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Meaning-Making in an Atheist World

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This article explores atheist meaning-making by employing a multidimensional model of meaning operationalized by the Sources of Meaning and Meaning in Life Questionnaire (SoMe). When compared to a representative sample of “religionists” (N = 390) and “nones” (N = 178), atheists (N = 102) show lower degrees of meaningfulness, but they do not suffer from crises of meaning more frequently. However, subsequent cluster analysis reveals that heterogeneity within atheism has to be taken into account. Three types of atheists are identified. ‘Low-commitment’ atheists are characterised by generally low commitment; they report very low meaningfulness and a high frequency of crises of meaning. ‘Broad-commitment’ atheists exhibit considerably higher levels of meaningfulness and rare crises of meaning. They evidence, in particular, high scores on the dimension of well-being and relatedness. The third type, primarily committed to “selfactualization,” exhibits moderate levels of meaningfulness, with crises of meaning being literally absent. Common to most atheists is a particular commitment to self-knowledge, freedom, knowledge, individualism, and comfort. In comparing male and female atheists, gendered patterns of commitment are discovered.


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