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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. FTRedd

    I must be a non-theist because I don't even care to respond to any of these comments. Everybody gets to choose their own religion; even it's non-existence.

    July 17, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • toll

      non-theist? on a belief blog? try again

      July 17, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • illusive

      It's called apatheism

      July 17, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  2. Akira

    Faith, did you tell Daniel all about how you call atheists "god-hating Nazi fascists", or how you nickname people inflammatory slanderous names, such as calling me "al qaeda"?

    July 17, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • sam

      I would love to see a copy of this letter. I wonder how disjointed it is. It's likely put together with letters cut out of magazines, like kidnappers used to do.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
      • Akira

        Okay, this made me lmao. Certainly putting the cut and paste that faith usually employes in the truest light possible...

        July 17, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
        • sam

          I bet she even glued macaroni around the edges to frame it. It probably needed extra postage.

          July 17, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
        • Akira

          And glitter. Don't forget the glitter.

          Wonder is she mentioned she calls you "little black sambo?" But atheists are the evil ones. Right.

          July 17, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
  3. clubschadenfreude

    sigh. Nice attempt to pigeonhole people. I'm not "one" of those above, I am those above depending on the situation.

    July 17, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  4. Ken

    I have a cousin who is a non-believer. She doesn't like to claim she is an atheist because she feels they are more anti-christian than just atheist. She claims she doesn't believe in God, but she does believe everything happens for a reason. What do you think? Is it possible that there are no coincidences?

    July 17, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      I think that your cousin is a critical thinker who uses logic appropriately. I don't know what "coincidences" have to do with it one way or another.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • clubschadenfreude

      why don't you ask her what she thinks makes things happen for a "reason". Now, I would say that physical laws are the reason things happen. those laws are responsible for everything, even our thoughts. Since we cannot turn off those laws, then we are limited in what we can do and think and thus there is no true free will. People can learn and that gives us as much free will as there can be.

      If one postulates a god that controls everything, like most religions do, including Christianity, then one must consider a few problems with that. This god must either requires "evil" things to happen, it cannot function without such things or it likes such things. That means it is not omnipotent at all, and if it likes such things, it's is not good as claimed by believers.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Ken

      Hey Cap, yeah the coincidence part had nothing to do with the article. It was more of a two part thread to see what others thought about it.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • Ken

      @Club

      By example of a coincidence for her: Leaving your house 5 minutes later than usual and driving up to a 20 car pile-up that happened 5 minutes beforehand, realizing that oneself could have been involved in that situation.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I think she may be an unconscious seeker. She appears uncomfortable classifying herself as atheist but has defaulted into sort of a neutral un-believer position because that is where she is presently comfortable. Chances are that she will tend towards one direction or another depending on the influences and experiences she encounters.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
    • OTOH

      Ken,

      Things happen due to a 'reason' or cause... to say that a cause has a preordained motive is not valid. We can certainly learn from events by determining the reason or cause of them.

      You'll get a nasty blister on your skin after touching a very hot pot. The heat is the cause of the blister (along with the body's response system). The heat did not have an agenda.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Ken, statistics demonstrates the fact that very weird combinations of events will sometimes occur. Your chance at getting any hand of cards in poker is exactly the same (~0.000154), but you don't feel that any of those combinations as being "coincidental" until you get two really good hands in a row or a royal flush in one hand or whatever.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • Ken

      @Cap

      Do people really think statistically when the are involved in a situation like I described? Or would think deeper into it. Let's say my cousin's dog needed to be let out which caused her to be 5 minutes late. And deeper, she received that dog as a gift from somebody who received a heart transplant a couple years prior. If it wasn't for the heart donor, it could be possible that my cousin would have been in that pile-up.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        Just the randomness and uncertainty inherent in the flux of life.

        July 17, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
        • illusive

          Pretty much

          July 17, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
      • illusive

        Whether you think statistically or not is not the point. All a coincidence or "something happened for a reason" is, is a thought or opinion arbitrarily applied to a certain outcome of events.

        And hey Ken, lost our previous conversation in the sea of comments.

