Date of Graduation

Spring 2008


Master of Arts in Religious Studies


Religious Studies

Committee Chair

John Schmalzbauer


The purpose of this thesis is to contribute to the literature on non-theists Americans, a group that has been largely neglected by the disciplines of theology, psychology, and sociology. Theodicy (the attempt to reconcile the existence of evil with God's justice) has been extensively written about, but anthropodicy (the explanation of evil suffering in human terms as the result of human actions) has not. This study looks at the anthropodicies of thirteen Americans living in the Ozarks. Participants were recruited through the means ofby snowball sampling. They were given informed consent forms and a two-page questionnaire that asked obtained basic demographic information as well as basic religious beliefs. Participants were then interviewed using twenty-nine open-ended questions in a process that generally took an hour to an hour and a half. The interviews were preserved using a tape recorder or, in the case of several long-distance participants, using an internet instant messenger program. Participants utilized several traditional theodicies (free will, character-building, theodicy deferred), which can be expected in light of their exposure to common and prevalent Christian doctrines and symbols. They reworked these traditional theodicies in a way that made sense to them. They also used an explanation not found in the theistic literature: an evolutionary anthropodicy. Future research is needed on non-theistic anthropodicies and will likely find uncover additional new anthropodicies not proposed in the theistic literature.


anthropodicy, theodicy, evil, suffering, atheist, agnostic, non-theist

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