Book Review

26 Jan 2019

Happy to see the first review of my CUP book out in the world!

Munnik, M. (2019). Book review: Stephen Pihlaja, Religious Talk Online: The Evangelical Discourse of Muslims, Christians, and Atheists. Discourse & Communication, 13(1), 138–141. https://doi.org/10.1177/1750481318808686
Two contributions this volume makes to wider discussions concern the empirical and conceptual definition of modern atheism and the specifically evangelical nature of the online discourse. Pihlaja notes that atheism lacks an established institution or a canon of sacred texts. Arguably, it is the affordances of online communication that have given atheism its public dimension. Leadership and authority are more diffuse, and as his data show, online atheists feel no particular need to conform to a public message track, in the way that a Catholic might, not wanting to contradict Vatican doctrine, or a Muslim might, not wanting to expose divisions when the faith insists God is one. Atheists contradict each other within the comments sections rather than reinforcing group solidarity. By constructing atheism in a religion-like way, Pihlaja makes evangelism a relevant way of describing atheist talk online. Thus, ‘the presence of atheist voices online does serve to embolden people to “come out” as atheists and provides them with a place of connection and discussion’ (p. 163). Further, the atheist user occupies an influential role within his community that outstrips that of the other two, as seen in the comparative volume of views and comments.
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