Concealment of nonreligious identity: Exploring social identity threat among atheists and other nonreligious individuals

Cameron D. Mackey, Christopher F. Silver, Kimberly Rios, Colleen M. Cowgill, Ralph W. Hood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Negative attitudes toward the nonreligious persist in America. This may compel some nonreligious individuals to conceal their identity to manage feelings of social identity threat. In one correlational study and one experiment, we found evidence of social identity threat and concealment behavior among nonreligious Americans. Our first study showed that Southern nonreligious individuals reported higher levels of stigma consciousness and self-reported concealment of nonreligious identity, which in turn predicted lower likelihood of self-identifying as “atheist” in public settings than in private settings. Our second study successfully manipulated feelings of social identity threat by showing that atheists who read an article about negative stereotypes of their group subsequently exhibited higher concealment scores than did atheists who read one of two control articles. Implications for how nonreligious individuals negotiate social identity threat and future directions for nonreligion research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)860-877
Number of pages18
JournalGroup Processes and Intergroup Relations
Volume24
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • atheists
  • concealment
  • nonreligion
  • religion
  • social identity threat
  • stigma consciousness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science

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