Atheists who’re ladies, Republicans or Southerners extra more likely to cover beliefs


(RNS) — Atheists within the U.S. usually tend to cover their beliefs if they’re ladies, Republicans, in the event that they dwell within the South or in the event that they’ve beforehand been non secular, based on new analysis by Rice and West Virginia universities.

“If somebody is already in a marginalized group — like ladies — or are members of a gaggle that’s closely non secular — similar to Republicans or Southern Individuals — it stands to cause they’re much less more likely to tackle the extra stigma of being an ‘out’ atheist,” mentioned Jacqui Frost, a postdoctoral analysis fellow in sociology and the Faith and Public Life Program at Rice College.

With this new research, “Patterns of Perceived Hostility and Id Concealment amongst Self-Recognized Atheists,” Frost mentioned researchers wished to discover whether or not individuals who affirm atheist labels are extra snug than different nonreligious folks about sharing their atheism with others.

The analysis confirmed that atheists are the most certainly nonreligious group to understand stigma, but amongst individuals who determine as atheist, agnostic or just nonreligious, atheists are probably the most open about their beliefs, which Frost discovered shocking.


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“The folks which can be being most discriminated towards are additionally the folks which can be least more likely to cover their identities,” Frost, one of many report’s authors, instructed Faith Information Service.

Chart courtesy of Pew Analysis Middle

Nevertheless, that’s not true for everybody.

In teams that statistically have the fewest variety of atheists, the atheists amongst them are much less vocal. This consists of ladies; people who find themselves in very non secular areas, similar to Republicans; and folks within the South — all of whom have been extra more likely to cover their identities, Frost mentioned.

“The folks which can be much less more likely to tackle an atheist label in different research have been additionally the those who have been much less more likely to wish to share their atheism with folks in our research,” Frost added. 

The report’s authors write that organizations similar to American Atheists — a nationwide civil rights group that seeks to realize non secular equality for all Individuals — could “make it simpler for atheists to decide on identification affirmation over concealment, even within the face of perceived hostility.”

Alison Gill, vice chairman for authorized and coverage for American Atheists, mentioned atheist and secular teams may help present group and social connection to nonreligious folks.

“Particularly in very non secular areas, atheists typically encounter stigma and discrimination, which might negatively affect their well being and well-being, leading to loneliness, social isolation and even melancholy,” Gill mentioned. “Analysis reveals that membership in native and nationwide secular organizations can present assist and assist shield towards these damaging outcomes.”

American Atheists launched a report in 2020 detailing the stigma and discrimination nonreligious folks face of their communities and shortly will launch a brand new report specializing in atheist and nonreligious ladies. Gill mentioned there continues to be a stereotype that every one atheists are males, when in actual fact “atheists and secular communities are numerous and vibrant.”


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The information from the Rice and West Virginia universities’ report comes from the 2019 Experiences with Spiritual Discrimination Research, which included 4,774 people who accomplished a survey assessing the hostility they understand from others resulting from their faith or nonreligious identities. For this explicit evaluation, researchers restricted the info to 721 people who recognized as atheist.

The report comes as Pew Analysis Middle knowledge present that the U.S. nonreligious inhabitants has grown from 16% in 2007 to 29% in 2021. Solely 4% determine as atheists.

With this rising demographic of nonreligious folks, Frost mentioned it’s essential to know “who they’re, what their identities are like and what they imagine.” Whereas atheists don’t expertise as a lot discrimination as Muslims or Jewish folks, Frost mentioned, “we don’t need any group to be discriminated towards.”

“Understanding what sorts of discrimination atheists are experiencing and the way that shapes whether or not or not they’re keen to share their identification with others is essential,” she mentioned.

This work, Frost mentioned, can also be essential to replicate how “we measure nonreligious folks.”

“If atheists are afraid to inform different folks they’re atheists, then there could also be extra atheists on the market than we’re truly capturing,” she mentioned.


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