        July 17, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
      • Ken

        I know it's not the point, Im just trying to rattle some brains, in a good way though. Im sure everyone has had an instance similar and has thought back in time to make sense of it. I know I have. Statistics are statistics, but I'm interested in what leads up to that statistic. It blows my mind sometimes when I really think deep about it. So it's hard for me to think that people just get lucky. My cousin and I have awesome discussions even though we differ on our belief in a deity.

        Oh @illusive. I believe Im a different Ken you are referring to. I didnt start commenting until after lunch today on this article.

        July 17, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
  5. Debbi

    Bit of a semantic difference but completely changes the definition of atheism to the correct one, which you are not using: atheists believe there is NO GOD, not athesists do not believe in God. God capitalized is a name, lots of people who are not atheists do not believe in God. Many of them believe in other gods or goddesses or Unmoved Movers if you want to get all Aristotelian on this subject but they believe in Something. An Atheist believes there is Nothing that cannot be beheld by one or more of the five senses. Generally speaking. Which means that this article and many of the celebrities featured in it don't even know the real definition of what it is that they are claiming to actually be.

    I am not an atheist. I would guess I am most closely associated as a comfortable cross between an anti-theist and a non-theist. I look down on religion and those who ascribe to it but not with very much passion. Fact is, I don't really care what other people do so long as they don't kill me or anyone else for it.

    And I do believe in the Unmoved Mover. So there.

    July 17, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      No. You are wrong. Atheists simply lack a belief in god.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • toll

      woo! love when atheists argue about what atheism means.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
      • Which God?

        toll should read tool. There ,fixed the spelling for you.

        July 17, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Where are you seeing that occur?

      The original post was written by someone who believes in a "prime mover" god.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • Jake

      It's funny when religious people try to re-define the word "atheist" to make it something confusing and complicated. It's relgion that's confusing and complicated. Atheism is as simple as it gets – we don't believe in a god. And btw, it would be gramatically incorrect to capitalize the word "god" since I'm not referring to your specific version of a god.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • fintastic

      Debbi........... INCORRECT. what you are saying is atheists believe that they don't believe?? how ridiculous.

      Atheism is very simply a lack of belief in god. Stop trying to twist word definations.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • Regretfully

      Debbi, an atheist simply lacks a belief in god, that's it. Atheism only addresses belief and not knowledge so an atheist could in fact not believe in god put not necessarily assert that a god or gods don't exist. How exactly is a capitalized god different from others? Any monotheistic religion could use "God" and it would be a different god based on the contect or situation.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • lol??

      "...........................An Atheist believes there is Nothing that cannot be beheld by one or more of the five senses........."

      God is Spirit. You just described carnality.That cannot bridge the gap.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:38 pm |
  6. Tomi Roshi

    I think there are two categories of theism in my mind they are pantheist and atheist. Those words to me describe the poles of a continuum of beliefs. I fancy myself a pantheist not worshiping god as a deity rather acknowledging the wonder of god in all that I do, see and experience. My moment of clarity came when I realized, I am not my body, I am not my thoughts, I am not my feelings, I am a tourist inhabiting this body. When I look up into night sky and marvel at the celestial light show I know I am one with the divine. Whatever may become of this corpse I know I have been touched and touched other divine beings like me. I am a complicated pattern at the edge of evolution on planet earth. Ain't it grand?

    July 17, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  7. CNN Belief Blog Co-EditorCNN

    Hi gang,

    This is Daniel Burke, the Belief Blog's co-editor.

    A lot of you have raised really good questions about the study reported in this article.

    We've asked the study's authors if they might be interested in answering questions from you guys, and they graciously agreed.

    So, if you have a question about this study, please let me know by replying to this thread. We'll take the 5-7 best directly to the authors, who will answer them in a follow-up post.

    As always, please refrain from profanity and personal attacks. And please try to keep your questions related to the study itself.

    Thanks,
    Daniel Burke

    July 17, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • faith

      did you get my letter yet?

      July 17, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      How did they source the candidates for the quant!tative phase of the study?

