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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. Bucko

    I've been an atheist since I was a little kid. I don't know which of the six I fit into, I don't really care. That being said, I rather enjoy Christmas, knowing it's origins are in pagan rituals from what is now Germany. I even let the little woman put up a nativity scene. She was raised catholic and just can't shake the 20 years of brainwashing.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • hee hee

      She's little too.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      I just posted about how so many agnostics I know celebrate Christmas. I don't but the wife does put up 'stuff' during the holiday season. Just habit I guess.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
      • snowboarder

        we celebrate a secular christmas.

        July 15, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
        • jazzguitarman

          To me "secular Christmas" is folly, but like I said I know many that do this. Would you care if your kids decided to not continue your family tradition of a secular Christmas?

          July 15, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
        • snowboarder

          you mean if they stop celebrating Christmas at all? it seems unlikely. it is a family holiday and a tradition.

          July 15, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • crackwalker

      Like most christian mythology and rituals, the Christ myth is an adaptation. The Resurrection God story came to the Romans from the Greek Dionysus myth, which was itself adapted from the Egyptian Osirus myth

      July 15, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
      • Lycidas

        You have no evidence to back up your claim.

        July 15, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          There's plenty of evidence of the origins of christianity and its rituals in history books and on the internet.

          July 15, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          There's plenty of evidence of the origins of christianity and its rituals in history books and on the internet.

          July 15, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
        • crackwalker

          Go look it up. It's not a claim. It's recorded historical fact.

          July 15, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
        • CommonSensePrevails

          You all are asking Lycidas to READ, and believers don't read to be enlightened. They ask their pastor, and their pastor will tell them what to believe. You shall never question.

          September 23, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • You are a jerk

      "I even let the little woman.."

      Nothing misogynistic in this.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
  2. MK54

    Atheists – rational people who disdain to conjure an imaginary, all-powerful being that also happens to be their dearest friend.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • crackwalker

      There is no 'dear friend' that I can imagine who would fail to act against evil. No friend of mine would refuse to help someone who was suffering, and simply offer the cold comfort of a reward in the afterlife.

      There are people born in this life who just starve to death.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
  3. cpc65

    I love it when people proclaim they are atheists, form into groups, and act like a religion.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • hee hee

      Ah yes, the "no, you're the one!" schoolyard defense tactic. Keep up the good work!

      Because all groups of people are just like religious groups. Right?

      July 15, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
  4. BIG SHIZ

    I do like atheist chick's. They put out

    July 15, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      That's actually the most profoundly sad comment on this blog.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • Dippy

      Chicks, not chick's.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • Love and Hugs and Fluffy Farts

      Church women are even worse. And they lead the world in the number of women that have abortions. Go figure.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Bill has obviously never dated a Roman Catholic girl

      July 15, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • hee hee

      They put out ... fires? the garbage?

      You're just pretending not to be a virgin. And you've never even met an atheist.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • snowboarder

      it was always the catholic girls when I was a kid.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      married one actually. The problem I have with shiz's statement and your cavalier enjoyment of it is that he is right. One of the consequences of the advancement of secular atheism is the increase in seexual promiscuity and casual attiitudes towards seexuality that has created enormous problems for wide swaths of humankind. It's degrading of women on its face and destructive of families at its core.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
      • jazzguitarman

        Bill you have no evidence to support your POV about the secular community. Blacks in the USA have the most kids out of wedlock and thus the most single mothers but they are the most religious. One's economic condition as more to do with if they have kids they cannot support more so than their religion.

        July 15, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
      • snowboarder

        casual att itudes about s3xuality stems from women realizing that they have worth as more than a mere mother or wife. it has nothing to do with atheism.

        July 15, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
      • G to the T

        In my experience, the "purity pledges" a lot of girls were being asked to take completely backfired. Apparently oral and anal don't "count"... lol.

