Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2010 Volume 6 :: Article 6
2010 Volume 6, Article 6
Explaining Atheism: Testing the Secondary Compensator Model and Proposing an Alternative

Author: Laura A. Hunter (University of Notre Dame)

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William Sims Bainbridge has proposed a compensator theory to account for atheism, specifically theorizing that a lack of social obligations allows more freedom for individuals to espouse atheism. Despite the development of testable hypotheses, Bainbridge relies on bivariate statistics to bolster his argument, and adequate empirical tests of these hypotheses have not yet occurred. In this article, data from the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey, an extensive random survey of American adults, are used to test several hypotheses derived from this theoretical model. Overall, the results from a series of logistic regression models, in which various extraneous factors can be controlled for, generally do not support the secondary compensator model. Drawing from these results, I propose an alternative theory to account for the development of atheism in individuals.

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