      July 17, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      While you are observing the comments, can someone please address the technical problems with navigation. The links to 'recent posts' don't work – they seem to be off by one or two pages and when a post is made, you are not returned to the page with the post but a bad link to a page higher than the maximum page of the thread. This problem has existed since the change to 10 primary posts per page.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • Johnny Noir

      Not a question for them but a request for you: Could you set the Blog for the old 20 or so primary responses per page? If you have been reading, most of the changes are very unpopular. Having to sort through so many pages for conversations is not helpful at all, and new people tend not to look back more than a couple pages, meaning that conversations are not as extensive as before.

      No questions for the student who did the study. It's just a thesis with the usual stereotyping that all personality study researchers go for.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      How were the categories (labels) defined? Presumably this was a result of the first phase of 59 interviews.

      They seem to be more about behaviors than 'schools' of disbelief. Many posters here feel that they meaningfully relate to multiple of these labels making the labels less than useful.

      Also many posters object to conflating agnostic and atheist. (I don't.) Perhaps the researchers can comment on this.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      Most of the people I know do not believe in Leprechauns. Do we really need to classify them into different catagories of people who don't believe in Leprechauns? Really? It just seems a bit silly to attempt to classify people who share the absence of something whereas religious persons flock to the 41,000 different denominations begging to be classified, wanting to belong to some group so they can feel validated in some way. This is not so for atheists so i'm not sure why any sort of classification is needed.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • CNN Belief Blog Co-EditorCNN

      I made change to allow 15 comments per page. Any more than that becomes unwieldy for admins. We need to compromise on this.

      And watch your language, @Cpt Obvious.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Thank you, it is now a bit better,

        but the problems with bad links are much more frustrating than the number of primary posts per page.

        July 17, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
      • Johnny Noir

        Thanks for that. Now about your authority trip: why have people like Saraswati been banned but abusive racist sexist posters been left untouched? lol?? for example is often very repugnant and abusive and bigoted, and yet he/she remains while

        Is swearing the only standard you use? I personally protest Saraswati's ban, and she and I have butted heads very hard. It looks like a couple other intelligent posters have been similarly banned while nakedly bigoted posters remain. And I have yet to see a religious foul-mouth get banned; all have been atheists. Perhaps your personal views are influencing your arbitrary decisions?

        I am really not a fan of what you are doing. In the words of the great photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson: “I’m an anarchist, yes, because I live my life. Life is a provocation…. I’m against people in power and what that imposes upon them. Anglo-Saxons have to learn what anarchism is. For them, it’s violence. A cat knows what anarchy is. Ask a cat. A cat understands. They’re against discipline and authority. A dog is trained to obey. Cats can’t be. Cats bring on chaos. Libertarianism — c’est la vie.”

        Honestly I am going to leave for good if your power trip doesn't stop.

        July 17, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
        • CNN Belief Blog Co-EditorCNN

          @Johnny Noir,

          @Saraswati has not been banned, blocked, censored. Nothing of the kind. Maybe she's on vacation - but I haven't done anything to her account.

          Thanks for your thoughts on anarchism. I'm a blog editor. There are rules. You can follow them or not. That's your choice. But it's my job to enforce them. Doing that doesn't make me powerful and I genuinely don't like police work. I would much much rather be chatting with you guys than policing comments.

          And as I've said many times, if you have a problem with an abusive commenter, bring it to my attention and we'll deal with it.

          Thanks,
          Daniel Burke

          July 17, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
        • Johnny Noir

          It would have helped to address the real substance of my comment. What about racists like lol?? Why do you actively hunt swearing and ban them after two, but passively wait for complaints on racist/se.xist/ho.mophopic comments and only remove the comment (and only occasionally at that)? They are allowed to repeat and repeat and repeat. The latter are far worse, and against your rules.

          It's the arbitrary nature of your enforcement that is troubling.

          July 17, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
        • Saraswati

          Hi guys, I was just working...back now.

          July 17, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Reading the study, it seems to relate to refuting the proposition that "all atheists are militant anti-religionists" (hence the creation of the 'anti-theist' label).

      The study demonstrates that only 15% of the non-believers surveyed self-identify with 'anti-theist'.

      The study also found that atheists had a 'normal' distribution of personality types, also consistent with the idea that not all atheists are 'angry' atheists.

