Non religious belief


Nonreligious Belief

Welcome to the Scientific Study of Nonreligious Belief project website.

Nonreligious Belief

The Scientific Study of Non-religious Belief project is creating authoritative foundational materials to facilitate large-scale research mapping nonreligious beliefs - that is, the religious, religious-like, and religious-related ideas and convictions of non-affiliates and atheists, relating to God(s) and other supernatural agents and to existential questions about the nature and meaning of life and death. 

Religious ‘nones’ now count as the world’s third largest ‘religious’ group - about 1.1 billion people worldwide (Pew Forum 2015a), and this, together with the flourishing of non-religious cultures such as 'New Atheism', of secularist activism, and of policy debates around non-religious inclusion, has fuelled growing interest in ‘non-religion’. Yet, little is known about nonreligious beliefs in particular - about how they are psychologically structured, how they manifest in the lives of nonreligious people, and how pervasive and diverse they are across social and cultural environments.

This project addresses questions about how we should characterise non-religious beliefs as psychological and sociological phenomena; how diverse such beliefs are; how they vary across demographic dimensions and cultures; how they arise; and how they affect the lives of those who hold them. It facilitates new work into the factors predicting or giving rise to non-theism, ‘apostasy’, and anti-religious sentiment, and about the effects of non-religious belief for well-being, social cohesion and other personal and social outcomes.

It provides the foundation for a new major research project, called Understanding Unbelief. Running between 2017 and 2019, this £2.3m project aims to advance scientific understanding of atheism and other forms of ‘unbelief’ around the world. As well as core research, the project will include grant competitions providing £1.25m for new research and public engagement activities.


The Scientific Study of Non-religious Belief project is funded by the John Templeton Foundation in collaboration with UCL, St Mary’s University Twickenham, and Coventry University.