Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2014 Volume 10 :: Article 10
2014 Volume 10, Article 10
Explaining Atheism: Testing Hunterís Durkheimian Theory

Author: Joseph Langston (University of Colorado)

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The objective of this study was to test Hunterís Durkheimian theory of atheism by examining the impact of age, race, and gender on external locus of control and, in turn, the impact of external locus of control on atheist/theist identification. I hypothesized that the lower likelihood of atheist identification among women, minorities, and the elderly would be explained by their greater external locus of control. I sent a nineteen-question online survey to various atheist, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic organizations and conducted univariate ANOVAs to examine relevant external locus of control differences between demographic and atheist/theist groups. I then used a path analysis to examine the model in question (N = 1,002), with the variables of age, race, gender, external locus of control, and atheist/theist identification. Nonwhites, females, and theists were found to have higher external locus of control than whites, males, and atheists. After control- ling for age, race, and gender, the latent variable of external locus of control showed a small capacity to explain variance in atheist/theist identification (R2 = 0.18). Results demonstrate partial support for Hunterís Durkheimian theory. I discuss alternative explanations for atheist identification demographic patterns across age, race, and gender; examine shortcomings of Hunterís theory; and recommend specific future research into locus of control and atheism/theism.

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