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Unbelief within Marginalized Communities

Research Team


Principal Investigator: Dena Abbott

Funding Information

Funding Agency: Queen's University Belfast

Award Date: Oct 1, 2022

End Date: Jun 30, 2024


Nonreligious people are a fast-growing demographic in the United States. Included in this group are the most stigmatized and understudied.
Adopting an unbelieving worldview is a complex process for people of color, lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) people, and gender-diverse (i.e., transgender, nonbinary) people, who are underrepresented in scholarship of unbelief. 

This project aims to center hegemonic Christianity and intersecting forms of oppression in frameworks for understanding unbelief in the United States. Researchers will identify a framework for the development of unbelief among communities of color and LGBTQ+ people. 

Researchers will conduct five grounded theory-based qualitative studies to explore the origins of unbelief among groups previously underrepresented in research: 

1) transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) people,
2) lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people,
3) Black-identified people,
4) Latino/a/e people, and
5) ex-Muslim people. 

Researchers will then conduct two large-scale quantitative studies — one focused on unbelieving communities of color (racist discrimination as a key matrix of domination) and the other with LGBTQ+ populations (heterosexist/transphobic discrimination as key matrices of domination).
Using structural equation modeling, the team will test a framework of the paths from oppression-related stressors (e.g., racism, Christian dominance) to unbelief via the indirect role of evaluations of stressors (e.g., tolerance of uncertainty). Researchers will also examine the potential for buffers of stress, such as social support, to act as moderators of the aforementioned paths.

Social, Emotional and Behavioral Well-being

Dena Abbott, assistant professor of educational psychology, is exploring pathways to atheism by examining commonly held notions of what causes unbelief among demographic groups that are underrepresented in atheism studies.
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