Submit a Manuscript to the Journal

The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion

For a Special Issue on

Leaving Religion

Manuscript deadline
31 October 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Daryl Van Tongeren, Hope College
[email protected]

Patty Van Cappellen, Duke University
[email protected]

Heinz Streib, Bielefeld University
[email protected]

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Leaving Religion

Early research in the psychology of religion focused on conversion as biographical change. Responding to secularizing trends in the religious identity in Europe and America, research has begun to focus on the process of leaving religion. Several strands of research have explored this phenomenon. Based on Barbour’s (1994) analysis of historical deconversion autobiographies, Streib and Keller (2004) introduced the term ‘deconversion’ to the psychology of religion and suggested criteria of deconversion. A long program of research by Streib and colleagues (2009; 2022) provided insight in the variety of deconversions as migrations in the religious fields in the United States and Germany; four types of deconversion trajectories were suggested: Pursuit for autonomy; Debarred from paradise; Finding a new frame of reference; Life-long quests – late revisions. Other scholars drew from attachment theory and found parallels to this typology of trajectories (e.g., Greenwald et al., 2021).

More recently, research in this area has focused on religious deidentification, or the process of no longer identifying as religious. In a series of studies, Van Tongeren, DeWall and other colleagues (Van Tongeren et al., 2021; DeWall & Van Tongeren, 2022; Van Tongeren et al., 2023) explored religious deidentification and distinguished religious ‘dones’ (who were formerly religious) from other religious ‘nones’ who were never religious. Notably, their work revealed a religious residue effect, whereby religious thinking and behavior persists among religious dones even after leaving religion.

To advance the field, we see the need for further empirical investigation in several areas. First, based on their theoretical framework for the study of religious deidentification, Van Tongeren and De Wall (2023, p. 521) call for “future work in the intersection of religious/spiritual struggle and dimensions of religious change.” Second, they also suggest inquiry to identify “additional influences related to religious deidentification, such as personality and socialization.” Broadly, we see research needed for identifying predictors and consequences of deconversion and deidentification, understanding repeated and multiple deconversions, religious reconversion, and the psychological dynamics of religious change away from religion in longitudinal and cross-cultural perspectives (Streib, 2021). Finally, future inquiry should also deepen our knowledge about how nonreligious people make meaning, find existential security, and experience transcendence outside of formal religious structures.

In this special issue, we invite empirical papers that employ experimental, longitudinal (short term, long term, experience sampling, daily-diary studies), quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods approaches. The special issue aims to accelerate the empirical foundation of research in this field, offering new directions for future inquiry into this increasingly significant and relevant area.

Submission Instructions

Submission Instructions

  • Please note that potential contributions to this special issue should meet the methodological standards of IJPR (e.g., sufficient statistical power; use of validated scales) and that the research reported must have been approved by relevant IRB.
  • Authors who are interested in submitting a paper or having questions about the suitability of their publication for this issue can send an email enquiry to the guest editors ([email protected]; [email protected]).
  • The deadline for submissions is October 31, 2024.
  • Submissions can be uploaded via the journal Submission Portal. Please select ‘Special issue Leaving Religion’ for your submission type.

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