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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. The cut off point

    For people who object to agnosticism the phrase "I don't know" is always a valid statement because even if you think you know there is always a possibility that you might be mistaken and that applies to anything.

    July 15, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • Elemeno Qwerty

      That's fine, but I choose to disbelieve all things until proven otherwise, and I really so no advantage to saying "I'm not sure" about totally unproven and dubious things like gods and leprechauns. Indeed, it would seem to allow ignorance to gain equal footing in areas of politics and society because one is not shutting the door on it. But I see your point, and really, agnostic is all cool with me. No worries.

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

      Rather than 'I don't know' which seems to be a cop out, I choose to say 'For no reason'.

      Bad things happen, often for no reason. The logical and sane response is to try and use your abilities to make good things happen with the time that you have.

      July 15, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • The cut off point

      I'm not worried I"m just enthusiastic, I love debating philosophy 🙂 Thanks for debating. I just wanted to leave with this. I do have one belief and that is the belief that my belief or preference has no influence on reality.

      July 15, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
      • crackwalker

        That's a lazy philosophy, and wrong.

        Your belief affects you. You are a participant in this thing we call 'life'. Your actions (or inaction) will have an effect on reality.

        July 15, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
    • The cut off point

      Let me clarify what I just posted...I'd be very surprised if what I "believed" had any influence at all on what "exists".

      July 15, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
      • crackwalker

        Quantum Physics would disagree. The act of observation changes reality. Choosing not to observe has an effect on the outcome of events, and the state of reality.

        July 15, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
        • hee hee

          Nope. Everything which humans can observe has already collapsed into coherence.

          You only think you know what quantum mechanics says.

          July 15, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
  2. Eric

    I'm probably a little of #1 and #4 right now. I'd like to move to #5 because I really have better things to do with my time than arguing with folks who believe in zombies, virgin births and talking snakes, but I swear the ignorance of it sucks me in every time. I do think many religious folks are good people – I'm just frustrated by why they feel the need to cling to religion.

    July 15, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • Camus

      They are equally frustrated at why you feel the need to get things wrong about their faith. Zombies? No one here believes in that at all and only an ignorant person would use sucha term.

      July 15, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
      • jazzguitarman

        A zombie is someone that is dead that returns from the dead. Are you sure no one here belongs to a religion that has at its core the concept of a zombie? Really, I'm not trying to insult anyone but if one believes some man returned from the dead they believe in zombies.

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

          @jazzguitarman- "A zombie is someone that is dead that returns from the dead."

          Incorrect. A zombie is someone that is dead, becomes reanimated but is still dead.

          "Are you sure no one here belongs to a religion that has at its core the concept of a zombie?"

          Absolutely.

          July 15, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
        • G to the T

          That right "zombie" isn't an accurate description. I usually go with "litch"...

          July 16, 2013 at 11:47 am |
      • Athy

        What else would you call a person who died and three days later started walking around?

        July 15, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
        • crackwalker

          I would call that person Lazarus, Jesus, Dionysus, Osiris, Patient Zero, Bicycle Girl, Biter, Walker or Zeke.

          July 15, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
        • Camus

          Resurrected and not a zombie.

          July 15, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
        • Johnny

          I would call a story about a guy who died and then three days later started walking around made up. As for the guy in the story i would call him a Zombie. Wait Jesus did eat human brains? Right?

          July 16, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
  3. crackwalker

    “There are four kinds of people in this world: cretins, fools, morons, and lunatics…Cretins don’t even talk; they sort of slobber and stumble…Fools are in great demand, especially on social occasions. They embarrass everyone but provide material for conversation…Fools don’t claim that cats bark, but they talk about cats when everyone else is talking about dogs. They offend all the rules of conversation, and when they really offend, they’re magnificent…Morons never do the wrong thing. They get their reasoning wrong. Like the fellow who says that all dogs are pets and all dogs bark, and cats are pets, too, therefore cats bark…Morons will occasionally say something that’s right, but they say it for the wrong reason…A lunatic is easily recognized. He is a moron who doesn’t know the ropes. The moron proves his thesis; he has logic, however twisted it may be. The lunatic on the other hand, doesn’t concern himself at all with logic; he works by short circuits. For him, everything proves everything else. The lunatic is all idée fixe, and whatever he comes across confirms his lunacy. You can tell him by the liberties he takes with common sense, by his flashes of inspiration, and by the fact that sooner or later he brings up the Templars…There are lunatics who don’t bring up the Templars, but those who do are the most insidious. At first they seem normal, then all of a sudden…”
    ― Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum

    July 15, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • Jehovah

      There are only two kins of people, lost and saved. Jesus will sort them out on the last day.

