Focusing on the nonreligious reveals secular mechanisms underlying well-being and prosociality.

Greater attention to secular and nonreligious individuals has provided much-needed balance as well as alternative interpretations of commonly held assumptions regarding religiosity/spirituality (R/S). Contrary to the theory that R/S provides unique benefits in areas such as prosociality and mental health, analogous secular mechanisms exist. The conflation of effects attributed to R/S together with secular effects represents a congruence fallacy. Studies often lack proper controls found in other areas of psychology (e.g., dismantling or placebo designs) that could detect when religion is acting as a proxy for more basic underlying influences. For example, an increased focus on the nonreligious has revealed that religious belief has often been confounded with factors such as strong worldview conviction, social engagement, and normative cultural fit. R/S differences co-occur with demographic, personality, cognitive, and epistemic variables that exert causal influence independent of any religious content. Experimental and treatment outcome studies featuring effects attributed to R/S often have not included equivalent secular conditions or stimuli. The association between spirituality and well-being has been artificially inflated because of conceptual blurring on assessment measures, leading to the miscategorization of some nonreligious individuals into the spirituality domain. In sum, a more specified and critical approach is needed in order to validate assumptions that religiosity and spirituality exert unique effects. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)