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Recognizing the Non-religiousReimagining the Secular$
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Lois Lee

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198736844

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198736844.001.0001

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Disaffiliation and Misaffiliation

Disaffiliation and Misaffiliation

Identifying Non-Religion in Public Life

(p.131) 6 Disaffiliation and Misaffiliation
Recognizing the Non-religious

Lois Lee

Oxford University Press

This chapter is a case study of self-classification, looking at representations of the self as ‘atheist’, ‘non-religious’, and ‘secular’, and the work that these representations do. It points to ways in which people in so-called secular societies are required to conceive of themselves in non-religious terms, that is, in relation to the religious people and cultures also present in these societies. It problematizes the idea of ‘secularity’ as a way to capture these empirical realities, demonstrating how the idea of the insubstantial secular is instead inscribed in self-understandings and social relations through the use of negative or inverted identities—‘atheist’, ‘not religious’, and ‘indifferent to religion’. Despite taking these forms, though, apparently negative identities express much richer and discrete commitments and therefore compete with more explicitly positive identities such as ‘humanism’.

Keywords:   religious identification, non-religious identification, atheist, not religious, indifferent to religion, humanism, secularity, surveys, public non-religion, negative identities

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