What is it about?
There are many different religions, and even within them, people differ in their understandings of the world. Non-religious people, too, are far from having uniform attitudes and beliefs. This is already evident in how they describe themselves. Many secular people see themselves as atheists, agnostics or humanists. Are these simply arbitrary labels, or do they reflect different positions? We investigated this by surveying over 1800 secular people from Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. The results suggest that atheists differ very clearly from agnostics - in many areas, they even have contrary attitudes. Atheists were very convinced that neither gods nor higher powers exist. They assumed that this world can be understood rationally and trusted in science and technology, and they were more willing than others to communicate their worldview openly. On the other hand, agnostics were not nearly so sure about the non-existence of a God or higher powers. They were also sceptical about what we can know at all. Accordingly, they were more open in their worldview, and they mainly kept it private. Humanists occupied a middle position, between atheists and agnostics. For the record, men more often described themselves as atheists and women as agnostics. Moreover, the open attitude was more common in secular Holland, while non-religious people in Germany and Austria were more likely to be decided atheists! This supports the hypothesis that societies, where religion is prevalent, evoke more decided secular attitudes.
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Why is it important?
This study shows that secular attitudes can be based on entirely different premises: Agnosticism is not just another, "softer," term for atheism. This is an important clarification when it comes to basic research on worldviews.
Read the Original
This page is a summary of: Worlds apart? Atheist, agnostic, and humanist worldviews in three European countries., Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, October 2021, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/rel0000446.
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