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July 15th, 2013
02:50 PM ET

Behold, the six types of atheists

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) - How many ways are there to disbelieve in God?

At least six, according to a new study.

Two researchers at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga found that atheists and agnostics run the range from vocally anti-religious activists to nonbelievers who still observe some religious traditions.

“The main observation is that nonbelief is an ontologically diverse community,” write doctoral student Christopher Silver and undergraduate student Thomas Coleman.

“These categories are a first stab at this," Silver told the website Raw Story. "In 30 years, we may be looking at a typology of 32 types.”

Silver and Coleman derived their six types of nonbelievers from 59 interviews. We're pretty sure we've spotted all six in our comments section.

1) Intellectual atheist/agnostic

This type of nonbeliever seeks information and intellectual stimulation about atheism.

They like debating and arguing, particularly on popular Internet sites.

(Ahem.)

They're also well-versed in books and articles about religion and atheism, and prone to citing those works frequently.

2) Activist

These kinds of atheists and agnostics are not content with just disbelieving in God; they want to tell others why they reject religion and why society would be better off if we all did likewise.

They tend to be vocal about political causes like gay rights, feminism, the environment and the care of animals.

3) Seeker-agnostic

This group is made up of people who are unsure about the existence of a God but keep an open mind and recognize the limits of human knowledge and experience.

Silver and Coleman describe this group as people who regularly question their own beliefs and “do not hold a firm ideological position.”

That doesn't mean this group is confused, the researchers say. They just embrace uncertainty.

4) Anti-theist

This group regularly speaks out against religion and religious beliefs, usually by positioning themselves as “diametrically opposed to religious ideology,” Silver and Coleman wrote.

“Anti-theists view religion as ignorance and see any individual or institution associated with it as backward and socially detrimental,” the researchers wrote. “The Anti-Theist has a clear and – in their view, superior – understanding of the limitations and danger of religions.”

Anti-theists are outspoken, devoted and – at times – confrontational about their disbelief. They believe that "obvious fallacies in religion and belief should be aggressively addressed in some form or another.”

5) Non-theist

The smallest group among the six are the non-theists, people who do not involve themselves with either religion or anti-religion.

In many cases, this comes across as apathy or disinterest.

“A Non-Theist simply does not concern him or herself with religion,” Silver and Coleman wrote. “Religion plays no role or issue in one’s consciousness or worldview; nor does a Non- Theist have concern for the atheist or agnostic movement.”

They continue: “They simply do not believe, and in the same right, their absence of faith means the absence of anything religion in any form from their mental space.”

6) Ritual atheist

They don't believe in God, they don’t associate with religion, and they tend to believe there is no afterlife, but the sixth type of nonbeliever still finds useful the teachings of some religious traditions.

“They see these as more or less philosophical teachings of how to live life and achieve happiness than a path to transcendental liberation,” Silver and Coleman wrote. “For example, these individuals may participate in specific rituals, ceremonies, musical opportunities, meditation, yoga classes, or holiday traditions.”

For many of these nonbelievers, their adherence to ritual may stem from family traditions. For others, its a personal connection to, or respect for, the "profound symbolism" inherent within religious rituals, beliefs and ceremonies, according the researchers.

-

The authors of this study have graciously agreed to field questions from our commenters. If you're interested, please post your question below or tweet it to us at @CNNBelief. 

We'll take the best questions to the authors and the Q&A will be posted in a follow-up article. 

Please try to keep your questions related to the study itself.

Thanks,
Daniel Burke

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Holidays • Lost faith • Nones • Spirituality • Trends • United States

soundoff (9,518 Responses)
  1. rboozer1

    As a scientist, I know that few classification systems work with hard-fast rules. According to the taxonomy outlined in the article, I am a sort of mixture of types 3 and 6.

    July 16, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • joethejuggler

      That was exactly my response to this article. These are some pretty sloppy and overlapping categories. If anything, they're a listing of not-necessarily exclusive characteristics.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • Douglas

      Agreed. I am a mix of 5 and 6.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:49 am |
  2. Ryan

    Non-theist for me. I could care less about any of it.

