The Discourse of Religion in Swedish Secular Humanism. A Discursive study of religion and the secular in the Swedish Humanist Association

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för litteratur, idéhistoria och religion

Abstract: This study combines the two scholarly fields of studying atheism and secular humanism and the discursive approach of studying the uses of the category “religion” in socio-political interests. As an empirical case, the study looks at The Swedish Humanist Association, Humanisterna, with examples from some of the videos on their official website, as well as examples of articles from debates between the chairman of Humanisterna and critics of the association. By using discourse analysis as a method, the study examines what specific examples and connotations that Humanisterna use to represent “religion”, and what discursive strategies they deploy when their representations of “religion” are challenged by critics. The examination of the material show how Humanisterna’s normatively constructs “religion” by referring to its “true face”, which is conservative, fundamentalist, and oppressive. The study also shows the discursive strategy of separating the category of religion from human subjects, where “religion” is constructed as a disembodied, ahistorical entity that has agency and oppresses people. By relating to previous research and theories the study concludes that “religion” is more than something that Humanisterna criticizes, it is a discourse that fundamentally defines legitimizes their identity. While the previous research emphasized the understanding of secular humanism and atheism as the constructing of a distinct collective identity, this study contributes by showing the function of “religion” within this identity.

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