however, only recently has social science research started to explore nonbelief in any detail. Research on nonbelief has been limited as most research focuses on the popularity of the
religious “nones” or the complexities of alternative faith expressions such as spirituality.
Through two studies, one qualitative and one quantitative, this research explored how nonbelievers’ self-identify. Study 1 (the qualitative study) discovered that individuals have shared definitional agreement but use different words to describe different types of nonbelief. Through thematic coding, a typology of six different types of nonbelief was observed. Those are Academic Atheists, Activist Atheist/Agnostics, Seeker Agnostics, Antitheists, Non-Theists, and the Ritual Atheists. Study 2 explored the empirical aspects of these types related to the Big Five Domain, Ryff Psychological Well-Being, Narcissistic Personality Inventory, Multidimensional Anger Inventory, Rokeach Dogmatism Scale, and intersections related to religious and spiritual ontology
Discussion: Overall these exploratory correlates of the typology suggest that personality measures have little correlation with varieties of nonbelief. Only the autonomy subscale of the Ryff measure differentiates between various groups in the typology but none of the other subscales reached our accepted level of significance. Likewise, the NEO subdomains offer little in ways of differentiating types with the exception of openness.
More negative measures of personality such as Narcissistic Personality Inventory offers an exception where Anti-Theists (AT) appear to be more narcissistic than others, a finding that may suggest psychological issues involved in strong denial of theism associated with some of the “new atheism”. Other forms of nonbelief may not involve such strong personality involvement that tends towards the negative, a finding consistent with the fact that this group also scores higher on the Dogmatism Scale than any other group in our typology, as well as differing from the Intellectual Atheist/Agnostics (IAA) on the Multidimensional Anger Inventory. Thus, these correlational data are consistent with other empirical studies indicating little power for personality measures to predict either religion or personality.
However, this is not to say that among one type, the Anti-Theists (AT), personality measures suggestive of closed-mindedness as a defense against anger might not be fruitful avenues to explore. However, it is also true that these negative characteristics are not characteristic of the variety of atheists in our typology and remain in this limited sense, an exception.
Just as many scholars have stated that there is no such thing as “religion” in general we put forth that there is also no such thing as “atheism” or “nonreligion” in general – nonreligiosity varies because secular identity and activity is quite multidimensional. More specifically, nonbelieving peoples show great psychological variation in their makeup. Researchers can no longer operate as though a unified psychological profile of “atheists” exist. Past psychological profiles that treat “atheism” as a single entity should be revisited in light of the data presented here.
Silvera, C.F., Thomas J. Coleman III, T.J., Hood, R.W. & Holcombec, J.M. (2014). The six types of nonbelief: a qualitative and quantitative study of type and narrative. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 17(10), 990–1000