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.
"Who are the atheists? What sustains them? The authors have opened the door to scientific research in this area in a meticulous and very engaging way. Once you start reading this book you won’t want to put it down! The reader is in for a surprise (an interesting one) and a treat at every turn of a page."
RAYMOND F. PALOUTZIAN
Professor of Psychology, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA
Editor, The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion
"This slender, conversational, but methodologically sound treatise on the inner world of atheists will pleasantly surprise readers accustomed to the soporific ‘academese’ of most sociological studies…The study is limited in scope, but the flaws are so forthrightly acknowledged and the writing is so fresh, honest, compelling and entertaining, that it is bound to become an important launching point for more studies of what makes atheists tick."