      July 15, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        And your evidence is??

        July 15, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
      • crackwalker

        No he won't

        July 15, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
      • Spinner49

        There's something creepy about how Christians seemingly can't wait for judgement day.

        July 15, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
        • Athy

          Yet even though they don't have to wait, they still do.

          July 15, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
        • sam stone

          the pious like to preach about heaven, but they are in no hurry to test their delusion

          July 15, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
      • sam stone

        interesting that you desire eternity with a being from whom you have to be "saved"

        July 15, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
      • CommonSensePrevails

        Here's a definition of "lost" and "saved".
        Lost: delusional believes there's an imaginary friend out there listening to prayers (although, what's up with asking for something when god already has a plan for you; shouldn't you just appreciate what he's got in store for you).
        Saved: the rest of us – we saved ourselves from delusional thinking and appreciate Truth and common sense.

        September 23, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam

      July 15, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • Observer

      crackwalker,

      So which type are you?

      July 15, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
      • crackwalker

        Probably a fool, but I'm probably not the best one to ask.

        July 15, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
      • Observer

        crackwalker,

        Very good answer.

        July 15, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • Oh dear

      I'm not sure if you just called yourself a moron or a fool.

      July 15, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
      • crackwalker

        As I told Observer, I'm probably a fool, but at least I know good fiction from bad.

        July 15, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  4. CueBallSTL

    I was expecting the six different types to describe six different belief systems, but rather, they seem to describe six different levels of vocalism. There are only two different belief systems described: Atheist and agnostic. The only distinction amongst them is how much each type vocalizes their beliefs.

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

      I agree that the categories are about how one behaves more so than what one believes. Thus as someone else posted, what we are (i.e. how we behave) often depends on those we are with.

      July 15, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
  5. Bob

    wow, look everybody! Jehovah is commenting on a CNN chat board!

    July 15, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
  6. kd

    If the list (in the pictures) is going back as far as Ayn Rand and Katherine Hepburn, they should include one of the great atheist thinkers of the 20th century – Bertrand Russell.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
  7. Corey

    Definitely seeker-agnostic. Most of all I believe that anything is possible and that nothing is impossible. While I highly doubt the existence of a God I cannot rule out the possibility. It is unlikely, but not impossible. I suspect if such a thing as God exists than the universe itself probably fits that description the most.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • John

      So you also can't rule out the possibility that I'm a 17 feet tall alien typing to you right? that has to fit on the same levels as if 'god' exists

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

        God provided Jesus as proof of His existence.

        July 15, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
        • crackwalker

          No he didn't.

          July 15, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
        • Candiano

          Yawn. Says you. And the Bible. Which isn't evidence, sorry.

          July 15, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
        • Observer

          If the existence of God could be proved, there wouldn't be any discussions like this.

          July 15, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
        • CommonSensePrevails

          And Allah provided Mohammed as proof of his existence.
          If you don't believe that, I hope you can understand why I don't believe you.
          If you want to base reality in ancient text, you'll never get anywhere.

          September 23, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
      • Nathan

        I think it's a lot more likely that we were created by aliens than created by a 'god'. Humans are perfect in a lot of ways. Seems like there must have been something more that had something to do with our advancement than just evolution. But who knows?

        July 15, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • The cut off point

      You can't even rule out the probability that there is no reality at all.

      July 15, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • The cut off point

      Excuse me I meant to say the possibility. That one is certainly improbable, but not impossible.

      July 15, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
  8. Abalone767

    There's yet another kind: those who really want to be left alone by religionists. That is, who may speak out, but in self defence. When religionists seek to change laws or have religion taught in high school science class, speaking out is not "activism", but rather just defence. People like that would rather not speak out, but must, just to keep from being knocked over by the tide of religious activism. I'm also thinking of those people in the Air Force Academy who were being forced to attend religious services etc. When such people speak out, I'm sure it's reluctantly. Who wants to be a target? But then, who wants to roll over and allow themselves to be abused?