        July 16, 2013 at 10:17 am |
      • CommonSensePrevails

        Bill, you are just absolutely clueless, aren't you.
        If you look at teen pregnancy rates, you need to look no further than to the South – the bible belt – and see the highest rates.
        Before you post ignorant comments, why don't you read up first; otherwise, it makes you look a "bit" dumb.

        September 23, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • Scotty Cherryholmes

      Maybe there should be 12 types of atheist. Or 40 types of atheist. And why does anyone care? People of this persuasion are not welcome to voice their beliefs at anytime anyway. The thing to know about a real atheist is that we wish there was a God more than anyone else. 🙂

      July 15, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
      • Edward

        That statement is worse than the "atheist chicks put out" one.

        September 2, 2013 at 9:16 am |
        • photografr7

          They DO???? .... Tell me where!

          September 2, 2013 at 9:24 am |
      • CommonSensePrevails

        Scotty, you're beyond any help.

        September 23, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • CommonSensePrevails

      I don't think an Atheist woman would touch you with a ten-foot pole. Atheist women enjoy partners with some intelligence, and it appears you have none.

      September 23, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
  5. Meowser

    I guess I'm a non-theist. I really don't pay attention to religion; it's not a part of my life. The rest of my family is quite religious, but it's not for me.

    I still put up a Christmas tree, though. 🙂

    July 15, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I guess I'm a nano-agnostic. I have doubts but they're so small you can't even tell they're there.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
      • photografr7

        You are like Richard Dawkins then. Have you seen his 1-7 scale. He calls himself a 6.9

        September 2, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • jazzguitarman

      Meowser: Do you have kids? I only ask because of that Christmas tree comment. My sister's kids are all agnostic and they are in their early 20s. While the family elebrates Christmas it is NOT a religious holiday to them. So last Christmas I asked them if they would celebrate Christmas once they had kids. 2 said no. To me that makes sense since they aren't Christians (i.e. I don't celebrate Christmas), but so many agostics do, especially once they have kids.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
      • Meowser

        Jazzguitarman – no, I don't have kids. I just love Christmas. My siblings have children; I love buying gifts for them. I love the way a lit Christmas tree looks in my house in the dark of winter. I love my Santa boot salt and pepper shakers and my Fitz and Floyd Santas. I love baking cookies while listening to Christmas carols. Speaking of Christmas carols, I love A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street and It's a Wonderful Life. I celebrate the entire season as a cultural holiday, which I know is blasphemous to believers, but it's my way.

        July 15, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
  6. CAS

    Seeker agnostic. Definitely open to the idea that each religion has something to contribute, but reject the idea of being part of an organized religion because of the negative things that come from each one.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • snowboarder

      depending on the day, I could probably be labeled as any of them except seeker.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
  7. Chris

    Based on these definitions, I'm an Activist Atheist.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
  8. crackwalker

    This 'study' is based on flawed reasoning. It begins with the basic assumption that belief in Christian God is the normal human state, and that humans must have an underlying motivation to move away from that position.

    Alternatively, one could ask the illustrious and educated Silver and Coleman to add yet another category to their list:

    Atheist Type #7: Babies

    July 15, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • Chris

      I love your response! It goes with the reality that if you take away the stories than you don't have today's version of God you have someone elses version that they create because they need some type of explanation.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
  9. brad1001

    Take page one of the Bible, Creation. Reads pretty much like the commonly held scientific beliefs of the present .. total darkness, without form, then light .. so on. How did a man nearly 2000 years ago know this to write it? ... Is it possible that his hand was guided by a Greater Power? I'm not your keeper, so Atheists do and believe what you want. There will be Hell to pay if you're wrong tho.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • Athy

      What other creation story could there possibly be?

