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"An Alien in a Christian World": Intolerance, Coping, and Negotiating Identity among Atheists in the United States

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abstract
This study is an ethnographic examination of atheists in the United States. Choosing to label oneself as an atheist entails more than a simple description of beliefs. Atheists actively create an identity which involves labeling oneself as a minority, negotiating minority status, and dealing with discrimination and intolerance. This study also looks at atheist communities, which serve crucial functions for their members. By aligning with a group, atheists create a social space in which they narrate their identities as atheists by drawing boundaries of inclusion and exclusion. Atheists, cognizant of these symbolic boundaries, then choose where and when to avoid emphasizing these demarcations in their personal lives. Since this minority status is not visible, like it would be for an ethnic minority, atheists have the power as individuals to choose when to disclose this stigmatized minority status. Negotiation of their identities in this way influences micro-level concerns, such as whether or not to disclose their atheism in a one-on-one situation, and macro-level concerns, such as whether or not to present oneself as an atheist to society by engaging in activities as a member of the atheist community.
subject
Atheist
Religion
Identity
United States
Ethnography
contributor
Foust, Christine H. (author)
Folmar, Steven (committee chair)
Neal, Lynn (committee member)
Leonard, Bill (committee member)
date
2009-05-08T17:25:03Z (accessioned)
2010-06-18T18:57:00Z (accessioned)
2009-05-08T17:25:03Z (available)
2010-06-18T18:57:00Z (available)
2009-05-08T17:25:03Z (issued)
degree
Religion (discipline)
identifier
http://hdl.handle.net/10339/14661 (uri)
language
en_US (iso)
publisher
Wake Forest University
rights
Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide. (accessRights)
title
"An Alien in a Christian World": Intolerance, Coping, and Negotiating Identity among Atheists in the United States
type
Thesis

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