Atheists on the Santiago Way: examining motivations to go on pilgrimage

Miguel Farias, Thomas J. Coleman, III, James E. Bartlett, Lluís Oviedo, Pedro Pestana Soares, Tiago Santos, María del Carmen Bas

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26 Citations (Scopus)


In the past thirty years the camino to Santiago de Compostela has been recreated as an eclectic pilgrimage, open to both religious and atheist travellers. Following previous work on motivational orientations and religion (Farias and Lalljee 2008), we conducted a study examining atheist vs. religious pilgrims’ motivations to walk the Santiago way. We assessed pilgrims (N = 360) at various parts of the northern Spanish camino using a questionnaire that measured motivations to go on pilgrimage. In addition, we measured levels of positive and negative affect, physical exertion and emotional problems. Atheists scored significantly lower on Community and Religious types of motivations. However, in several measures no differences were found between groups. We suggest that both atheist and religious pilgrims are exploring forms of horizontal and vertical transcendence characterised by a desire to connect to nature and one’s deeper self.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28–44
Number of pages17
JournalSociology of Religion
Issue number1
Early online date2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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