    July 15, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • snowboarder

      I attended church in basic training. it was 2 hours of rest.

      July 15, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Is anyone else like this? When I started out as an atheist, I was very curious (Type #1 – Intellectual atheist). I questioned my beliefs often and sought out information on all kinds of philosophical positions and arguments for and against the existence of gods. I was somewhat angry at religion for having deceived me, but not overly so. But now, three years later, I don't care as much. Every religious viewpoint I come across comes off as phony, and I see no need to refute each one. Religion requires faith (belief without proof), so it's arbitrary what you believe in if you aren't going to require proof for any of it.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Yes, certainly.

      These labels define behaviors more than they define disbelief. They are (and admittedly so by the surveyor) a first attempt.

      Posters here relate to multiple labels simultaneously and over time as their understanding of their disbelief matures.

      This survey was more about demonstrating that only a small percent of atheists are the militant anti-theists (about 15%) than anything else.

      Dan Merica chose not to focus his story on that aspect.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • crackwalker

      Dude. When you started out, you were an atheist. No one is born knowing any of these stories or myths.

      July 15, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • Maani

      "Religion requires faith (belief without proof)..."

      I'll bet you believe in black holes, quasars, a 13+-billion-year-old universe, and many other aspects of astrophysics. Yet neither you nor anyone else can "prove" that any of those are true. They are "theories," however much supported by factual evidence they may be (and some are supported by more than others). You (indeed, everyone, whether atheist or believer) "believe without proof" all day long, in more ways than I'm sure you have ever really thought about.

      Consider the following hypothetical. A person is born blind. Throughout their lives, they can learn quite a bit about the sighted world: hot, cold, solid, liquid, gas, shapes, etc. But tell me: how would you describe "color?" For example, describe "red" in a way that a blind person would understand. I am, of course, being rhetorical: you could not. There is simply no way using verbal language (or anything else) that you could get a blind person to understand "red" or "blue" or "magenta" or "periwinkle." Thus, the blind person would be entirely within their rights to say, "You know, you cannot prove to me that color exists, so I don't believe it exists." And there is ZERO you could do to convince them otherwise, if they did not wish to simply trust you (i.e., have "faith") given that you are sighted.

      In the same way, those of us who believe in the existence of "God" are unable to "describe" why we believe – because the language does not exist to "bridge" the gap between believers and atheists.

      I have no issue with a good debate on this subject. But the "belief without proof" position is a canard, not solid support for atheism.

      Peace.

      July 15, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
      • Damocles

        Ummm.. what? We can 'see' black holes by how they interact with the stars around them. We can see and time the pulses of quasars. I can, if I choose, gather up enough equipment to build a powerful enough telescope to see these things. This is not faith, it is continuing knowledge of the things around us.

        I think you could describe colors to a blind person in a way that they would understand.

        July 15, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
        • JesusIsLord

          You don't actually see the black holes but you can "see" by how they interact with the stars around them.
          So the invisible qualities of the black holes are "clearly seen" by the way the stars interact around them. In like wise manner,
          Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

          July 15, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
        • JesusIsLord

          Please tell how you will describe Red or Green.

          July 15, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
        • Observer

          JesusIsLord

          "God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse"

          If God actually wanted to prove he exists, he could do it in less than five seconds. Get real.

          July 15, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
        • Maani

          As JesusIsLord points out, what we "see" is "effects," not causes. Consider the wind. You cannot see it, but you can see its effects. So we know that wind exists DESPITE our not being able to see it.

          As JIL also asks, praytell, do tell us how you would explain "color" – much less a specific color – to a blind person. It is one thing to CLAIM you can do it. Quite another to explain how.

          Observer:

          "If God actually wanted to prove he exists, he could do it in less than five seconds." No argument there. He certainly could. In less than ONE second. But He chooses not to because he does not want "automatons." Consider. If God were to reveal His presence to every single human being at the same time, then what would be the point of faith? Instead, everyone would "believe" (a misnomer at that point) in God because there would be no CHOICE. However, we were created with free will – including the free will to accept or reject the very God who gave us that free will.

          Keep in mind that while Carl Sagan did in fact say, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof," he also said, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

          Peace.

          July 15, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
        • G to the T

          Teaching blind people about colors – yes – you absolutely can. Read up on Helen Keller sometime...

