Presentation Title: Atheism in Psychological Science: Results From a 10-Year Content Analysis

Abstract: Though the preponderance of recently published books about atheism (e.g., works by Dawkins, Harris, Dennett) may suggest that secularism has permeated the zeitgeist, yet, other sources suggest that mainstream society is far from embracing atheism as a respectable social orientation. Indeed, the spaces for atheist individuals to exist in the United States (U.S.) have been largely limited throughout history and the psychological scientific community has put forth little effort to remedy this marginalization (Gervais, 2011). This study provides a content analysis of the past decade (2001-2011) of academic scholarship about atheist people in the U.S. In order to identify articles for the content analysis, we searched the EBSCOhost Academic Search Complete database for articles related to atheism that had been published between 2001 and 2011. The initial search yielded 1261 articles, however, upon closer examination, only 203 articles were relevant to atheism in the U.S. Findings from the content analysis suggest that while literature about atheism has expanded in some fields (e.g., 45% of the articles reviewed were from journals dedicated to the study of religion), it remains to be an understudied topic in psychological science (19% of articles were from psychology journals). The sheer number of articles about atheism published per year since 2001 has also increased significantly (N = 5 in 2001 compared to N = 38 in 2011). However, the topics discussed in atheism literature are narrow in scope (e.g., politics, legal issues). Particularly, only a handful of theoretical (N= 9) and empirical (N = 15) articles examined mental health variables and atheism. Additionally, most of the articles were nonempirical and theoretical (78%), compared to data driven empirical research (22%). Data from this content analysis suggests that atheist individuals are an understudied group and would benefit from advancements in scholarship specific to their experiences.


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