Nonreligious people (those without a religious affiliation) and atheists (individuals without a belief in a god) make up a sizable proportion of the world’s population. In this chapter I provide definitions for the various terms used in the sociological study of nonreligion and atheism. I then examine findings regarding the characteristics of nonreligious people and atheists. I summarize research findings on the reasons why people leave religion and/or adopt an atheistic worldview and examine the growing body of research exploring the pervasive prejudice and discrimination against atheists, in particular, and the nonreligious in the US and around the world. I conclude with some suggestions for future areas of research related to the sociology of nonreligion and atheism.


Atheism Nonreligion Religious nones Agnosticism Atheist Secular Secularity Secularism Agnostic Humanism Secular movement Organized secularism 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyThe University of TampaTampaUSA

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