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Religious envy: investigating the nonreligious experience




Underill, Bailey, author
Steger, Michael, advisor
Dik, Bryan, advisor
Hastings, Pat, committee member
Tompkins, Sara Anne, committee member

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Theories of religion identify certain benefits that religion uniquely provides. Furthermore, there is evidence that non-religious individuals not only miss out on these benefits but are penalized for and discriminated against due to their lack of religious affiliation. For these reasons, when non-religious individuals engage in social comparison, they may experience envy toward religious individuals related to the benefits of religious affiliation and the consequences faced for being religiously unaffiliated. This study aims to investigate "religious envy" in the lives of religiously unaffiliated individuals within the United States. Four individuals (ages 22 to 30; three women and one man) who identified as atheists and endorsed experiencing religious envy were interviewed, and transcripts were analyzed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). This analysis developed four domain topics: perceptions and beliefs, previous experiences, religious envy, and reasons for staying nonreligious. Twenty-one themes formed a basis for understanding the phenomenon of religious envy. Themes within the "Religious Envy" domain indicated that participants experienced envying religious individuals due to a perceived sense of community or belonging, coping with grief or loss, existential comfort, and a sense of ethical or moral certainty. This study identifies specific ways that nonreligious individuals may experience religion and its role in their lives and beliefs. Furthermore, this study provides initial exploratory evidence for the existence of religious envy as a phenomenon.


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Embargo Expires: 01/09/2025



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