          July 16, 2013 at 11:53 am |
      • crackwalker

        The atheist position is not the one that requires defending. It is the default setting for humans.

        July 15, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
        • Maani

          crackwalker:

          "The atheist position is not the one that requires defending. It is the default setting for humans."

          Really? so how do you explain the fact that more people worldwide believe in some form of religion or spiritual belief system than do not – i.e., that there are more "believers" than there are atheists?

          Your claim does not hold up to actual statistics.

          Peace.

          July 16, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
        • crackwalker

          I made no claim

          I stated a fact: People are born without any knowledge of myths or stories of divine beings. That is the natural beginning state of a human being.

          Large numbers are indoctrinated into religions after that, and the "believers" outnumber the atheists, I do not dispute that.

          Babies are atheists

          July 17, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
        • CommonSensePrevails

          Maani: 2/3 of the world disagrees with you, so you are outnumbered; hence, you must be wrong (... I'm using your delusional logic).
          There are so many different religions. Each one thinks the others are going to hell; so which one is right? I'll tell you why there are so many believers total in the world compared to non-believers. It was the thing to believe long ago, but that was also when people believed the earth was flat; we have progressed since then. The good news it that it's going to keep progressing, and people will keep leaving the church because people are learning and understanding more and more how the world works and are realizing that people don't need outdated information. That's why the pope now is changing the tune for Catholics. They are loosing attendance, and they have to figure out how to keep them. So now, Atheists are all of a sudden not going to hell, and they are "ok" by the new standards. I have to give the Catholic church some credit because at least they are evolving (and do believe in evolution), and they will take over some of the people who leave other churches.
          So, I'm not worried; in time, church will become a thing of the past, and that is something you have to worry about. i'm just happy people are coming to terms with Truth and common sense.

          September 23, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
      • Hoss

        You have just proved your ignorance of science. (Slow Clap)

        July 15, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
      • Robert Brown

        Amen

        July 15, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
      • Maani

        Go to the T:

        Uh...maybe it is YOU who needs to read up on Helen Keller. First, she was not BORN blind; she became blind at 19 months, which means she already had familiarity with SOME colors. Second, whatever she "learned" about color After that was from association and analogy – i.e., she did not understand specific colors as sighted people do. For example, she would NOT have understood "yellow" if you told her that it was the color of a banana. Rather, for example, her favorite "color" was purple – because it was described to her as "the richest, most luxurious plush velvet." However, for all she knew, the actual piece of velvet she was touching was red.

        Nice try, though.

        Peace.

        July 16, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
  10. Andy Schmidt

    Interesting – but my intuition would have told me that the vast (=silent) majority falls into Non-Theist or Ritual A/Non-theist. Reading that this supposedly is a tiny majority seems surprising.

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

      i would guess that many non-theists are currently closeted. they show up as a small percentage because they avoid being identified as atheist altogether.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      From the study:

      Non-theist ........ 04.4%
      Ritual atheist ... 12.5%

      The largest group was the 'Intellectual atheist" (37.6%)

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

      I agree. the majority of theists I know fall into the reitual-theist category, too.

      July 15, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
  11. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    I don't have the sense that invisible beings of supernatural origin and power are at war with each other for control of our world and ownership of our souls. If I did, I might consider one of the various systems of unjustified beliefs that go along with such feelings.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
  12. rasko41

    I'm an apatheist. I don't care if God exists.

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

      He still cares about you.

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

        which one cares? odin? yahweh? allah? zeus? ahura mazda? brahma?

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

          The true one.

          July 15, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
        • Yakobi

          Cthulhu.

          July 15, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
        • Athy

          Which one is the true one and how do you know it can't be one of the others?

          July 15, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
        • snowboarder

          @j, everyone seems to think they have the true one. they can't all be right, but they can all be wrong.

          July 15, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
        • CommonSensePrevails

          Flying Spaghetti Monster, FSM.

          September 23, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • Does my name for this have significance?

      Funny! I would adopt that term most of the time. Then I'll get hit with some irrationally emotional and fallacious argument to justify someone's moral claims derived from their local pastor and I get a little less apatheist. If they were just not causing so much harm, I would just enjoy apatheism too 🙂

      July 15, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
  13. Vic

    http://atheism.wikia.com/wiki/Types_of_atheists

    July 15, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
  14. The cut off point

    I think agnosticism is the most correct, it assumes nothing at all. If you fall off the fence to one side or another it is probably because of either a personal goal or a subjective experience.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • Elemeno Qwerty

      Are you agnostic about leprechauns, ghosts and the Loch Ness Monster?