      Dan Merica's article focused, not on the quant!tative findings of the study, but the labels, which I think did the study a disservice. Perhaps the reasearchers could reiterate some of these findings here.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      I think trying to pigeon hole atheists into specific groups is problematic. I personally fit into 4 or 5 of the listed categories in some fashion. That's because atheism is merely a position on one question. Do you believe a god exists? Anything else is unrelated and varies as much as individuals do. Atheists just like theists run the gamut on issues of social, political and ethical import. How exactly would this clasification apply if directed toward theists? With some 41,000 denominations of Christianity could they distille them down to 6 separate groups?

      July 17, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Were this study performed by an organization that is able to poll a much wider audience that captures a better represetnation of all the "nones" (not religiously affilliated), do the researchers anticipate that (as a percentage of atheists/agnostics) those who self identify as non-theist might increase?

      July 17, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The great difficulty in attempting to categorize atheists is that the term itself is a negative statement that describes only what one does NOT believe and as such, does not imply any behaviours, morals or other characteristics whatsoever.
      This survey has essentially categorized atheism as varying degrees of antagonism towards religionists.
      I would be more interested in a survey of how self-identified atheists postively describe their worldviews – ie: humanist, naturalist, materialist, rationalist, skeptic etc.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
      • AtheistSteve

        "Skepticism is my nature, Free thought is my methodology, Agnosticism is my conclusion, Atheism is my opinion, Humanitarianism is my motivation."

        Jerry DeWitt

        That one pretty much sums it up.

        July 17, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        @Doc,

        So many posters here self-identifying with multiple labels is an indication that the labels have too much overlap.

        I am interested in how these labels were derived. I don't know if different philosophical 'schools' of disbelief is the right answer either, but something is missing. I don't think the answer is necessarily more categories.

        July 17, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          Ooops – add this to my previous post:

          ... as indicated in the study, just different ones.

          July 17, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • lionlylamb2013

      Mr. Burke,

      With such a small number (59, I think) of folks being polled, how can anyone be sure of such a polling being accurately viewed as being rightfully assessed toward the populaces wholesomeness?

      July 17, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        More than 1,000 people were surveyed as part of the second, quant!tive phase of the study. (There were 59 interviews in the first phase of the study.)

        This detail was not noted in Dan Merica's article above.

        July 17, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
      • CNN Belief Blog Co-EditorCNN

        Thanks, @lionlylamb2013, that's a good question.

        –Daniel Burke

        July 17, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      IN the way they have treated agnosticism/atheism as a continuum of philosophies, could they co-relate the study to a continuum of believers/doubter in an effort to show the issue is more organic and less digital?

      July 17, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Bill, I would argue that theist / atheist is a binary outcome. You believe in God, or you don't.

        But I too would be interested on the researchers perspective on this.

        July 17, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
        • AtheistSteve

          The primary difference is that the belief in a god isn't a stand alone propostion like it is with atheists. Theist belief in god comes with lots of extraneous baggage that is inseparable. Origin and the meaning of life and existence, morality, the notion of an afterlife and divine justice are all intricately woven in. Without god these ideas are relegated to entirely separate fields like science and philosophy or not addressed at all.

          July 17, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • redzoa

      I look forward to the release of more data from the study's authors and its publication in a peer-reviewed journal (Nice Work!). It looks like the survey results are dominated by responses from the "South." What was the regional distribution of the original 59 interviews used to describe the typologies and could this have affected the outcome of the coding/typologies described? My guess is likely not, but in light of the thought experiment regarding a particular background/experience with religion and in light of the regional correlations with religiosity, perhaps a regionally-biased interview pool failed to capture characteristics that would have yielded a finer resolution between the typologies?

      Sincere thanks to Mr. Burke and everyone else at Belief Blog for following up and being responsive to the readers . . .

      July 17, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
      • CNN Belief Blog Co-EditorCNN

        Thanks, @Redoza, for your great questions.

        –Daniel Burke

        July 17, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • Closet Atheist

      I have the same basic issues as others have mentioned.... I fit into several of the categories depending on the situation. I think the whole study is ill-conceived. I'd be really curious to know the religious affiliation of the two "researchers" who conducted the study. It also really irks me that the sample set is so small, with 59. All in Tennessee?? Needless to say, the religious climate is probably a bit different in Tennessee than, say, New York (where I live)....

