In recent years a cultural space for public expressions of atheism and other forms of irreligion has opened up within American society. Both advocates of the so-called “new atheism” and its detractors have been enormously vocal, but we still know very little about everyday atheists beyond the popular – and very misleading – stereotypes about them. This presentation aims to get beyond those by taking a more considered, sociological look at American atheism, its connection to other nascent modes religious identification (the “nones,” the “spiritual but not religious,” agnostics, etc.), and its prospects for helping to engender a more thoughtful public conversation about the sacred and secular within contemporary society.
Jerome Baggett, Professor of Religion and Society at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, a member of the Graduate Theological Union’s Core Doctoral Faculty, and Visiting Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley. His interests include the sociology of religion, civic engagement and social movement activism, American Catholicism, and secularization theory. His courses address the nexus of religion, culture and contemporary society while introducing students to theories and methods in the social sciences. Professor Baggett did his A.B. at Boston College, his M.T.S. at Weston School of Theology, his Ph.D. at the Graduate Theological Union and his S.T.L. at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. He is the author of Sense of the Faithful: How American Catholics Live Their Faith (2009); and Habitat for Humanity: Building Private Homes, Building Public Religion (2001). He is currently conducting research on atheist and freethinker groups in the United States and recently published an essay entitled "Protagoras's Assertion Revisited: American Atheism and Its Accompanying Obscurities" (Implicit Religion, Fall 2011).
Each Bannan Institute spans academic, public, and pastoral offerings to engage Santa Clara University and the larger community around issues of contemporary religious, cultural, and theological significance.