Joseph Blankholm

Assistant Professor
Ph.D., Columbia University
American Religion, Secularism and Atheism, Sociology and Anthropology of Religion
HSSB 3049
Office Hours:
By appointment
Curriculum Vitae:


My research focuses on atheism, secularism, and the meaning of religion. My first book, The Secular Paradox: On the Religiosity of the Not Religious, will be published by NYU Press in June of 2022. It’s an ethnography that relies on several years of fieldwork among very secular Americans to explain why being secular can feel so weirdly religious.

I’m currently conducting an intergenerational study of religion, spirituality, and values, which is funded by the John Templeton Foundation. The research is part of the Longitudinal Study of Generations, which first began in 1971. The current wave includes the fifth-generation descendants of the original participants, and it marks the study’s 50th anniversary.

In the spring of 2021, I fielded two surveys of nonreligious Americans, including the largest ever of organized nonbelievers in the U.S. (n=12,372). My recent essays have focused on Karl Marx’s forgotten secularism, genealogy’s bad blood, and the many things we mean when we talk about belief. In the past I’ve conducted research among born-again Christians in America and Zambia, especially Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I continue to be interested in how evangelicals and nonbelievers imagine one another.

This review essay at Public Books gives my perspective on atheism and how to study it. This forum that I co-organized at The Immanent Frame explores whether atheism and secularism constitute a tradition that we can study sort of like a religion. My concluding essay sums up my position. You can listen to me being interviewed about the many meanings of “secularism” by clicking here. You can watch a video in which I discuss my research on organized nonbelievers by clicking here. And you can hear a presentation on Marx and the Epicurean tradition that I gave at the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion by clicking here. Below you’ll find links to pre-publication copies of most of my recent scholarship.


Courses Taught:

  • RG ST 13: Religion and Popular Culture
  • RG ST 35: Introduction to Religion and Politics
  • RG ST 104: Problems in the Study of Religion
  • RG ST 144A: Atheism
  • RG ST 152: Religion in America Today
  • RG ST 200A: Proseminar in the History and Theory of Religion
  • RG ST 239: Secularism
  • RG ST 243M: Materialism
  • RG ST 280A: Methods in the Study of Religion