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Without God yet not without nuance: A qualitative study of atheism and non-religion among Scottish university students

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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAtheist Identities - Spaces and Social Contexts
EditorsLori G. Beaman, Steven Tomlins
Place of PublicationDordrecht
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9783319096025
ISBN (Print)9783319096018
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Publication series

NameBoundaries of Religious Freedom: Regulating Religion in Diverse Societies
ISSN (Print)2214-5281
ISSN (Electronic)2214-529X


This chapter proposes an analytic typology for the study of atheism, based on questionnaire and interview data from Scottish subjects, which allows for more a more nuanced understanding of non-religion than the prevalent model of characterising atheists simply as those who are not theists. The chapter was motivated by a concern to show “variety in the category ‘non-religious’, whilst demonstrating the inadequacy of attempts to do this in terms of dimensions of ‘religiosity’.” In other words, the author explores the use of ideal types that are grounded in the narratives and self-descriptions of non-religious individuals, and which are not limited to a simple negation of religion. The significance of this is to avoid considering religiosity to be the normative base from which non-religiosity is always compared, and to further the in-depth and qualitative understanding of non-religious people in their own right.

The closer people’s worldviews are probed – even among self-described secular or nonreligious individuals – the more difficult it is to neatly place many into the major categories that frame Western discourse on “theism” and “atheism” or “religion” or “irreligion”.

(Pasquale 2010, 63)

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