How Do Religious People Become Atheists? Applying a Grounded Theory Approach to Propose a Model of Deconversion

The influence of organized religion is decreasing in the West, and trends show a growing number of people abandoning their religious beliefs, or deconverting. However, this phenomenon has received relatively little attention in the psychology of religion. The current study asks "How do religiou...

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Bibliographic Details
Published in:Secularism and Nonreligion
Authors: Perez, Sergio; Vallières, Frédérique
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
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Published: [publisher not identified] [2019]
[publication not identified]
In:Secularism and Nonreligion
Year: 2019, Volume: 8, Pages: 1-14
Standardized Subjects / Keyword chains:B Religiosity / Conversion / Atheism
Online Access: Volltext (kostenfrei)
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Summary:The influence of organized religion is decreasing in the West, and trends show a growing number of people abandoning their religious beliefs, or deconverting. However, this phenomenon has received relatively little attention in the psychology of religion. The current study asks "How do religious people become atheists?" and aims to further the understanding of the process of religious deconversion by offering a proposed model of deconversion. The main findings within the literature are examined, and consideration is given to the concept of deconversion itself and to biases within the psychology of religion. Employing an inductive grounded theory approach based on Strauss and Corbin's guidelines, we investigated the process of deconversion among a sample of atheist individuals who previously identified as religious. The data consists of 30 testimonies obtained from former clergypersons and six semi-structured interviews with atheist participants recruited through an advocacy group. The resulting model of deconversion is comprised of three core categories: reason and enquiry, criticism and discontent, and personal development. Despite being closely interlinked, these categories were clearly distinct and represent an intellectual impetus, moral and ethical judgments of religion, and overcoming personal issues, respectively. For all participants deconversion developed gradually within the close context of family and local community and the wider cultural context of society at large. Findings are discussed in relation to previous research and psychological theory.
ISSN:2053-6712
Contains:Enthalten in: Secularism and Nonreligion
Persistent identifiers:DOI: 10.5334/snr.108