    July 16, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  3. Pro God Anti Religion

    I believe in God. Something or someone has protected me from myself and certain doom over the years. If not God I am the luckiest person alive. I do not however believe in most organized religions. I have attended services of Baptists, Methodists, Catholic, Jewish and too many varieties of protestant to mention. They all have their own agendas. I especially remember the Baptists spent most of the time collecting money for this or that and then pushing building bonds. My favorite is Jewish. I always left religious services depressed and feeling lower than when I arrived. The exception was after Shabbat service at the synagogue. I left there feeling happier, as if there was an actual interest in spirituality in the service.

    July 16, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Madtown

      I agree with you that religion is not necessary to believe in God.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Lisa

      If you believe in a specific god, the isn't it safe to assume that you buy into some religion's theology, unless you're just making up your own, personal god?

      July 16, 2013 at 11:30 am |
      • JimK57

        Which is okay.

        July 16, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      It's a mistake to attribute navigating the uncertainty and randomness of life to the benifience of a god. Luck plays a large part in our lives.

      July 16, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
  4. RW2

    Great. Researchers have discovered that a group of people united by only a single question are an otherwise diverse group. Glad to see they have a death-like grip on the blatantly obvious.

    July 16, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • Saraswati

      The people surveyed were actually mostlyall engaged in online atheist communities so they had a little more in common.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  5. Frank

    We will all find out the "truth" soon enough.

    July 16, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • Lisa

      Trying to be ominous with your allusion to Pascal's Wager, Frank? That old chestnut has been debunked many times over. What if you're wrong, and one of the other gods is waiting for you at the end, miffed that you actually worshiped a false idol? If you're not worried about ending up in the Egyptian hell, or reincarnated as a worm, then why should I worry about ending up in your fantasy?

      July 16, 2013 at 11:29 am |
      • Mark from Middle River

        If you are not a person of Faith, then you should not worry. I am not a Muslim or a Jew, I am just a Christian and after this life I am prepared to play the hand I built during my time on this Earth. Pascal's Wager stands for us as well as for the Atheist, and I doubt that any of us loses sleep over it until our last hours. Then it comes down to hoping that our choice was right.

        July 16, 2013 at 11:37 am |
        • In Santa we trust

          Pascal's Wager is bogus anyway – there are more choices than it uses.

          July 16, 2013 at 11:44 am |
      • Maani

        What do you mean by "debunked?" Pascal's Wager is simply a "concept" in the field of logic. It is not a "debunkable" thing.

        July 31, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
  6. Colin

    Ten Ways You Know you are an Atheist.

    1. You were likely brought up a theist (probably a Jew or Christian if you live in the USA) and had to do your own thinking to rise above the beliefs that still occupy the mind of the believer. This usually involved being interested in science and thereby getting a good, accurate view of the natural Universe and overcoming significant social pressure to conform to religious beliefs. The more you came to understand mother nature, the less reason there was to believe in a god and the more you came to understand human nature, the more you understood why billions of us still do.

    2. While rejecting the supernatural elements of the Bible, you nevertheless retain a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent you reject Christian morality, it is where it is mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, your basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – you just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over your head in order to act in a manner that you consider moral.

    3. You know a great deal more about the Bible than most believers. This is because you took the time to read it yourself and did not rely on the primary-color simple stories you learned in Sunday school. You have also probably done some research into the historical Jesus and have a good handle on where he REALLY fit in to the broader picture of the Middle East at the time. Needless to say, his miracles and other magic powers soon started to look pretty unlikely.

    4. Your knowledge of basic science and history is much stronger than that of your average believer. You likely have a basic working knowledge of physics, astronomy, evolutionary biology and cosmology and a good idea of the history of life on this planet. This acc.umulated knowledge puts you in a position to judge the claims of the Bible in a critical light and they are almost always found wanting. To the theist, this makes you “elitist” and ‘arrogant”.

    5. You relish your role as a religious minority in the USA, as this gives you an impetus to fight and you understand how others with unpopular, but doubtlessly correct views have felt throughout history. There is something altogether satisfying to you about having a deep conviction you are right and being viewed with disdain for your views by the errant majority. You feel a quiet confidence that future generations will look back on you as a member of a class of trailblazers, as religious supersti.tions go into inevitable decline in popularity.

