Atheist Forums Study -- Survey

Hello all. My name is Steven Zepeda. I am a current sociology graduate student at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA. As part of my thesis, I am trying to learn more about the significance of online forums for atheists, agnostics, and all other non-religious people. As an atheist myself, I want to use my research to contest the common presumption that religion is required to build community–and I think atheist online groups are a good place to gather such data.

As part of this study, I ask that you take a 12-question survey using the following link: Survey Please note that all answers are collected anonymously.

I would like to thank the moderators and administrators of the Atheist Republic Forum for permitting me to post this. I would also like to thank you for taking the time to fill out this survey. If you have any questions, concerns, or feedback, please contact me at or through the discussion thread.

1 Like

“This form was created inside of Graduate Theological Union”

You also have to sign in using google to complete the form. Your details (if you use real ones) are therefore recorded.

It is neither anonymous, nor, I suspect, given the location and where it was created, made by an atheist.

Maybe the author would like to explain?

Hello szedepa, welcome to Atheist Republic. I hope your time in here is productive and pleasurable.

Now I put on my Admin hat.

Everyone, this is a legitimate researcher, one who is sincere and honest in their search for information. Yes, I know we have seen many visitors who post questionnaires and then fly away. Those have not nor do they deserve respect. But szedepa is sincere, please treat our visitor with the appropriate respect.

Thank you for presenting those concerns. Since it is a Google Form, it will make you sign in to your google account. However, I have not selected “collect email addresses” in the settings. So your email account will not be collected with your response.

Here is link to the Graduate Theological Union homepage.LINK It is a consortium of different religious and secular schools/departments, including UC Berkeley. As counterintuitive as it sounds, it is not uncommon for researchers interested in non-religious groups to find themselves in traditionally religious institutions. For instance, my advisor, Jerome Baggett, recently published a sociological book called The Varieties of Nonreligious Experience (2019).

Thank you for bringing this up, as I’m sure you are not alone in these concerns.

No problems. We have had a variety of “researchers” come on these forums. Many of them bogus, I am glad to meet a real one.

And yes, I have filled out your survey. I hope it goes well for you and you share the results of your research with us.

Thanks David, for your comments.

Thank you for taking the time to complete the survey. I’m sorry to hear that. But now I’m really curious as to what these other “researchers” have been like!

Most post a low quality survey that almost always has an agenda. And most do not do any follow-up, they just make one post, the link to the survey. For almost every survey, there is zero feedback.

Additionally, many in here are curious and do desire to see the results of your survey, even the paper you submit. In the interests of transparency, honesty, and sincere feedback, it would be greatly appreciated if you did provide a link to your final paper.


I have completed your survey. However, I have a significant concern. This not a large forum, so your sample will be relatively small. I’d like to know the approximate total size of the overall sample you will be using and the kinds of conclusions you hope to make.

I’ve been I frequenting Atheist forums for over a decade. As a general observation, I’ve pound that atheists on forums tend to be atypical compared to the broader population. This also seems to be true of the religious apologist who come to atheist forums. Consequently, I’m not sure how useful data gathered here will be in any broad sense.

I can’t prove any of the above observations. I hope your studies might provide some useful information.

If possible, I would like to read your thesis.***

Welcome to the forum. As a general rule we like surveys when people are legitimately asking serious questions. Let’s go back and read what you are all about… Welcome to the forum…

Why would anyone make the assertion that religion is required to build a community? Where did you even get such an idea? It’s not an assumption I have ever heard in any of my sociology classes. Not only have there been secular societies but there are secular organizations throughout the world. I don’t get the connection between the biological necessity of human bonding for survival and religion. Religion is one possible way human beings have formed bonds. There are a plethora of other ways as well.

I would agree that a shared perspective or value system is needed for community. People, after all, generally bond together for mutual benefit and self preservation. That shared perspective, need not be religious.

1 Like

Used this link to preview some of the book…

Lol - I related to the quote on the page :page_facing_up: “past all that”. Yup. I hang here to talk and learn and bounce my own thought off of others (otherwise I just might start thinking I’ve got the answers :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:)

It is extremely easy to create alter egos on the google platform. For this survey, I used my Atheist Republic alter ego in a private browser window. If I had bothered, I could also have used a VPN. The sum of these to measures would make me very hard to trace.

