I won an Understanding Unbelief grant in 2017, to investigate the variety of secular worldviews around the world, and what their psychological functions might be. Data collection has now concluded and the data is being analysed and written up.
A global increase in individuals who lack religious faith or do not hold religious beliefs, and a concurrent increase in secular organisations and even secular rituals (e.g., humanist weddings and funerals), begs for a better understanding of what unbelief entails . One could define unbelief as a negative phenomenon, as lacking in religious beliefs, as scoring zero on a continuous religiosity scale (Beit-Hallahmi, 2007).
However, while non-believers may not hold religious beliefs, they will still hold distinct ontological, epistemological and ethical beliefs about reality (Farias, 2013; Lee, 2015). Moreover, such secular beliefs may provide them with sources of meaning or function as coping mechanisms, possibly in a way similar to supernatural beliefs for religious individuals. This idea has been called the Belief Replacement hypothesis (Farias, 2013). The Belief Replacement hypothesis predicts that, like religious beliefs, secular beliefs will have profound effects at cognitive, motivational, and emotional levels.
This project aims to contribute to two main questions within the research on unbelief:
(i) Do secular beliefs fulfil the same or similar psychological functions as religious beliefs, and what is the range of these functions?
(ii) Which secular beliefs do non-believers hold (cross-culturally)?
van Mulukom, V., Turpin, H., Purzycki, B. G., Haimila, R., Bendixen, T., Kundtová Klocová, E., Řezníček, D., Coleman, T. J. III, Maraldi, E., Sevinç, K., Schjoedt, U., Rutjens, B., & Farias, M. (manuscript). What do non-religious non-believers believe in? Secular worldviews around the world. https://osf.io/9ma5u/
Coleman, T.J. III, Messick, K. & van Mulukom, V. (accepted) New Cognitive and Evolutionary Approaches on Atheism. In: The Routledge Handbook of Evolutionary Approaches to Religion (Routledge), editors Y. Lior & J.E. Lane. Preprint.
Press & media
Popular science article: ‘How non-religious worldviews provide solace in times of crisis’, The Conversation, 21 May 2020.