zuckermann, 1, 43–88.
—2012. “The Social Science of Secularity,” Free Inquiry, 33.2, 17–23.
Ramp, William. 2010. “Durkheim and After: Religion, Culture, and Politics,” in Bryan S. Turner, ed., The New Blackwell Companion to the Sociology of Religion. Chichester, UK: Blackwell, 52–75. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/9781444320787.ch2
Rappaport, Roy A. 1999. Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511814686
Rojek, Chris. 2006. “Celebrity and Religion,” in P. David Marshall, ed., The Celebrity Culture Reader. New York: Routledge, 389–417.
Skegg, Andrew. 2012. “We Have It All,” Godless Business, 18 April 2012. http://www.godless.biz/2012/04/18/we-have-it-all/ (accessed 12 October 2012).
Smith, Philip, and Jeffrey C. Alexander. 2005. “Introduction: The New Durkheim,” in Jeffrey C. Alexander and Philip Smith, eds, The Cambridge Companion to Durkheim. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1–39. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CCOL9780521806725.001
Taira, Teemu, and Ruth Illman. 2012. “The New Visibility of Atheism in Europe,” Approaching Religion, 2.1, 1–2.
Turner, Victor W. 1969. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Winston, Kimberly. 2012. “Atheists Rally on National Mall; The ‘Reason Rally’ Largest Gathering of Nonbelievers,” The Huffington Post, 24 March 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/24/atheist-rally_n_1377443.html (accessed 18 October 2012).
Zuckerman, Phil. 2010. “Introduction: The Social Scientific Study of Atheism and Secularity,” in Zuckerman, 1, vii–xii.
Zuckerman, Phil, ed. 2010. Atheism and Secularity. 2 vols. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.
How to Cite
© Equinox Publishing Ltd.
For information regarding our Open Access policy, click here.