Atheists: A Groundbreaking Study of America's Nonbelievers

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Prometheus Books, 2006 - Religion - 159 pages
3 Reviews
According to polls, almost all Americans believe in God. So atheists naturally stand out as dissident nay-sayers, especially when challenging the use of "God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, or the display of religious symbols in public places. Such protests make many Americans wonder about the motivations and character of militant unbelievers.

But disbelief is spreading. After reviewing the mounting evidence that organized religion is declining in many countries, this accessible book provides the first scientific study of active atheists. The authors surveyed nearly 300 members of atheist organizations in the United States. Besides soliciting these nonbelievers’ level of education, political leanings, etc., the researchers sought to understand how each respondent had become an atheist. Had they ever believed in God, or had they never? Had they paid a price for their atheism?

Three chapters describe the levels of dogmatism, zealotry, and religious prejudice found among the active atheists. These results, compared with others obtained from more ordinary samples of atheists (and strong fundamentalists), often surprised the authors. Uniquely, the book features a chapter in which the atheists give their reaction to the study and its often-surprising findings. Another chapter breaks down the answers a large Canadian sample gave to the measures used in the American study, according to how religious the respondent was—from atheist to agnostic to four different levels of theistic intensity. A clear finding emerged: the more religious a group was, the more their personalities, prejudices, and beliefs separated them from everyone else.

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Atheists: A Groundbreaking Study of America's Nonbelievers

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Hunsberger (psychology, Wilfred Laurier Univ.) and Altemeyer (psychology, Univ. of Manitoba) here present what may be one of the first objective empirical studies devoted solely to atheists. Using ... Read full review

Review: Atheists: A Groundbreaking Study of America's Nonbelievers

User Review  - Richard - Goodreads

This is reported to be the only study of American Atheists. I took part in the study while living in the Bay Area. Read full review

Contents

Acknowledgments
9
Introduction
11
How We Studied Atheists
23
Are the Atheists Really Atheists?
35
How Do People Become Atheists?
41
Dogmatism
59
Zealotry
69
Religious Ethnocentrism
79
Other Findings
89
Summary and Predictions about Ordinary American Atheists
109
Agnostics and Inactive Believers in the Manitoba Parent Sample
115
Responses from Members of the Atheist Organizations We Surveyed
131
Appendix Survey Sent to the San Francisco Atheists Clubs
145
Index
157
Copyright

About the author (2006)

Bruce E. Hunsberger (1946-2003) was professor of psychology at Wilfred Laurier University and the winner of the William James Award from the American Psychological Association for outstanding research in religion.

Bob Altemeyer (Winnipeg, Canada) is associate professor of psychology at the University of Manitoba and the recipient of the Prize in Behavioral Science Research from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Altemeyer and Hunsberger are the coauthors of Amazing Conversions: Why Some Turn to Faith and Others Abandon Religion.

Bibliographic information