      July 15, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Threats are a stupid tactic to convince someone to believe, even if your god is an azzhole who allows hell to exist when he could just eliminate it. And no, of the two different creation accounts in genesis, neither of them describe anything like the ongoing process of the big bang.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • Love and Hugs and Fluffy Farts

      We aren't wrong. The bible contradicts itself into irrelevance. Anyone who has actually read it could tell you that.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • snowboarder

      considering all the creation stories throughout history it, like them, is much more likely fiction.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • Love and Hugs and Fluffy Farts

      Take page one for example. The whole creation myth... then look at the next chapter. Hmmmmm. A DIFFERENT creation myth. How odd. Two contradicting creation myths, right at the start of the book. Sounds like the cave people who wrote it didn't have any idea what they were writing about. They also believed that the universe was created out of water. Yeah. There's that. And they also believed that the Earth was held up by stilts. And that it was a flat disc.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
      • snowboarder

        it just means there were disparate writers and that those who assembled the stories didn't do a very good job.

        July 15, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
        • crackwalker

          Why would God allow idiots to mix up his holy stories?

          Could it be because he's only as smart as the author that wrote him?

          July 15, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
        • Dave

          Strange. Isn't the christian bible supposed to be the word of god? As another poster pointed out, why did god allow those transcribing the words to make such a big error?

          July 16, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
      • Brian

        what contractictions would you reference in Chapter 1 and 2 of Genesis?

        July 16, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • hee hee

      You're right! and creating Eve using a rib of Adam is just like the evolution of mammals from theraspids. I also like the references to the extinction of the trilobites in deuteronomy. If only people would actually *read* this, they would believe like us.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
      • Stephen Jones

        Don't forget Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the back of a velociraptor. I've seen the pictures so it must be true.

        July 16, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • John

      So typical of a Christian trying to manipulate reality/facts/science to justify the unjustifiable. There is evidence of many earlier religions that used the same story devices:an immaculate conception, a trinity, a messiah being murdered and being resurrected three days later - none of these concepts were new two thousand years ago. Like the best fiction we have today, the bible is a compilation of the imaginations of ignorant, but creative men who lived before serious scientific thought even existed. An analogy would be if, centuries from now, people adopted Tolkien and his literary opus as scripture.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • Hoss

      This study is dumb. First the sample size is way too small to be able to draw any solid conclusions. Second the categories of atheist are best described by "atheist opinions of religion, theism, and atheism". There is a spectrum of belief that fails to be adequately represented by the categories of this study. Retrofitting data to your categories does not science make.

      Apparently I am intellectual atheist, activist atheist, seeker-agnostic atheist, anti-theist atheist(fyi a person can be an anti-theist and believe in god[a theist], they are not mutually exclusive terms), and a ritual atheist.

      Again these categories are dumb and belong as a stupid magazine personality profile.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • Larry

      "There will be hell to pay if we are wrong". Wow. To look at that from a different point of view, it is possible I am wrong. Given the facts, it is far more likely you are wrong. If you are, you are wasting the only life you have to get an "eternal life" for which there is absolutely no proof.
      I've read the bible, the koran, book of mormon, bhagavad-gita, etc. and it is very clear these are the works of men, not gods. Way too many contradictions, too clearly myths. But you are welcome to believe anything you want. Just don't try to force others to live according to your beliefs.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • Jugger

      As an Athiest, having a Christian threaten me with hell is like having a hippy trheaten to punch me in my aura. – Josh Thomas

      July 16, 2013 at 10:41 am |
      • Stephen Jones

        That's a keeper!

        July 16, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  10. Indi

    I guess I'm a "non-theist" because I don't argue about religion or try to convert religous folks. What others believe is none of my business, as long as they don't try to force their views on me.

    On the other hand, I find the various manifestation of the religious impulse interesting, and in the case of religious art or music, often quite lovely. Maybe you need another category: Benign Atheist, or maybe Mellow Atheist.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
  11. Jerry

    I don't believe in Santa Clause or the Tooth Fairy but no one puts a label on me for this. I spend 0 time thinking about these fictional characters just like I do about fictional religious characters. I don't identify myself with any of these labels but I guess you can call me a non-theist.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
  12. agnostic seeker?

