Atheist primes reduce religiosity and subjective wellbeing

Johannes Haushofer, James Reisinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In recent years, atheism has grown in popularity, partly inspired by the rise to prominence of a group of public intellectuals called the “New Atheists” who argue against religion in public fora. What are the social consequences of this development? We test in a laboratory study in Kenya whether exposure to atheist arguments affects self-reported and implicit religiosity, subjective wellbeing, and self-reported tolerance of different social groups. We find a significant negative effect of emotional arguments against religion on both self-reported and implicit measures of religiosity, especially among men, but no effect of scientific appeals. Subjective wellbeing is strongly reduced after emotional atheist messages, again especially among men, suggesting that emotional atheist arguments may have a wellbeing cost. We find no effects of atheism messages on self-reported tolerance. Together, these results suggest that emotional atheist arguments reduce religiosity and subjective wellbeing, especially among men.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)126-142
Number of pages17
JournalReligion, Brain and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


  • Atheism
  • laboratory experiment
  • priming
  • wellbeing


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