      July 15, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • The cut off point

      Yes. Especially ghosts and the loch ness monster. If I didn't see it myself I really don't know for sure. It's just a matter of probability at that point.

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

        The ghost of the Loch Ness monster led me to the leprechaun's gold at the end of the rainbow, but some fairies must have gotten there before me because it was gone.

        July 15, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
        • Does my name for this have significance?

          Yeah, I hate it when that happens!!

          July 15, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
        • Stephen Jones

          The Flying Spaghetti Monster can led you to your pot of gold with His Noodly Appendages but of course Pirates might get there first.

          rAmen

          July 16, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
    • The cut off point

      Yes actually if you don't experience something first hand you are taking it on a matter of belief.

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

      agnosticism is not a degree of theism. its a statement of knowledge. is merely says i have no special/certain knowledge on a given topic. you can be an agnostic christian, an agnostic buddhist, an agnostic atheist. if you say 'i dont believe in gods, but i cannot rule them out as possible' you are an agnostic atheist. most people, whether theists or atheists, are agnostic on gods. gods these days are virtually unknowable. if you claim special or certain knowledge about them, we either call you pope, or crazy

      July 15, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • The cut off point

      If you apply agnosticism to theism or atheism in it's true form though you will eventually come to a neither rating on the subject. If you choose theism or atheism knowing darn well you dont know anything about it for sure then you have a reason for deciding that way.

      July 15, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  15. Chompopottamus

    I guess I went from believer, to seeker agnostic, then to intellectual atheist, then to anti-theist, and now I'd say I've landed in the non-theist category. I kind of lost interest in the whole religious debate thing. Although I do enjoy occasionally watching a good Hitchens debate.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
  16. 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 5:45 pm |
    • Elemeno Qwerty

      Kind of like Cosmopolitan for atheists.

      Kind of like a Cosmopolitan magazine quiz for atheists.

      You know the results are off when non-theist is the smallest, when demographic studies show "no religion" to be way larger than self-identified atheists.

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

        Cosmo quizzes, lmfao!

        July 15, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
  17. howesr1

    Did anyone else notice that these people are all famous for doing... not much to help the real world? Who cares that they don't believe in an afterlife. It's not the "then" that matters. It's the "now" that needs fixing and the guys doing the fixing (charities, misisonaries – good ones, not bad ones, volunteers, etc) tend to believe in a "then".

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

      And what people might those be??

      July 15, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
  18. Sane Person

    Most of us just dont believe fantasy nonsense, spouted by humans claiming to be closer to "god" than others, without any sort of proof, logic or reason. If you want to make miraculous claims, you need to come with significant data and fact to back it up.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • The cut off point

      Not believing in magical and mystical things is more than fair, however saying others have to back up their opinion with fact is wishful thinking. Maybe they should back up their opinion but nobody has to do anything.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • buddy

      You can find out for yourself. Just ask ... "God if you're really real ... make Yourself known to me!!" ... and see what happens.

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

        ... nothing happened. gods will be done.

        July 15, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
      • Athy

        I did it too and nothing happened. I guess I'm just no good at self hypnosis.

        July 15, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
      • CommonSensePrevails

        I did ask the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and lone and behold, I found spaghetti in my cupboard. His noodly goodness appeared; it's a miracle.

        September 23, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • toodark

      The cut off point – Their 'opinions' are pushing legislation to infringe on the rights of others. So yes...theists are making the positive claim and the responsibility of evidence is on them. In lieu of that evidence, we are justified in dismissing their claims outright. They are welcome to believe anything they like, but it is extraordinarily rare that their beliefs extend no further than their own immediate circle of influence.

      July 15, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • The cut off point

      Too dark, I can see why you'd have a strong preference for them backing up their beliefs. I can see why you would encourage them to back up their beliefs. The fact remains that they will decide ultimately what they believe, no one can force another to have an opinion. You can only encourage.

      July 15, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  19. Jehovah

    Eventually, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Just because Hell is out of fashion today, it is still very much in business.

