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Atheism, Wellbeing, and the Wager: Why Not Believing in God (With Others) is Good for You

Atheism, Wellbeing, and the Wager: Why Not Believing in God (With Others) is Good for You

Luke Galen

Department of Psychology, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, United States.



The majority of social science research on religiosity and associated variables has tended to focus on putative beneficial aspects, implying that the absence of religious belief is accompanied by liabilities. However, a closer examination of the literature reveals that the mechanisms of most beneficial associations with religiosity are attributable to factors other than beliefs, chiefly, social engagement and embeddeness in supportive groups. Often, those with the lowest levels of well-being and prosociality are uncommitted or indifferent religious believers, not socially engaged nonbelievers. Therefore, defining individuals who are not committed or engaged in socially supportive groups solely in terms of their lack of religious belief virtually guarantees that atheists and agnostics will appear inferior on a variety of outcome variables. However, nonbelief and secular worldviews can also be practiced in social groups such as atheist, humanist, and freethought organizations. Contrary to prevalent stereotypes, organized nonbelief is also associated with well-being and prosociality equivalent to that seen with organized religious belief. Notable areas of relative advantage for nonbelievers are in the domains of outgroup tolerance and moral universalism.


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Science, Religion and Culture


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


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