Secular Identities in Context: Emerging Prototypes among Non-religious Young Adults

Researching Global Religious Landscapes - A Methodology between Universalism and Particularism - Peter Nynäs

Janne Kontala [+-]
Åbo Akademi University
Janne Kontala, Ph.D., has worked as a researcher in Turku, Finland, in the Department Study of Religions at Åbo Akademi University Centre of Excellence in Research: Young Adults and Religion in a Global Perspective Project (2015–19). He specialises in the field of studies of non-religion and is the author of Emerging Non-religious Worldview Prototypes: A Faith Q-sort-Study on Finnish Group-Affiliates (Åbo Akademi University, 2016). He previously worked as a researcher in a project entitled “Viewpoints to the World: Prototypes of Worldview and their Relation to Motivational Values in Different Social Movements”, funded by the Academy of Finland (2011–15).
Ariela Keysar [+-]
Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut
Dr. Ariela Keysar, a demographer, is a recipient of the 2021 Marshall Sklare Award, given by the Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry to ""a senior scholar who has made a significant scholarly contribution to the social scientific study of Jewry.” Keysar is Senior Fellow, Program on Public Values, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut. She is Co-Principal Investigator, The Class of 1995/5755 Longitudinal Study of Young American and Canadian Jews, 1995-2019; and U.S. Principal Investigator, Young adults and religion in a global perspective, YARG, 2015-2018. She was Associate Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College, 2005-19. Keysar is co-author of Religion in a Free Market and The Next Generation: Jewish Children and Adolescents. She co-edited volumes on secularism in relation to women, science, and secularity. She holds a Ph.D. in demography from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.
Sawsan Kheir [+-]
Åbo Akademi University
Sawsan Kheir, MA, is a double-degree doctoral candidate at the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Haifa, Israel, and the Study of Religions at Åbo Akademi University, Finland. She served as research assistant for the Åbo Akademi University Centre of Excellence Young Adults and Religion in a Global Perspective Project (2015–2019) in Israel. Her dissertation research focuses on contemporary negotiations of modernization in the value profiles and religiosities among Muslim and Druze students in Israel. She has co-authored recent publications on religious socialization processes and internet use among minority students in Israel. Currently, she acts as a Co-PI for the international research project "Meaning-Making, agency and worldviews during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A comparative study", that is being conducted in Israel, Finland and Turkey.


The number of “nones,” people who do not identify with a religion, is increasing in many countries. Many are forming new worldviews. While “nones” are estimated to account for between 16-33% of the global population, and are most common among young adults, we still lack a coherent perspective on non-religious identities. In this chapter, we discovered a spectrum of these identities. Utilizing a mixed methods approach in several diverse cultures, we rely on surveys and interviews with young adults to shed light on the complexity of their non-religious choices. This global research delves into critical research questions: What are the emerging non-religious prototypes among contemporary young adults? Do they form a single global identity or are they influenced by their specific national contexts, and if so, how? What is the role of their religious/non-religious upbringing? We found that the major non-religious outlook is fairly secular, but we also unveiled notable openness towards religion. Somewhat surprisingly, one-third of the respondents that define the prototypes were associated with outlooks that in various ways indicated some engagement with religion or spirituality. The quotes sprinkled through this chapter illuminate this seeming contradiction with personal narratives.

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Kontala, Janne; Keysar, Ariela; Kheir, Sawsan. Secular Identities in Context: Emerging Prototypes among Non-religious Young Adults. Researching Global Religious Landscapes - A Methodology between Universalism and Particularism. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Feb 2024. ISBN 9781800503915. Date accessed: 28 May 2023 doi: 10.1558/equinox.44300. Feb 2024

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