Thank you for completing the survey! That concern is well-reasoned. This is more of a “pilot” survey in that its purpose is to show me whether or not it would be worthwhile to keep pursuing my hypothesis. It tends to cost a pretty penny and a lot of time to do a “rigorous” survey (something with lots of questions and lots of respondents). So it’s helpful to just get a few responses to see if you’re logic is on the right track, before you go full-throttle with the project. Kind of like dipping your toe in the pool before you jump in. In short, any and all survey responses are very helpful for me!

I have also contacted a few other forums about my survey. If I could get even 25 responses, that would be a great start.

If I may, what differences do you see between atheists on forums and the broader population?

Also, of course! I would love feedback on my work from you all.

Thank you for that information (and, of course, for completing the survey). I would have preferred something like Survey Monkey, which I don’t think requires email to access, but it only allows 10 questions for free.

Of course. Frankly, you are all more “expert” in atheist forums than me. Personally, I am fairly inactive in forums/social media. I would love to see what I did right/wrong in my analysis from your perspectives. I will keep you posted.

I completely agree with your last statement. Sometimes I even wonder the extent to which “community” is really needed. Indeed, to what extent do we even need to share the same ideas and values to bond?

Perhaps it is because of my religious background (ex-Roman Catholic). Or perhaps it is because I’ve spent much of my academic career in a religious studies program. But I find this a common preoccupation with (mainly, but not exclusively) theist scholars, who study atheism by focusing on its so-called “limits.” Lots of these popular scholars also tend not to talk to atheists and just sort of conceptualize “atheism” from afar. I can pull up a couple of books if you’re interested.

I like that you bring up secular societies and organizations. It reminds me that questions of “is religion necessary for x,y,z?” are very American. Scholars in other countries might not feel the need to write about it. But alas, I am here in the U.S., where atheists are still greatly distrusted.

Haha! I hope I didn’t come across as trying to advertise the book! I love this scene. I was just talking about it with Jerome a few days ago and how it compared to a book a recently read about religion. In The Twenty-Something Soul (2019), the sociologists Tim Clydesdale and Kathleen Garces-Foley argue that religious people tend to participate more in religious groups as they get settled in their lives (e.g. getting a house, starting a family, finding a career, etc.) and participate less the more they are “unsettled” (e.g. are financially unstable, move around a lot, in college, etc.) But Daniel’s statement makes me think: I wonder if its the opposite for atheists? At least for Daniel, as he is presumably more “settled,” he no longer feels the need to participate in atheist groups.

I filled out your survey too. The items seem fine to me. Best of luck researching what you’re researching.

…interesting. These religious people, I assume are raised religious? Then at a point in their lives when they are reaching to meet societal (their particular tribe) expectations (and biological needs) they become more religious? Is this attendance? Or just a resignation to “group think”?

The unsettled maybe the times in life where more self-introspection is required (whether one succeeds in this task :woman_shrugging:t2:).

Edited to add clarity: I realized it could be preassumed that I am suggesting theist/atheist worldview as a determination of self-identification/confidence/introspection. I was thinking of the play “Death of a Salesman” Biff and Willy. My oldest just wrote his gr 12 Diploma Exam

It may be more difficult than you think.

I don’t agree that an internet forum is community in and of itself. I guess it could be if it grew from an existing community. But there is no such thing as an atheist community in reality as far as I’m aware. The relationships here are virtual, with little emotional investment that I can see… After over 10 years of being on forums I have yet to meet anyone from a forum.

It is to fair to say that there are a range of political and philosophical positions here. None of which are predicated on being an atheist. However, the dominant clique is I think liberal and left of centre.

Clydesdale & Garces-Foley don’t ask their survey respondents whether or not they were raised in a religious tradition. Although, they do ask a small group of interviewees this question. They argue that Catholic and Mainline Protestant twenty-somethings tend to suspend their participation in religious groups for practical reasons (e.g. not having time/energy to spend) and cultural reasons. Since it is more culturally acceptable to “try out” different religious beliefs and groups than it was in decades past, they take more time to make a long-term committments to one group. Participation in religious groups is also still very tied to family. They find a lot of young religious people who say “I want to start going to church again when I have kids,” for instance. On the other hand, Evangelicals tend to have high group participation, even as youths.

I’m not sure if this means they are more religious later in life, but they certainly show greater attendance.

Also, congratulations for your oldest!