      July 17, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Following the link in the article (now fixed)

        The author ...

        Christopher F Silver served as board member of the Chattanooga Free Thought Association for 2 years. He currently served as the public relations co-chair for the Chattanooga Free Thought Association. He has assisted in organizing and scheduling speakers for Skeptics in the Pub, a lecture and debate series in Chattanooga. Mr. Silver also serves as the faculty advisor to the UTC Secular Student Alliance. Mr. Silver’s research has focused on a variety of topics including religious deconversion, spirituality, new religious movements, and research theory. He has co-authored a variety of academic publications and has served as a speaker for different types of groups. He is currently completing his doctoral degree in learning and leadership from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where he teaches psychology courses in research methods and tests and measurements.

        July 17, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • lol??

      Johnny Noir sayz,
      It would have helped to address the real substance of my comment. What about racists like lol?? ................."

      I've always held to the Ark story and Noe, just like Jesus. Does your bwain understand the implications of that?? Now get crackin' and prove Noe's wife was, In the field of human genetics, Mitochondrial Eve.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
  8. take

    it was all a prank. they made up the whole thing. they were at a party and decided to have some fun. got drunk and hid jesus for a few hours and said he got executed. it was a joke, a silly, harmless joke.

    July 17, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  9. JimK57

    I have a question for athiets. Does free will exist? Does love exist?

    A fathers love for his child is just chemicals in his brain caused by some evolutionary need. So he has no choice in the matter. If we could manipulate those chemicals we could change that love into hate. Am I correct?

    I am not taking a position I am just curious.

    July 17, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • Melissa

      Yes, but not because of your god or your religion, in spite of both. Your god would have us slaves to him because he says "Do what I say or suffer for eternity"

      Yes, but not because of your god or your religion, in spite of both. Your god says "Do as I say, not as I do, unless of course the other person doesn't worship me".

      It isn't chemicals, its hormones. But yes, essentially it is possible, though then you fall with nature vs nurture and just because you hate doesn't mean you'd behave badly. There's something called self control.

      Whats your point?

      July 17, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
      • JimK57

        As I said I have no agenda. I was just hopeing that someone who knows about these things could help me out.

        July 17, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
        • Melissa

          Then I have a question for you... why would an atheist not believe in free will or love?

          July 17, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
        • JimK57

          I have no idea what they believe. That is why I asked the question. Sometimes a question is just a question.

          July 17, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Free will does not exist. Your choices are 100 % constrained by what is possible by physical laws, and your memory.
      Cognitive Neuro-science has proven decisions are made before we are even aware of them.
      You love question is meaningless.
      Go get an education.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      I don't personally believe in "free will" as most people define it, but I don't think that it matters, either, because we don't have the ability to see the future. As to love, it is merely a brain state that people have felt the need to define as we have. Think about love like you think about pain. It's a state of mind experienced by the individual but is an experience we all have felt and so we label it for convenience.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
      • JimK57

        Thank you Cpt. sometimes hearing other peoples thoughts on a subject helps me work through questions I have.

        July 17, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      "A fathers love for his child is just chemicals in his brain caused by some evolutionary need. So he has no choice in the matter. If we could manipulate those chemicals we could change that love into hate. Am I correct?"

      No, you are not correct, a Fathers love for their child is more than "just chemicals" and is far more complex than that. It is true that chemicals play a large part in how we percieve how we feel, however other factors come into play such as memories and shared hardships for the parents bringing a child into the world.

      However, it is possible from some traumatic brain injuries that father might not even recognize his son and thus feel nothing whatsoever for them. Does that mean that the fathers "soul" was damaged and now he won't go to heaven because he no longer loves his son? Does a person who yesterday was going to Church and loving their mate but today can't remember their own name or their loved ones and find themselves wandering the neghborhood half naked, is their soul still in there?

      July 17, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
  10. Rob

    The question should be "is there life after death?". If death is the end of our existence, it doesn't matter if there is or isn't a God.

