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Atheism Looking In: On the Goals and Strategies of Organized Nonbelief

Atheism Looking In: On the Goals and Strategies of Organized Nonbelief

Joseph Langston1*, Joseph Hammer2, Ryan T. Cragun3

1Department of Sociology, University of Colorado, 1420 Austin Bluffs Pkwy, Colorado Springs; 2Iowa State University; 3The University of Tampa, USA.



This exploratory study contributed to research on nonbelievers, their communities, and the atheist movement in general by dividing nonbelievers (N=1,939) into four groups based on degree of formal affiliation and assessing attitudes, perceptions, and preferences in three areas. First, we examined the preferences of nonbelieving group members (“secular affiliates”), former members, and nonbelieving non-members (“secular nonaffiliates”) on nonbeliever group goals, functions, and activities. Second, we examined the perceptions of secular affiliates regarding why secular nonaffiliates do not join nonbeliever groups as well as the reasons given by secular nonaffiliates as to why they do not join these groups. Third, we asked a series of questions on nonbelievers’ preferences around how to best approach religion and religious individuals. Seventy-seven percent of all respondents opted for the group goal of charitable contributions and humanitarian activities, while only 23% of all respondents selected “proselytizing” as a desirable group goal. Secular nonaffiliates’ strongest reason for not joining groups was that joining such groups was a low priority for them, followed by nonbelief not being a salient part of their identity. Notably, approximately one third of secular nonaffiliates indicated that they would join such groups if they were locally available. Neither maximum accommodation nor confrontation with religion was indicated by a majority of nonbelievers, though more respondents opted for accommodation (60%) than confrontation (25%). Most respondents indicated that their willingness to attack or ridicule religion was not absolute, but rather context dependent.

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Science, Religion and Culture


Vol. 5, Sp. Iss. 1 Pages 1-82


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