900 University Ave, Riverside, CA, 92521

More and more Americans are secular, but does that mean they are not religious? In this lecture, Joseph Blankholm explains why atheism can seem so religion-like even though it is by definition the absence of religious belief. Relying on several years of ethnographic research with very secular Americans, as well as the largest survey of organized nonbelievers ever conducted, Blankholm shows that atheists and other kinds of nonbelievers share many beliefs with one another and participate in a tradition that can be traced for centuries. He also explains why converting to secularism poses extra challenges for people of color and those who have left non-Christian religions. Secularism is strangely ambiguous, and secular people are—paradoxically—both religion-like and absolutely not religious.


Dr. Joseph Blankholm is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara and author of The Secular Paradox: On the Religiosity of the Not Religious (NYU Press 2022). He is currently co-leading a project that investigates the intergenerational transmission of values and the many meanings of religion, which is funded by a $2.8m grant from the Templeton Foundation. The project surveys and interviews three generations of American families that have participated since 1970.

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