Joseph Blankholm

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
Area: American Religion, Atheism, Sociology and Anthropology of Religion

Ph.D., Columbia University

Office: HSSB 3049
Office Hours: W16: W, 12:30 – 2:30pm (and by appointment)
blankholm@religion.ucsb.edu


My research focuses on atheism and secularism, primarily in the United States. Relying on qualitative, quantitative, and historical research methods, I show how the boundaries between secular, spiritual, and religious have shifted over time and how these shifts impact the ways we think about religion. Most recently, I have published on religious indifference, nonbeliever organizations, secularist lobbying, and the complex entanglements of secularism and humanism. My ongoing projects include articles on atheism and secular activists’ engagement with American courts, as well as a monograph on organized nonbelievers in the United States. I have also conducted research among evangelicals in America and Zambia, especially Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I continue to be interested in how evangelicals and nonbelievers imagine one another.

In my teaching and writing, I draw attention to the contingent and often fragile ways that we decide what is religious and what is not. I’m most interested in moments in which these decisions have real consequences—be they legal, financial, or emotional—because they show us why the study of religion is so important. Attending to when symbolic boundaries produce conflict or enable new projects helps us understand where our practices and beliefs come from. As a process of reflection, it also makes available new ways of imagining our ongoing relationship with our inheritance and those things we call secular, spiritual, or religious.


Selected Articles, Reviews & Entries

  • “Atheism.” Oxford Encyclopedia of Religion in America. Forthcoming. (New York: Oxford University Press).
  • “The Social Context of Organized Nonbelief: County-Level Predictors of Nonbeliever Organizations in the United States.” Co-authored with Alfredo García, Princeton University. Forthcoming in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.
  • “Secularism, Humanism, and Secular Humanism: Terms and Institutions.” Forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of Secularism, edited by Phil Zuckerman and John Shook (New York: Oxford University Press).
  • “The Limits of Religious Indifference.” Forthcoming in volume with Springer Publishing, edited by Johannes Quack and Cora Schuh.
  • “The Political Advantages of a Polysemous Secular.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 53:4 (December 2014): 775-790.
  • “No Part of the World: How Jehovah’s Witnesses Perform the Boundaries of Their Community.” ARC 37, (January 1, 2009): 197-211.

Courses Taught

  • RG ST 35: Introduction to Religion and Politics
  • RG ST 144A: Atheism
  • RG ST 152: Religion in America Today
  • RG ST 200A: Proseminar in the History and Theory of Religion
  • RG ST 292RR: Social Scientific Methods in the Study of Religion