The Process and Experience of Deciding to Live Openly Atheist in a Christian Family: A Qualitative Study

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Virginia Tech


Existing literature reveals that atheists are among the least accepted groups in America. This study examined the process atheists go through when disclosing their atheism to their religious family members. It is hoped that the information gained may benefit therapists who work with this population as they go through this potentially difficult time and adds to the currently insufficient body of research on atheism and atheists. Using the guided frameworks of grounded theory and social exchange and choice theory, a focus group was conducted with seven atheists and coded for themes. The data revealed the disclosure process as happening in three main stages which cover how the atheists arrived at the belief system, how it was disclosed and its reception, and how relationships have been impacted since the disclosure. The clinical implications of the findings and suggestions for future research are also discussed.



Atheism, coming out, religion