    6. You are likely more environmentally aware than your theist friends and colleagues and unlikely to fall for claims of industry and wind-bag politicians concerning the impact of man’s activities on the environment. You could no more act in an environmentally irresponsible manner because “god will keep us safe” than you could jump off a ship, believing King Neptune will keep you safe.

    7. You generally have a live and let live atti.tude, but will fiercely defend against any attempts by theists to thrust their views on you or your children, directly or through control of school boards, the legislature or the executive. While you are prepared to debate and argue passionately with the theist on an intellectual level, you would never wish them harm or ill will. You know you are likely to be smugly told you will “burn in hell for all eternity” for your healthy skepticism. This highlights what you despise about religion, as you would not wish a bad sunburn on another, simply because they have a different religious view to you. You have never heard of an evolutionary biologist strapping a bomb to himself and running into a church yelling “Darwin-u akbar, Darwin-u akbar”.

    8. You likely know more about other religions than your average theist. This makes you less fearful of them and enables you to see parallels. You realize that, if you were born in India, you would have been brought up with a totally different religion. You realize that every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. They cannot all exist and you see the error all faiths make of thinking only theirs exist(s). This “rising above” the regional nature of all religions was probably instrumental in your achieving atheism.

    9. You likely have a deep, genuine appreciation of the fathomless beauty and unbelievable complexity of our Universe, from the 4 nucleotides that orchestrate every aspect of you, through to the distant quasars, without having to think it was all made for you. You likely get more out of being the irrelevant ant staring up at the cosmos than you do in having to pretend that it was all made to turn in majestic black-and-white pirouette about you.

    10. While you have a survival instinct, you cannot fear death in the way the theist does. You know that the whole final judgment story, where you may be sent to hell if you fail, is Dark Ages nonsense meant to keep the Church’s authority. You also know that you were dead for 13,720,000,000 years before you were born. It is impossible for you to fear death, for the simple reason that you know the capacity to feel pain, or to regret or fear itself dies. You will not even know you are dead. Fear of death is as meaningless to you as is the fear of a vacuum, the fear of not being born. You feel a lot more secure, and indeed a deep comfort, in this knowledge, than you would in trying to yoke yourself to some quasi-hope from Bronze Age Palestine that every part of your intellect tells you is untenable.

    July 16, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • JimK57

      You forgot humble. Sorry, I could not resist.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      Amen!

      July 16, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      How to tell you're an atheist:

      You believe all references to religion should be eliminated from schools but you have no problem teaching a class called "Introduction to Atheism"

      July 16, 2013 at 11:35 am |
      • Saraswati

        Really, Bill? You've gone off the deep end lately and are just making stuff up. Show me a survey that indicates a majority of atheists would support anything remotely like that.

        July 16, 2013 at 11:37 am |
        • Bill Deacon

          I'm speaking directly to Colin Sara. Glad to know you see his dilemma the same as I do.

          July 16, 2013 at 11:44 am |
        • Saraswati

          Wow, Bill,I saw you trending to deceptive posting earlier but it looks like you've dedicated yourself. I'm pretty sure that breaks one of your commandments.

          July 16, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
      • My Dog is a jealous Dog

        No need for a "Intro to Atheism" class, but a course in critical thinking skills should be a part of the public education system. This would cover the media, advertising, debate, propaganda, and the like. There is no need to single out religion, just give our children the skills to detect BS and let them run with it.

        I have found that the X and Y generations have much more finely honed BS detection skills than my generation – due to an early and pervasive exposure to the internet. Religion is doomed.

        July 16, 2013 at 11:49 am |
        • Saraswati

          I'm not sure how successful specific critical thinking courses are, but it should be integrated in all courses. Most importantly, at the college level it has to be acceptable to students to call each other out on poor reasoning...I find over tolerance of bad logic is a killer in the education system.

          July 16, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
        • JimK57

          You can be religious and still be a critical thinker.

          July 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
        • Saraswati

          You can, but if you read the literature you'll see it's a lot harder.

          July 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
      • tony

        @Bill. Would that be alongside your course in how not to believe in gnomes, goblins and fairies, while appreciating elves?

