Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2005 Volume 1 :: Article 2
2005 Volume 1, Article 2

Author: William Sims Bainbridge (Arlington, Virginia)

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Data from a large, four-language web-based questionnaire, supplemented with data from the General Social Survey, allow us to explore possible sources of Atheism, notably the hypothesis that lack of social obligations encourages disbelief in God. The analysis is rooted in the compensator theory of religion, first proposed twenty-five years ago, but it incorporates a recent addition: the distinction between primary and secondary compensation. Social obligations make secondary compensation important, because it substitutes a compensator for a reward that a person is obligated to provide to another person. The data show that Atheism is indeed more common among people whose social obligations are weak. The analysis also traces connections between Atheism and the demographic fertility collapse that has been occurring in most advanced industrial nations, suggesting that secularization might best be understood in the context of declining social obligations.

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