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Godless People and Dead Bodies: Materiality and the Morality of Atheist Materialism

Jacob Copeman and Johannes Quack

Keywords: ATHEISM; BODY DONATION; DISBELIEF; INDIA; MATERIAL CULTURE; MORAL MATERIALISM; NON-RELIGION

Abstract

Atheists are not the only people who donate their bodies, yet the practice is strikingly prevalent in a variety of atheist circles. We concentrate here on the Indian case, exploring body donation as a key instance of the material culture of atheism. Recent efforts to reinvigorate study of the material culture of religion are to be welcomed, but they should be extended to non-religion in order to address the irony that sees scholars representing materialism as an abstract doctrine and, hence, as immaterial. Body donation holds value for Indian atheists as a bridge between 'positive' and 'negative' modes of atheist thought and action. It also provides a ready-made solution for atheist activists keen to circumvent the cadaver-centered death rituals they find so redundant.

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