        July 16, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • L

      Couldn't agree more. This response is better than the original article!

      July 16, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • Saraswati

      While most of these are accurate, Atheists in the US actually know slightly less on average about the bible, but vastly more about religion in general.

      "Overall, the three groups that perform best in this survey are atheists and agnostics (who get an average of 20.9 out of 32 questions right), Jews (20.5 questions right on average) and Mormons (20.3 questions right)...Though white evangelicals have lower scores than Jews and atheists/agnostics overall, they do significantly better on questions about the Bible."

      http://www.pewforum.org/U-S-Religious-Knowledge-Survey-Who-Knows-What-About-Religion.aspx

      July 16, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Brian

      Excellent! You described my world view perfectly – your comment is spot-on.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Anthony Ross

      A very excellent post. As another person above said, better than the original. What ever you want to label the atheist of this type, it's me.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • meifumado

      Well said.

      Except there was no Palestine. It was called Judea I believe.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:53 am |
  7. meifumado

    I have always said every atheist is different.

    I'm a anti-theist I guess , But I still enjoy holidays for getting together with friends and family.

    July 16, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      You don't need holidays to get together and enjoy friends. Your dependence on Holy Days is illogical.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:36 am |
      • Doug Fo

        It is when they and you have off from work or school. Not that illogical, just pragmatic.

        July 16, 2013 at 11:54 am |
      • Truth Prevails :-)

        You mean the holy days that are just renamed after pagan traditions? Easter falls approximately around the time of spring solstice; Christmas is approximately around the time of winter solstice. Neither holiday have much to do with christianity or paganism any more and are more commercialized than anything.

        July 16, 2013 at 11:56 am |
      • meifumado

        Well, with the busy lives we lead it sets a date and we can all make sure we get together.

        We could set any date for this, but there is nothing wrong with keeping traditions alive as long as you don't believe the fairy tales are true.

        July 16, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
      • Saraswati

        The term "holiday" is a generic term that refers to secular days like national holidays as well. In most English speaking countries it even refers to a vacation in Bali. What one likes and doesn't cannot be "illogical"...that's like saying craving chocolate is illogical. There are lots of fun mythical creatures, from Santa, to the Easter Bunny to Poseidon. If people in Athens want to celebrate their city with a statue of the namesake Athena, what the heck is "illogical" about that?

        Get over it and share – you do not own the Christian elements of "holidays" anymore than Athena worshippers own related traditions. All who share in history (all of us as a unified world) share the heritage and should be allowed to use it as we see fit.

        July 16, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
      • JimK57

        As I have said before, athiest do not use cold hard logic 24/7. No one does we are human.

        July 16, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
        • Saraswati

          Very true, there is no such thing as operating on pure logic. But there are degrees of rationality and critical thinking, and this does vary by religious belief.

          July 16, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
  8. Lorana Jamayth

    I am either a 3 ( Seeker-agnostic) or a 5(non-theist). As a child I simply could not understand the whole thing that was taught in Sunday School. As an adult I realized that I simply did not understand the whole hoopla about religion. But I was also practical enough to realize that the 10 Commandments were a practical way to live my life and I embraced them as my moral code. Several years ago there was an article in Discover that talked about the God gene that is either there or, for some people, not there. Frankly, that was a relief to find. I am one of those people without it. I do respect religion and the comfort people find in it. The good side of religion is wonderful. But so much damage has also been done in the name of religion. That is sad. My in-laws have told me that while they love me, they think I will go to hell when I die and they pray form me every day. But being God blind is the same as being color blind. You cannot really convey the color red to a color blind person and you cannot truely convey God to people like me. I understand and respect the majority who have the God gene. I am sad that this is not returned to those of us who do not have the God gene.
    Lorana

    July 16, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • Saraswati

      I'm not sure if there's a single god gene, but there certainly seems to be a genetic component. I come from a long line that have only the weakest tendencies to religion. But I recognize that others may need it and flourish with more beliefs than I have. I only want us to be sure as a society that we are educated enough to pick beliefs that leave us with a shared core value for wellbeing and are not dangerous to the common good.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:25 am |
      • JimK57

        I think we are moving that way. Alot of christians and athiests agree on issues like pro-life and pro-gay marriage.

