Protagoras's Assertion Revisited
American Atheism and its Accompanying Obscurities
Keywords:American atheism, culture, cultural frame, spirituality, conversion
AbstractHow scholars (and others) culturally frame what we mean by atheism matters when it comes to our analysis of it. Because we tend to frame it as something quite simple and certain—as a firm conviction that God does not exist, in other words—we seldom examine our presumptions in doing so or truly appreciate atheism’s connection to the oft-underestimated degree of religious uncertainty among Americans. We also tend to overlook the fact that the variety of atheism with which Americans are most familiar is actually one among conceivable others, a reality that this article examines with respect to its “official” iterations and then more fully in terms of what I call “non-official” or “lived” atheism. For this latter category, I explore two strands of atheist literature—atheist conversion accounts and atheist spirituality books—to argue that, at this popular level, atheists’ cultural frames are surprisingly similar to those deployed by other Americans, including religious ones, when thinking about their own lives.
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