Researcher Wants to Study Non-Belief in America

Christopher Silver is a faculty member at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and he’s doing research to “understand more about non-belief and the complexities of individuals who may call themselves agnostic or atheists.”

He’s looking to conduct interviews with several non-religious people (U.S. citizens only) and then have those interviewees take a few surveys for them.

If it sounds like something you might be interested in, you can find more information here. Please consider it — this type of research doesn’t happen nearly enough.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://twitter.com/JoeCascio Joe Cascio

    I applied to participate. Thx for spreading the word on this.

  • Armadillo

    The only thing that gives me pause and makes me wonder about his motives is that he’s researching people who “call” themselves agnostic or atheist.  Isn’t he actually researching agnostics and atheists? 
    If he were researching Christianity in America, would he phrase it as researching “Christians” or “people who “may call” themselves Christian?”
    Maybe I’m hypersensitive but that was my initial reaction.

    • ReadsInTrees

      It’s probably just  unusual phrasing. His bio says he’s involved in the local Skeptics in the Pub group and the local Secular Student Alliance.

      • Armadillo

         Agreed.  After reading more at the linked page, it seems on the up-and-up.  I don’t like the phrasing, or some of his other phrasing, but that’s probably just a semantic thing on my part. 
        Plus, I’m not a researcher.  So maybe that’s how it needs to be phrased and would, in fact, be phrased the same way for a study of Christians/Muslims/Buddhists/etc.

    • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

      To be precise in the study, he probably has to be clear that these are people who “call themselves agnostic or atheist”.  Assuming there are some people that are agnostic or atheist but don’t call themselves as such (and would therefore not respond to a study about agnostics or atheists), the study could not include their point of view and would thus not represent all people who are agnostic or atheist.  I think he is just being scientifically precise in using the “call” language.

      I would assume he would need to do the same thing for Christians.  Since Christianity is all over the place on what people believe, the only real way to identify a Christian is whether someone calls themself a Christian or not.  It is probably the same for all the other faith groups.

    • Revyloution

      I think the wording is important.   I know many people who don’t believe in gods, but shy away from the label ‘atheist’.  It still has a stigma attached to it that many will shy away from.    Some even think of atheist as a synonym of close-minded .   Separating the people who accept, or even embrace the label might provide some interesting insights.

  • ReadsInTrees

    I sent an email to apply. I haven’t used any sort of video chat with my current laptop, so I guess it’s time to put that webcam to use.

  • Gringa

    I emailed a few questions and will let you all know what response I get

    • Gringa

       Here are my questions and the answers he gave for your info.  I have volunteered! 

      First, would you identify people by name in the research? 
      No I will do everything in my power to protect your individual identity. I am mainly looking for overall trends.
        Second, could you share a little more about your research design? 
      It
      is a qualitative (interview) and quantitative (survey) based design
      asking how people define themselves.  Also are there any characteristics
      specific to their identity of self.
       For example, do you have a hypothesis that you are testing, or is this just exploratory?
      Mainly research questions so yes explorative. I want to let people define themselves, not researchers do it for them.
       How many people are going to be included, and are there goals/quotas for certain demographic groups? 
      Well
      I was originally looking at 20 people for the interviews but now I am
      thinking it may be more. The quantitative I was hoping for over 1000
       
      Third, what is the end goal – are you writing a book or publishing a paper?
      Dissertation but hopefully a book if I am lucky. In academia today, who knows right.

  • Elizabeth

    I applied to participate as well. Thanks Hemant!

  • A3Kr0n

    I’m interested in non-time travel, and the sport of not playing golf. Maybe I should do a study on not owning pets.

    • ReadsInTrees

      When was the last time someone used their status as a golf player to deny other people basic human rights or used their pet ownership to get out of paying millions in taxes? Silly comparison, don’t pretend ignorance.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    I’d like to participate, but unfortunately I haven’t got the right computer equipment.


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