        July 16, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      In the article appearing on rawstory you can find this observation:

      Education, said Coleman, particularly college education had a more deleterious effect on religious belief than any other single factor.

      “College was certainly a huge theme that popped out in this,” he said. “Quite dramatically, people would say, ‘Hey, I was a Christian going in the first year, after the second I was agnostic, and by the time I graduated, I said I was done with all this.’”

      July 16, 2013 at 11:38 am |
      • Saraswati

        @GOP,

        And it appears to be critical thinking itself, rather than any cultural aspect, that makes the difference in education:

        http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-critical-thinkers-lose-faith-god

        July 16, 2013 at 11:46 am |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        And given that critical thinking is essential in many university programs it's not surprising that these two themes would be consistent.

        July 16, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
        • Saraswati

          Yep.

          July 16, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I think your description of "God blindness" is one of the most eloquent I've heard.

      Another way it has been put is "let him who has eyes to see, see and he who has ears to hear hear."

      July 16, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      If a god existed, there'd be evidence. There is no evidence for the gods of any religion.

      July 16, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
  9. Yesh Medicinebird

    I'd be interested to see a similar reducing of Christians, or other religious, into types. I wonder if it would be any more (or less) informative.

    July 16, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • Lisa

      There would be a pretty big chunk in every religion who just pretend to believe because it's what their family expects of them.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:24 am |
      • Dyslexic doG

        very true!

        July 16, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Saraswati

      One Catholic system:

      ULTRATRADITIONALIST
      TRADITIONALIST
      LIBERAL
      CHARISMATIC / EVANGELICAL
      CULTURAL
      POPULAR FOLK
      POSTMODERN

      http://withchrist.org/catholic.htm

      July 16, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      I 'd be interested to see a similar reducing of Christians, or other religious, into types

      I wonder if they would do such an article. It would open the door, to the more radical Atheist, that there is a difference between the Westburo Baptist Church types and the ones such as the Gay and Lesbian clergy, which they often publish here on the Belief Blog. For some Atheist it is more convienant to paint all Christians as supporters or members of the Westburo Baptist church. Same as Christians or others who paint all Muslims as supporters of Bin Laden.

      If the Belief Blog did such an article Yesh, I do not think that many Atheist here would acknowledge the various types of Christians.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:31 am |
      • Saraswati

        Christians are classified all the time. That's why we have terms like "fundamentalist", "evangelical" etc.

        July 16, 2013 at 11:35 am |
        • Mark from Middle River

          Christians are classified all the time. That's why we have terms like "fundamentalist", "evangelical" etc.

          Yes, which are both viewed under negative connotations, even often in the Christian community. I would ask you, where would you place the Gay and Lesbian clergy or the Nuns of the Catholic church who are fighting for a greater role in the Catholic church for women?

          July 16, 2013 at 11:44 am |
        • Saraswati

          @Mark, I posted this above:

          One Catholic system:

          ULTRATRADITIONALIST
          TRADITIONALIST
          LIBERAL
          CHARISMATIC / EVANGELICAL
          CULTURAL
          POPULAR FOLK
          POSTMODERN

          http://withchrist.org/catholic.htm

          They would be liberal orpost-modern. I know some of these nuns themselves and I think I've heard "progressive" tossed around.

          July 16, 2013 at 11:49 am |
      • fintastic

        Don't ALL christians believe in the resurection?... well then as an atheist, it's game over for all christians right there.

        July 16, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
        • fintastic

          Woops... posted in the wrong place again...

