Profiling atheist world views in different cultural contexts: Developmental trajectories and accounts.

In the current study, we look at atheist or secular identities in different religious landscapes: In the U.S., the majority of the population indicates a belief in God. In West Germany, one third of the population reports no religious affiliation and a quarter identifies as “not religious,” and in East Germany, most of the population explicitly identifies as atheist. Drawing on atheist worldview and identity literature from multiple disciplines, and using quantitative and qualitative data obtained in the U.S. and Germany during the “Bielefeld-based Cross-Cultural Study on the Semantics and Psychology of Spirituality,” we examine self-identified atheists. First, self-identified atheist participants are portrayed quantitatively based on constructs expected to highlight differences between atheists and other “nones” and religious or spiritual persons: openness, a personality trait (NEO-FFI) documented to be higher in nonbelievers, positive relations, a dimension of eudaimonic well-being as indicator of social integration, generativity, concern for the welfare of future generations, and experiences of transcendence or “mysticism.” Second, four case studies are presented that illustrate the wide range of distinct atheist beliefs, biographical experiences, and ideological positions by examining individuals’ subjective definitions of “religion” and “spirituality” and personal interviews. The semistructured Faith Development Interview (FDI; Fowler, 1981) examines vertical and horizontal transcendence. By drawing on examples from our interviews, we show different descriptions of one’s atheist worldview or “faith” in autobiographical remembering and reasoning. Thus, we work from a nomothetic toward an idiographic comparative perspective. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)