    July 15, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • Chris

      uggh... gurgleughh... That was me throwing up a little in my mouth. Sorrry...

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

      sorry. i'm not buying it.

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

      Just FYI, 'Jesus' is actually is mistranslated from that persons original name. Just one example of how source material isn't exactly important to religious theology.

      July 15, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      Sad the Jehovah believes in a hateful god that one has to fear.

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

        Yes. You are absolutely right. You need to FEAR Him. He is a a loving God. Fear and Obey Him. Or you can rebel and call yourself an Atheist – which makes you look cool – until your time is up.

        July 16, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
        • Lucas Lee

          I hate to break it to you, but no one is an atheist to be "cool". It is very difficult to be an atheist. Atheists are considered the most hated minority group in America. People are constantly judging you when they realize that you don't believe in god, or trying to "convert" you. On top of this, you are left to confront death head on, to look it in the eyes rather than to cushion yourself with the notion of some perfect afterlife. It should make you wonder why people would be willing to choose such a lifestyle.

          July 16, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
        • pfr1nk

          "You need to FEAR Him. He is a a loving God. Fear and Obey Him."

          No contradiction there.

          /Are you just trying to make believers look stupid?
          //False flag.

          July 18, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
        • Pi

          Don't be absurd, Lucas. Christians are the most persecuted group in America. Jews don't get a lot of respect either, and the less said about Muslims the better. When have you ever suffered as an Atheist?

          July 18, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
        • CommonSensePrevails

          @ Pi: are you kidding me??? Christians are the most persecuted. Where have you been??? Have you ever seen an Atheist president? If you make yourself known as an Atheist, your political days are over, or at least for presidency. I have been persecuted by so many Christians for years for not believing and treating me like I have a disease (not exaggerating).
          You can openly ask someone which church they belong to; what you cannot do is say you don't belong to a church.

          September 23, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
        • CommonSensePrevails

          @Mathews: if "cool" is believing in science, common sense and Truth, then yes, I want to be "cool".

          September 23, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
    • Hoss

      What about retarded children, will they too confess that jesus is lord?

      I suppose you'd say yes, god will fix the little retards when they come to heaven, and then they shall proclaim jesus as lord. But shouldn't retarded children go to hell because while on Earth they are incapable of accepting christ as their savior.

      I condem your evil, malicious god whom sends retarded children to be tortured for all eternally. Now to blow your mind, we are all gods retarded children as he has only made one non-retarded child, jesus(which is still god, but human god form).

      For a creator to punish his broken creations for being broken is more immoral than you suggesting that he has the moral right to do so.

      You make me sick.

      July 15, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
      • Does my name for this have significance?

        Perhaps with a bit less vitriol, but fundamentally sound points. Of course many church scholars will suggest that God will not hold the mentally infirm to account. Of course there is no evidence in the gospel or elsewhere to confirm this exception, but I'm sure God told them personally. So, all is good!

        July 15, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
        • Hoss

          I generally structure arguments based in solid evidence and make them without the added "color". But for a CNN comment, I just couldn't help myself. lol

          July 15, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • sam stone

      spend a lot of time on your knees, do you?

      July 15, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • pfr1nk

      Jesus said he would come back in the lifetimes of some of those who were his contemporaries. Thor said he would get rid of the ice giants.

      /I dont see any ice giants.

      July 18, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
  20. FuMoe

    It is bit disingenuous to say that any one of these categories remain a constant. A majority of the time I am a quiet atheist; being born in the deep south and amongst a great deal of dead set believers, have found quiet to be less tumultuous. But occasionally I rear myself as anyone would in reaction to someone grandstanding a topic like abortion only supported by religion as a hot button argument. It certainly depends on the company and how precarious the conversation can be as to what atheistic category one could funnel me into.

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

      You mean your actions are time- and mood-dependent? Then how will the marketing companies categorize you :)?

      July 15, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
      • FuMoe

        It certainly doesn't stop Facebook or Google from finding atheist t-shirt ads to throw alongside my profiles or email accounts! Or the occasional straggler ad that is for some church function. It would seem that non-belief is as much a target as any other. Low and behold-I must have multiple personality disorder because it might even be possible to be any combination of these 6 at any given time!!!

        July 15, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
        • pinostabaum

          oh neat, i want those ads!

          July 15, 2013 at 6:10 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.