          July 16, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Another Catholic system:

      Religious
      Devout
      Engaged
      Casual
      Obligated
      Lapsed

      July 16, 2013 at 11:41 am |
      • fintastic

        You forgot "deluded"

        July 16, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  10. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    1,2 & 4... and since I am of German descent and it is a stolen pagan holiday... My family celebrates Yule/Weihnachten

    July 16, 2013 at 11:18 am |
  11. CT

    I think many atheists could fall into different groups depending on the situation. In my case, I consider myself an atheist, but I also respect everyone's right to pick their own path, so casual observer's might see me as No. 5 (non-theist). However, I was raised Methodist and much of my family remains religious, so i still celebrate Christmas, go to family baptisms, religious funerals, etc. In light of that, I look like No. 6 (ritual atheist). Now ... the reasons different people have for believing or not believing in a god interest me, so I read lots of articles on the subject. In this way I'm No. 1 (intellectual atheist). Though I said at the top that I respect everyone's right to their own beliefs, I can respond poorly if someone takes offense to my own non-belief. This can lead to confrontation where I'm forced to defend myself, at which point I probably look like No. 4 (anti-theist).

    So ... I guess I'm a bit of everything. I'm willing to bet I'm not alone.

    July 16, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • Derek

      Nicely put. Completely agree! Posted similar sentiments earlier.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  12. charlieohay

    Two of the silliest concepts created by man are universal domination and eternal life. As the dog who chases the car, we wouldn't know what to do with either if we actually caught up with them. So I consider myself "aspiritual," i.e., not only do I believe there is no Big Mind at the moral or physical helm of the universe, I find the idea of an afterlife abhorrent. But I do not weaponize my absence of faith. All I ask is that others do not weaponize their faith. I do not pour my atheism all over your cornflakes unless you ask me a direct question about faith. Nor do I obsessively quote Hitchens, who always seemed to be trying harder to convince himself of atheism than to persuade his audience. And yes, there are some principles shared by humanists and theists. Behave compassionately. Avoid selfish fear. Think before you act. These are basic ideas that help people (with and without faith) to live fulfilling lives. I see no implicit contradiction in the fact that these are shared by theists and non-theists.

    So, I believe the question was, "In which little box do I fit?" I don't. It's a qualitative issue that should not be categorized or quantified.

    July 16, 2013 at 11:16 am |
  13. Saraswati

    Who is the guy in the picture at the to of the page (I'm not good with faces and don't see a caption)?

    July 16, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • Observer

      Click on "show caption" at the lower right.

      It's "Harry Potter".

      July 16, 2013 at 11:22 am |
      • Saraswati

        Thanks...no show caption button but I'm on the iPad. I do sort of recognize him now. Still a bit fuzzy on the relationship...

        July 16, 2013 at 11:34 am |
        • In Santa we trust

          The actor is an atheist. Maybe HP is another work of fiction involving magic.

          July 16, 2013 at 11:38 am |
        • In Santa we trust

          The actor is an atheist. Maybe because HP is another work of fiction involving magic.

          July 16, 2013 at 11:41 am |
        • In Santa we trust

          The actor is an atheist. Maybe because HP is another work of fiction involving magic.

          July 16, 2013 at 11:41 am |
        • Saraswati

          Thanks, Santa...seems an odd picture to use of a random atheist but I guess there's not anything better I can think of. Maybe a slot of 6 different people...a thinker, a screamer, a lounger etc... Not sure.

          July 16, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  14. Ranger45

    If you don't believe in something you will fall for anything. Not in the Bible, but is very wise advise. We can't all be wrong or right. I can believe I can fly and still die when I hit the ground if I jump off a tall building. There are physical laws that can be ignored in our mind, but not with our physical body and limitations.

    July 16, 2013 at 11:14 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      As an atheist, I believe in all sorts of things, just not god.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • Lisa

      How about, "If you fall for one superst.ition, you'll probably fall for others"? Most of the Christians I know still follow their zodiac, and think Long Island Medium is for real. From my experience, being religious makes you more susceptible to being coned or scammed out of your money. Take one thing on faith and you'll likely trust your life savings on faith as well.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  15. JMO

    Religion was invented for the sole reason of getting the masses to accept their lousy lives and stop bothering the powerful about their fair share. It convinces the masses to join armies to die for causes that don't benefit them, to hate people they should get along with and to accept injustice because a heavenly Father will right wrongs in the ultimate "Do-over". Religion is the ultimate con-job.

    July 16, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • JimK57

      I doubt many people join the military to "serve god".