    Maybe I'm that category. They need a category for people who realize there is no proof of God whatsoever and every reason to think there isn't one but still have a list of about forty or more reasons why they'd prefer it if there was one.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      What you defined I call a romantic agnostic. One that wishes for there to be something 'more' after this life but is intelligent enough not to be specific. (since it is folly to claim knowledge about things we cannot know). So one has a yearning for things that may or may not exist \ occur. To me this yearning is understandable (again as long as one understands it may all just be wishful thinking)

      July 15, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • FA

      That depends on your definition of God. If your definition is of a space man playing chess with humans, then you are correct. However if your definition of God is a being that is not bound by space and time, that sustains itself, and is a Creator than my friend a lot of proof exists. Consider laws of physics themselves. The fact we call them laws prove that a creator exists. After all nothing gives itself laws, a particular car has a greater chance of breaking down after a certain amount of miles because of its particular design. A star goes supernova once all the fuel in its core is used up. Every scientific phenomenon in the universe point to if you will God.
      That my view mate.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
      • snowboarder

        "The fact we call them laws prove that a creator exists."

        lol! that is funny. talk about simpleminded.

        July 15, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
      • crackwalker

        Your view is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is a closed-loop of non-logic. Everything proves you right, It is the credo of the Lunatic.

        July 15, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
      • snowboarder

        "The fact we call them laws prove that a creator exists."

        wow. just wow

        July 15, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
      • CommonSensePrevails

        ... and this is why you should not become a science teacher.
        The US is falling SO behind in math and science, and much of that is thanks to people like you who believe in pseudo sciences and puts us further and further behind.

        September 23, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      @ FA: "Consider laws of physics themselves. The fact we call them laws prove that a creator exists"

      Wow. Just wow. You HAVE to be a Poe.

      July 15, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
      • FA

        All i hear is conjecture in the replies. As a scientist one of my best teachers emphasized one very simple rule. If you have an hypothesis you either disprove or prove it. Of course this process could take years but in the end one has to make decisions, and conclusions based on evidence. When i see creation i see such uniqueness in it, that it leads me to believe in a higher power. The mere probability of Earth forming and having conditions to sustain life is astronomically low. This planets seems to be far enough from the sun that condition are clearly suitable for life. I cant seem to find similar planets. Sure we find plants that we think could support life, but we don't have any definite proof yet, The fact is, if there is order than something has to provide that order. Gravity, magnetism, nuclear forces etc have to have origins and we should be able to explain and create and control these forces at will for us to claim there is no God. If there is a big bang, then there has to be a catalyst that sets of an explosion of an infinitesimally small particle which creates an ever expanding universe with billions of galaxies, planets, stars but as far as we know , only one life sustaining planet.
        Now for me, as a scientist i do not believe in randomness. I think any self respecting scientist should not believe in randomness but should rather seek to answer questions that he does not have any knowledge about.
        Atheists for me seem to attribute too much to randomness.
        The question should not be if there is God, the question should what is God.
        Now i would appreciate responses to this reply to be intellectual in nature.

        July 15, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
        • snowboarder

          your views are colored by your religious indoctrination. where you see intentional order I see chaos and randomness. this planet was not placed here to be suitable for life, but that life developed here because the planet was suitable.

          so much of religious doctrine that was taken literally for over a thousand years has been admitted to be allegorical or symbolic instead of literal. all just attempts to shoehorn religion into the realities of a world and universe that it does not fit.

          your plati tudes and justifications are meaningless.

          July 15, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
        • snowboarder

          what is god? the invention of primitive man.

          July 15, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
        • crackwalker

          "Now for me, as a scientist i do not believe in randomness."

          As a scientist, you should be leaving your beliefs out of your thinking. A scientist forms theories, and tests them objectively. A bias towards order will cloud your observations.

          If you are looking for a pattern, you will find one, because your mind will make a connection between meaningless events. That's human nature – we are meaning-making animals. It is an evolutionary trait that primates have developed.

          July 17, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
        • CommonSensePrevails

          You say you are a scientist... Why is it that most scientists are in fact Atheists? Very few are religious.