    July 17, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • ljanoski

      If you do the research, Rob, you'll find that, no, there is no afterlife. The hypotheses theists have come up with (such as Descartes dualism hypothesis) to "prove" the existence of a soul are so wacked out and ridiculous that there is no way that it is science. It was, instead, the far fetched graspings of a desperate man determined to prove that his beliefs were true. "Near death experiences" vary around the world and are based on personal experiences and cultural beliefs. It has nothing to do with a "soul" or an "afterlife." It's all wishful thinking. I fact, people who have died and come back who had no belief in an afterlife, had no "near death experience." Interesting, don't you think?

      July 17, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  11. K

    I see myself in each of the descriptions save for ritual atheist; I'm confused when atheists celebrate religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter – I guess Santa and Easter Bunny aren't religious but, still... Mostly I'm Non-theist.

    July 17, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • OTOH

      They celebrate them as festive cultural occasions. That's all.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
  12. PAUL

    I thank god I can live in a country where I can be an atheist.

    July 17, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      I thank Thomas Jefferson that I live in a country where I can be an atheist without fear of reprisal.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  13. Julie

    I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only son, our Lord. Praise be to God who giveth us the victory!

    July 17, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      God had many sons. It was a general honorific ti'tle that was given to many people. Generals, prophets, politicians, all around good guys. "only son" is refuted by the historical facts. Get an education.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • fintastic

      Thank you for sharing your imagination with us.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
  14. 7

    Atheist = Random Existence
    Believer = Purposed Existence
    Question Does you heart keep u alive or does the energy that makes the heart pump?
    Question2 Where does that energy come from?
    If you can answer those question you will be one step further away from the atheist agenda. To me there are far more dangers of non-believe than believe. If there is no God what is the point of morality... because then we are just beast with no higher purpose. Than little voice inside of you... listen to it and make the right decision. Do you believe in the pharaohs... how about Socrates i find it strange u put you faith in dead men. There is a man who still lives through the holy ghost which he left for you. These are the perilous times stop delaying and speculating make a decision. Choose this day who you will serve the belief of man... or the eternal God which gave his only begated son. I'm not saying this for argument but to speak to your sprit... listen to it

    July 17, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      Atheist = Reality based Existence
      Believer = Fantasy based Existence X 41,000 denominations of Christianity alone...

      July 17, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
      • 7

        But there is one body.. don't blame man for a decision you must make

        July 17, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
        • Just the Facts Ma'am...

          I've read the bible cover to cover, Hebrew and Greek, have you? You claim there is "one body" out of the 41,000 denominations but you know that not to be true as they constantly bicker with each other like greedy old unmarried sisters fighting over the last eligible bachlor in town.

          Falsely pius words of religious wormwood shall not poison my life ever again.

          July 17, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • Stating the obvious to those who deny the obviou

      I get my energy from this magic stuff called food.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
      • 7

        Physical energy true... what happens to the your spiritual heart. When you only believe in yourself

        July 17, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
        • Elise

          You are preaching to a crowd that has dismissed your claims long ago. If you choose to believe in God, so be it; but your post is fraught with silly ideas that have been discarded long ago by non-believers. God isn't necessary to give one's life purpose.

          July 17, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
        • 7

          God is necessary but, we fail to truly seek him. We put our energies else where. Pray to god through Jesus and he will show you. He loves all... but you must seek him

          July 17, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
        • Johnny

          When I prayed to god through Jesus, Thor told me I would not go to Valhalla. So now I don't know what to do.

          July 18, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • Elise

      You thought this was such a convincing post that you posted it again? Did you read the answers?

      Did you flunk biology? Or did you never take it?

      If you believe God keeps your ticker going, stop eating. See how long you have "energy".

      July 17, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
      • 7

        Reason is your only... conclusion. What about faith... joy, peace, patience are just a few of the fruits of the sprit. Maybe i worded it alittle wrong but where is your heart

        July 17, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
        • Elise

          Faith in what, exactly?I have joy. I have peace. I have patience. I have love. I have empathy. I am kind. I am nice. I do good works for others. I do this all on my own without being told to; I always have.

          July 17, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "Do you believe in the pharaohs...