      July 16, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • Saraswati

      All cultures have developed religion and in most of them most members believe. The evolution of religion has usually been much more gradual than what you are imagining from the odd one-off like Mormonism or Scientology.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:18 am |
  16. Butch

    Not sure I agree with the premise of 6 types. I am an athiest and have exhibited all six of these positions at times. Above all the idea that I don't know, and don't believe I'm capable of knowing guides most thought. I don't think you know either, but anything you believe should be based on evidence. I think the organized religions are basically sprung from the desire to control others, and most of the tenets and stories are woefully unbelievable. People pray, but prayers are never answered. People believe god stepped in and save their child, while letting dozens of other perish. Faith is defined for me as; being able to believe something in the face of all the evidence proving just the opposite. I would be ashamed of faith, not proud of it.

    July 16, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  17. Tim

    How about these 3 categories:
    – Nihilist
    – Apathetic
    – Agnostic

    July 16, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • Ken

      It's a straw man argument to claim that atheists are immoral, or don't care about life, and you'll probably find that many Christians are actually agnostic about the existence of their God.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:15 am |
  18. Ted

    I've very disappointed CNN would post an article like this. An article that tries to label and divide people into different groups....which is exactly a part of the poison religion brings. All throughout history, people dividing/fighting/killing over the enforcement of belief systems; or should I say control systems. It's no different today either. Socio-economic control is everything. And why does the vatican have such a large profit margin and savings...shouldn't they be running on a break even business plan? Why is there a loop-hole for anyone who leads a terrible life to be saved right before they die? – I guess they get to go to heaven, because they were saved, and it will be made in heaven as it is on earth, right? Why are there so many religions on earth to choose from? Did ancient religions die off because they got it wrong?

    I wonder what new religion will come along and leave Christianity and Jesus in the history books...But I don't think I will live to find out.

    July 16, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • Saraswati

      Wouldyou rather CNN post an article stating that anthropology and sociology are meaningless fields and should be eliminated from our fields of research? These categories are just ways to look at things so that people know what questions to ask next.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:21 am |
  19. Tom Jaeschke

    I am a Non-theist per the write up above. I had fierce (pseudopolitical) opinions once, but I have found there is really only so much to think about actively. After you have thought it all through there is a lasting acceptance. Meh.

    July 16, 2013 at 11:05 am |
  20. Dyslexic doG

    If God is powerful enough to create the universe, don't you think he'd have a more foolproof way of getting his exact message across to future generations than this endlessly translated, edited, confused, modified, twisted, corrupted book of stories that is changed by religious power brokers to suit each generation?

    Wouldn't god's word be carved on the moon, unchangeable and for all to see? Wouldn't it be spoken unchanged by a species of animal? Wouldn't it be written microscopically on every stone or every tree? Wouldn't there be some space age material that had god's voice recorded, uncorrupted over the centuries and there for everyone to hear.

    Wouldn't there be parts of God's word that reflect computers or artificial intelligence or DNA or modern medicine or future medicine or electricity or space travel to other parts of this amazing universe he created? Wouldn't there be talk of gender and race equality? Wouldn't there be talk of Asia and Australia and the Americas and Europe and Africa?

    Instead the bible is limited to horses and carts and herbs and grain and swords and shields and misogyny and racism and slavery all set in the deserts of the middle east. The Bible is so obviously a product of bronze age man, you must be in denial to even argue that it is the word of god. There may or may not be a god or gods, but this book of bronze age voodoo and oppression has nothing to do with him, her or them.

    And stop it with this "not the word of god but words inspired by god" cop out. That just means it was written by greedy, evil men who got their way by claiming that god told them to do something. That's a self serving scam that should be scorned, especially by anyone claiming to love an omnipotent god. That scam is an abomination and an insult to your god ... as is the bible!

    July 16, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • JimK57

      There are alot of believers that agree with you.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Try as I might, I can't imagine a more stark and clear statement than the crucifixion. Men may argue about the Trinity or the Sacraments or the movement of the Holy Spirit but when one is confronted with Jesus Christ crucified it is unambiguously compelling.

      July 16, 2013 at 11:24 am |
      • In Santa we trust

        If Jesus existed there is no evidence that he was divine. Religion has so many contradictions – you have to want to believe as it is not logical.

        July 16, 2013 at 11:27 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.