          September 23, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
      • FA

        What does Poe mean? I am sorry english is my second language and i don't get the comparison.
        That being said and forgiving my spelling errors, what argument do you have against my logic?

        July 15, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
        • FA

          @Snowboarder. The earth's orbit around the sun is fixed is it not? We can predict approximately when a star would die, can we not? We can measure accurately the speed of orbits of stars around black holes. There is no such thing as chaos. Once we understand the inherent laws, that things operate by, we can predict their actions. I am sorry but this is source of a philosophical impasse between you and I. I don't believe in chaos, i believe that chaos is phenomenon that we don't understand yet, but in time we will. Where as you are resigned to say that there is chaos in the world which you are unable to comprehend.

          July 15, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
        • crackwalker

          The predictability of events in the universe is due to cause and effect. I accidentally knock a teacup off the table, and it shatters. Why did it happen? For no reason. What was my intent? I had none. Planets and stars were formed due to physical forces – the fact that your mind finds the relationship of these forces pleasing does not prove that God set these things in motion.

          If you see a guiding intelligence behind the order of events in the universe, that is because you want to.

          July 18, 2013 at 8:18 am |
  13. highplainsparson

    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Romans 1:18-20 ESV

    July 15, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • TONY

      got any quotes from the easter bunny?

      July 15, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
      • highplainsparson

        You believe in the Easter Bunny? lol!

        July 15, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
      • Stephen Jones

        "Oh, rack off, ya bloody show pony!" straight from the Easter Bunny. Heard him say it while watching "Rise of the Guardians" with my daughter.

        He didn't seem to be very nice but he never destroys cities, kills the first born or sends people to everlasting damnation for his on oversight.

        July 16, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • hee hee

      Did you get that out of an actual book? So all these years I've been wrong. Sir, I stand corrected.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • crackwalker

      “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda, Act II, The Empire Strikes Back

      July 15, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
      • highplainsparson

        You follow Yoda, and I'll believe what the Creator of the universe says.

        July 15, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
        • crackwalker

          I don't discriminate between fictional characters that have wisdom to share. I can follow Yoda and Jesus at the same time.

          It's an atheist superpower.

          July 15, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
        • pfr1nk

          No, you will believe what a tribe of ancient goat herders said. Probably because that is what your parents believed.

          /If god said something we all should have been able to hear it.
          //But that isnt what happened.

          July 18, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
  14. Joe Schmidt

    There is another type of atheist - buddhists. They do not find a creator, or god, in fact they find that nothing "stands on it's own" as everything is dependently-arisen. If you look at just at what you can directly know (discounting myths and ancient stories), is there anything that you can find that exists independently with its own inherent nature, that does not depend upon anything else and is impervious to causes and conditions acting upon it? You can't find a single thing. Everything is interdependent. In buddhism this is called "emptiness", i.e., everything is empty of essential essence. Which is why everything changes and is impermanent. BUT – buddhism doesn't just leave it there because it's not an empty emptiness, i.e., when you experience emptiness through meditation practice you simultaneously experience its "supreme aspects" of awareness, clarity, and compassion. So, we can't really call them atheists (as in nihilists) and that's why buddhism is called the "middle way."

    July 15, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • hee hee

      I don't trust a dogma which requires me to turn off my brain.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
      • jazzguitarman

        Good to see you're not Catholic!

        July 15, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
      • Just the Facts Ma'am...

        Buddhism does not require you to turn off your brain, it simply guides you to turn off the background noise of others uncertainty, panic and unhappiness that can cloud and confuse us as we meditate.

        July 15, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
        • hee hee

          I know, I know. If you were told to "turn off your mind, so that you accept our authority structure and give our temple your goat milk", then no one would be Buddhist, would they? Of course, the collection of ideas has a life of its own beyond the power structures – but it's not hard to see through if you have a bit of knowledge and experience about methods of persuasion.

