New Books Network

Joseph O. Baker and Buster G. Smith

American Secularism

Cultural Contours of Nonreligious Belief

New York University Press 2015

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in ReligionNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books in SecularismNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network May 23, 2018 Carrie Lynn Evans

A rapidly growing number of Americans are embracing life outside the bounds of organized religion. Although the United States has long been viewed as...

A rapidly growing number of Americans are embracing life outside the bounds of organized religion. Although the United States has long been viewed as a fervently religious Christian nation, survey data shows that more and more Americans are identifying as “not religious.” Drs. Joseph Baker and Buster Smith claim that despite there being more non-religious Americans than ever before, social scientists have not adequately studied the various secularities, and that the lived reality of secular individuals in America has not been astutely analyzed. In an effort to fill this lacuna, they have published a book called American Secularism: Cultural Contours of Nonreligious Belief (New York University Press, 2015) in which they explore secular Americans’ thought and practice to understand secularisms as worldviews in their own right, not just as negations of religion. Drawing on empirical data, the authors examine how people live secular lives and make meaning outside of organized religion. They address the contemporary lived reality of secular individuals, outlining forms of secular identity and showing their connection to patterns of family formation, sexuality, and politics, demonstrating that shifts in American secularism are reflective of changes in the political meanings of “religion” in American culture.

Dr. Joseph Baker is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at East Tennessee State University and a senior research associate for the Association of Religion Data Archives. Buster Smith is an Associate Professor and Department Chair in the Department of Sociology at Catawba College and the managing editor of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion (IJRR).


Carrie Lynn Evans is a PhD student at Université Laval in Quebec City.