Atheists and Agnostics Negotiate Religion and Family



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Erratum Volume 51, Issue 1, iv, Article first published online: 5 March 2012

Elaine Howard Ecklund, Rice University, Sociology Department, MS-28, P.O. Box 1892, Houston, TX 77251. E-mail:


Through in-depth interviews with scientists at elite academic institutions—those particularly likely to have no firm belief in God—we provide insight into the motives scientists who are not religious have for joining a religious group and the struggle faced by these individuals in reconciling personal beliefs with what they consider the best interests of their families. Narratives stress the use of resources from identities as scientists to provide their children with religious choices consistent with science and in negotiating spousal influence and a desire for community. Findings expand the religious socialization and identities literatures by widening the range of understanding of the strategies parents utilize to interface with religious communities as well as lead to more nuanced public understanding of how atheist and agnostic scientists relate to religious communities.