          July 15, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
  15. tom LI

    Well there are problems with the above Labels. As I could be any of the above at any time. If I need to, when confronted by a Believer be equally confrontational, But most days, most weeks I rarely think of Religion, faith, or whatever else there is about it at all. When I meet frustration and such, my brain doesn't click over to "Uh, oh better pray on this." Instead its, " Uh oh, how do I work thru this, why am I angry, frustrated, etc...?"

    Plus, when I learn something new about the Earth, the Life on it, or stuff "out-there" in the Universe – my first reaction is always, "No way there's a God now!" No way any Being niggled out all these details, put millions of life-forms into their niches, etc...

    I do find reading about Religion, beliefs, its history, their apologies, etc fascinating, and that might be the only times I spend any real time thinking about such things...

    I dont disprove of Religion – nor do I think most believers are dumb, but I do take offense to how much we – this Nation – rely on various Religious rituals that in my opinion actually cheapen the Religion (xtianity in the USA) and the idea of faith. Like prayers at ballgames, before meetings, anytime its injected into politics, and every time someone thanks God for their winning something. Really? God cared that you won, and the others did not..!?! Silly! Just plain silly.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
  16. highplainsparson

    The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Psalm 14:1a

    July 15, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • tom LI

      that's just good marketing, nothing else. Of course a "Preacher" or priest, or Holy-man Leader is gonna pitch his wares over others...

      July 15, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • hee hee

      Hath he?

      July 15, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
      • Stephen Jones

        He hath that's who hath, so there hee hee...HAH!

        July 16, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Stefan

      Nice loving response you have just made, calling people "fools". I am sure your god would be proud

      July 15, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
      • highplainsparson

        My God hates those who do evil. He is angry with the wicked every day. Psalm 7:11

        July 15, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
        • hee hee

          Man this book of yours is something else. Like you, I can only read one book in my lifetime. This one sounds important.

          July 15, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
    • Hoss

      The fool uses arguments from authority.

      Look it up, it's a logical fallacy.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
      • highplainsparson

        Not in this case.

        July 15, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
        • Hoss

          special pleading...another logical fallacy
          i can teach you the rules of logic if you like, probably would help you out a lot
          a shame god did not bless you with it

          July 15, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          Who made the laws of logic? (BTW, logical fallacies are distinct from the laws of logic.)

          July 16, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • toodark

      Can't attract sheep with honey....

      July 15, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
      • Stephen Jones

        You said it. Nor can you fleece bees.

        July 16, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
    • illusive

      Matthew 5-22
      "and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell."

      Seriously read that book of yours, any quote you give me I can contradict with your own book.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
      • highplainsparson

        It wasn't me who said it.

        July 15, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
        • illusive

          And I did not say the Matthew quote...whats your point?

          July 15, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
        • highplainsparson

          Still haven't got it? The instruction from Matthew is for us, not for God himself.

          July 15, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
        • illusive

          All I see is "Unbelievers are fools" and "If you call someone a fool, you will go to hell"

          And quoting something is the same thing as saying it

          You do realize that every belief system has had the same logic right? Your a fool not to believe in Osiris, your a fool not to believe in Zeus, your a fool not to believe in Loki, your a fool for not believing in quetzalcoatl, your a fool for not believing in Allah. So says all their holy texts.

          July 15, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • John

      Ludicrous. The same as reading a Scientology pamphlet that condemns non-believers for not believing that aliens visited thousands of years ago and started the human race. That book of fictional parables of yours is not the source to go to in determining its veracity. However, that is what ALL Christians do - believe in God because an old books tells them to.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
  17. Biff Biffman

    Religion has always been and always will be a a way for man to explain that which he cannot. The more science learns, the fewer places gods have to hide. Knowledge is the key to eradicating bronze age beliefs.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • Allan

      I think religion pre-dates the bronze age. It's practically neolithic.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
  18. witchbutter

    I am an anti-theist and have been one since being forced to attend baptist bible school at age 7. Religion is a social disease and is the basis for the most bitter wars and horrendous crimes. New age religions in most ways are worse, providing charlatans with an easy way to make money off people who refuse to cope with the difficulty that is life.
    It is more disturbing that the author thinks atheists need classification, as though I am a criminal who needs profiling. It's really very simple: an atheist says no god and and agnostic says undecided. The rest of your categories are damaging social stereotypes likely intended for a religious audience (this is the belief blog,not news).
    I know everyone was real excited that a black man was elected president, but stop and think how incredibly improbable it would be to elect an atheist.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • agnostic seeker?

