Publication Date

Fall 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Justice Studies


William T. Armaline


Agnostic, Atheist, Deviance, Labeling, San Francisco Bay Area, Stigma

Subject Areas

Sociology; Religion


This research examined Atheism, Agnosticism, and secularism as forms of deviance within American society. The focus was on Atheists, because research suggests they are stigmatized and more commonly constructed as deviant in comparison to Agnostics and/or secularists. It should come as no surprise that, given the ideological dominance of monotheistic religious narratives such as Evangelical Christianity, Atheists are labeled and stigmatized in the same manner as other nonnormative groups in the United States. Today, Atheists and others who publicly reject religious "faith" are constructed in dominant media and political discourse as morally flawed and often politically illegitimate. Thirty self-identified non-religious persons residing in the San Francisco Bay Area were interviewed for this study. Most participants did not perceive a sense of overt discrimination or deviant labeling within the Bay Area; however, many did point out that discrimination towards Atheists does exist in other parts of the state and nation. Furthermore, all participants recognized a strong religious (Christian) influence on U.S. politics and legislative policies.