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Religions 2018, 9(8), 242;

Spiritual Struggles among Atheists: Links to Psychological Distress and Well-Being

Psychology Department, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403, USA
Department of Psychological Sciences, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 13 July 2018 / Revised: 4 August 2018 / Accepted: 7 August 2018 / Published: 9 August 2018
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Religious and spiritual struggles (R/S struggles)—tension or conflicts regarding religious or spiritual matters—have been robustly linked to greater psychological distress and lower well-being. Most research in this area has relied on samples consisting predominantly of participants who believe in god(s). Limited research has examined R/S struggles among atheists, generally conflating them with agnostics and other nontheists. This study investigated the prevalence of R/S struggles among atheists and compared atheists to theists in two samples (3978 undergraduates, 1048 Internet workers). Results of a multilevel model showed that atheists experience less demonic, doubt, divine, moral, and overall R/S struggles than theists, but similar levels of interpersonal and ultimate meaning struggles. Correlation and regression analyses among atheists demonstrated links between moral, ultimate meaning, and overall R/S struggles and greater distress (depression and anxiety symptoms) as well as lower well-being (life satisfaction and meaning in life). Even after controlling neuroticism, ultimate meaning struggles continued to predict lower well-being and higher distress across samples; moral struggles also predicted distress independently. This study demonstrates the relevance of R/S struggles to atheists and reinforces the applicability of previous results to atheist samples, but also highlights substantial differences between atheists and theists in certain R/S struggles. View Full-Text
Keywords: atheism; religion; spirituality; depression; anxiety; spiritual struggles atheism; religion; spirituality; depression; anxiety; spiritual struggles
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Sedlar, A.E.; Stauner, N.; Pargament, K.I.; Exline, J.J.; Grubbs, J.B.; Bradley, D.F. Spiritual Struggles among Atheists: Links to Psychological Distress and Well-Being. Religions 2018, 9, 242.

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