      We may have elected many an atheist who just didn't own up to it.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
      • Proof

        We did over 200 years ago... his name was Thomas Jefferson.

        July 15, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
        • toodark

          Careful there, Proof. Theists like to mistakenly claim people like Einstein, so it's not helping matters to attempt to claim a deist like Jefferson...rational thinker, though he was.

          July 15, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • Ted B.

      I don't think the researchers who wrote the report thought that atheists need to be classified. I think the report is descriptive, not descriptive, and describes what they saw, not what they think the types, if any, should be.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Have you learned anything since you were 7?

      July 15, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • Los Pantalones

      Studies have shown that Americans would rather elect a gay, black, Muslim woman instead of a straight, white, Atheist man. It's amazingly sad how much America looks down on Atheists.

      July 15, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
  19. hee hee

    It seems that many people here don't realize that the categories overlap.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • tom LI

      Right? Those boundaries were as blurry as blurry can be...

      July 15, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      They do, which begs the question ....

      what's the point of having overlapping categories?

      Let me illustrate by example: There are three kinds of people:
      People who are registed independent
      People with pet cats
      People who like blueberry pie

      Kind of pointless really.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
      • hee hee

        I don't see what's wrong with overlapping categories, so long as you realize it.

        (We could think of them as six collections of two non-overlapping categories, by an obvious logical construct.)

        I suspect this categorization is ultimately for political and marketing purposes.

        July 15, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      The source article is much better written:

      http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/07/02/atheism-study-authors-congratulations-non-believers-youre-just-like-everybody-else/

      This was it's purpose and conclusion:

      Silver said that he hopes this study is just a beginning, that the destruction of the idea of atheists as being all one type of angry, confrontational person will lead to a lessening of social stigma on atheists.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
      • hee hee

        thanks

        July 15, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • illusive

      They overlap a lot. Just like how "Atheist" and "Agnostic" overlap, none of these categories are mutually exclusive.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      The study surveyed respondents to self-identify with one of the categories.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
  20. Chuckers

    I'm a "born again atheist". By that I mean I was raised in a religous environment, and raised my own family in a similar manner. I always questioned why God favored one group of his "children" over others, i.e. why were the Chinese going to hell because they had never heard of Jesus. In my early fifties I decided to look at faith in the exact opposite manner and asked myself would it all make more sense if all I had been taught wasn't true. The lights went on and it became obvious to me at least, that it was all balogney and life seemed much more explainable without anyone's religion. But I still believe in live and let live and don't begrudge anyone their beliefs, as long as they don't hurt anyone (lot of those out there of all sects).

    July 15, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      i'm a once saved always saved atheist 🙂

      July 15, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • Brian

      Chuckers, I don't want to go into this to heavy and I am not pushy in any manner. But you referenced why Chinesse or any other nation would go to hell just because they didn't hear about or were not told about Jesus. That is simply not a true statement, and I apologize for anyone who taught it that way. The Bible is clear that each man has a general revelation through creation itself of God's existence, but our problem is that man has chose to worship things created, rather than the Creator. Thus, the reason why people are without excuse for not knowing God and turning to Him.

      July 16, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
    • Sarah Divine

      Um....i think your family had the wrong belief system sweetie.
      God loves EVERYONE, if the Chinese did not know Jesus, our God would not
      simply thrust them into the eternal abyss that is hell.

      September 11, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
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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.