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Forget Dawkins

Notes toward an Ethnography of Religious Belief and Doubt

Paul-François Tremlett and Fang-Long Shih

New Atheism is characterized by a binary logic that pits religion against science, belief against doubt, a pre-modern past against a modern present. It generates a temporal sensibility and attitude toward being modern that is a 'survival' of late-nineteenth-century anthropology, where religious belief and the past were bound together in opposition to science and the present. We analyze this binary logic and then, in response, present two ethnographic accounts—one from the Philippines, the other from Taiwan—to support our contention that religion is not just a matter of personal convictions. Rather, it is a public practice in which belief and doubt are constituted socially and dialogically.

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Jack Hunter, Annelin Eriksen, Jon Mitchell, Mattijs van de Port, Magnus Course, Nicolás Panotto, Ruth Barcan, David M. R. Orr, Girish Daswani, Piergiorgio Di Giminiani, Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen, Sofía Ugarte, Ryan J. Cook, Bettina E. Schmidt and Mylene Mizrahi

. Using examples of spiritual healing in the Philippines and propitiation of the spirit of nuclear power in Taiwan, they argue that commitment to such (religious) practices is both much more pragmatic and much more socially embedded than the New Atheism