      Ummm, no, I don't believe "in" the pharohs. It is established historical fact that there were kings of ancient Egypt, but I don't believe they are immortal beings the way the Egyptians once did.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • D

      Why does morality have to come from religion? The bible, as most source as their religioius morality, is full of things that we don't do today as a society or individually. Can't morality, or better termed 'doing the right thing', come from a sense of compassion or empathy for those around you? Isn't it better to say "I won't do.... because that's just not nice and would hurt someone" rather than saying "I won't do... because a 2000 year old book of stories says I'll go to a bad place it I do". Which person has a greater sense of good, the one that understands the repercussions to others or the one that does it to keep their own but out of trouble after they are dead? I would rather be with/around someone concerned with living and those they affect instead of someone worried about attaining imaginary salvation after they are dead.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • CosmicC

      Your argument seems to boil down to "what is the point of living if there is no god". Why does there need to be a point to living?

      July 17, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  15. Just the Facts Ma'am...

    Trying to explain to a believer how a person can be "good" without any threat of heIIfire or promise of heaven is like trying to explain color to a blind person. They have always had that threat hanging over their heads since they were little children indoctrinated in their parents faith, they know not the pleasure of doing something nice for another person just because being nice is its own reward.

    July 17, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • lol??

      Nope. But a closely related subject has been explained in scripture.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      I know lol?? must be bribed or threatened so he doesn't go out and r a p e and murder children, but the rest of us find not being a disgusting perverted murdering r a p i s t is its own reward.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
  16. mikey

    All six depending on the day, issue being discussed, my mood etc.

    July 17, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  17. swyrlpr

    I most closely resemble the intelectual agnostic but also see myself having characteristics of the seeker and ritual agnostic.

    I'm really just a philosophical thinker that's come to the conclusion that God cannot exist the way religions want to believe he exists. However, I also recognize that this doesn't mean religion is wrong in anyway, just misguided. Religion itself isn't evil but I think there are evil people who twist religious beliefs to suit their agenda which is why I have decided I will think for myself. I don't dismiss the possibilty of God, I just know that I don't know and accept that empirical evidence cannot provide an argument one way or the other. Anyone who claims that it can is over reaching with limited data.

    July 17, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • K

      I like your answer.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • SeekersUnite!

      Wow. This is EXACTLY what I believe as well. Nice to know someone else out there believes the way I do. 🙂 I wonder how many people are in this group?

      July 17, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • MC

      I'm the same as you swyrlpr. Excellent description!

      July 17, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  18. Enter Atheist Hunter

    We don't need 'evidence' to prove that God exists. For as Romans 1:18-21 declares:

    "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For 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 men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."

    July 17, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • MY PANTS HURT

      "The Shining" was a much better book. And more believable.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • meifumado

      And that means absolutely nothing.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Wow

      So when faced with a choice between the total lack of evidence and a threat in a ghost story, you choose the ghost story?

      Spooky. Scawy. Ooooooooooooooooooooooo.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Good scary story, but could use some dragons and zombies.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      The Book of Romans - compiled from the tirades of Paul of Tarsus. What makes you think that he knew anything special?

      July 17, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
      • Enter Atheist Hunter

        Name other planets filled with humans. Why is earth exceptional as compared to other heavenly planets that have been proven capable of sustaining human life? Where is the life and why didn't the big bang cause human life on them?

        July 17, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
        • realbuckyball

          The Big Bang didn't "cause life".
          Life evolved here, and probably did elsewhere.
          Maybe Atheist Hunter should go back to school.

          July 17, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Athy

      Wow. Is that the "proof" you're going with, Hunter? Pretty flimsy evidence, wouldn't you say?

      July 17, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • fred

      WOW
      Lack of evidence exists for your belief as well. Reason and logic should alert you that an impossible accidental existence without purpose makes little sense. The fact you must make up your own belief after rejecting others should speak volumes about your innate understanding that there is something more.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
      • Wow

        Actually the complete and utter lack of any evidence whatsoever, from the tiniest subatomic particle to the vast expanses of the universe, for anything supernatural is itself very very strong evidence that it does not exist. You use that same standard for all the things you don't believe in too.

        The next level is that all religious scriptures fall apart under scrutiny due to impossible claims, contradictions, and so forth. For example, Jesus said that the End Times and Kingdom of God would come in the lifetime of some of those there listening to him, complete iwht a list of specific events. Didn't happen Jesus was wrong. Gods cannot be wrong, