Atheists and agnostics hold a wide variety of beliefs according to a report from the Understanding Unbelief programme, led by the University of Kent

  • Christopher Cotter

Press/Media: Expert Comment


Dr Chris Cotter is a Religious Studies scholar by training, specialising in all things 'non-religous'.

Period7 Jun 2019

Media coverage


Media coverage

  • TitleUnderstanding Unbelief: A report from the Understanding Unbelief programme, led by the University of Kent, has found a wide variety of beliefs among atheists and agnostics.
    Degree of recognitionNational
    Media name/outletReligion Media Centre
    Media typeWeb
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    DescriptionThis article written by the Religion Media Centre lists comments from academics on the findings from the report that has been produced by the Understanding Unbelief programme, led by the University of Kent

    They examined the beliefs of atheists and agnostics. 15% in the UK say they are Christian. 14% are spiritual but not religious.

    Dr Chris Cotter, University of Edinburgh, CEO of The Religious Studies Project Association (SCIO); Co-Director at the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network commented:

    ‘These interim findings provide rich data emphasising the sheer variety of identities, values and beliefs of ‘atheists’ and ‘agnostics’, but must be interpreted well. One reading of the data is that it generally shows that atheists and agnostics are not all that different from the broader population. Another is that atheists and agnostics are very similar to ‘religious believers’. If this is taken to mean that they are ‘not really’ atheists or agnostics, this would be a gross oversimplification. Headlines emphasizing that atheists believe in the ‘supernatural’, mistakenly presume that this is contradictory. But we know from existing research that while atheists don’t believe in some sort of theistic God, their position doesn’t say anything about fate, or ghosts, or karma etc. Responses such as significant events are ‘meant to be’ and that ‘there are underlying forces of good and evil in this world’, need not refer to the supernatural. They could be used to explain rational causation of events or societal forces. The report’s findings of shared values such as ‘family’ and ‘freedom’, shows that these are powerful symbols, but they are very broad categories which can mask very real differences.’
    PersonsChristopher Cotter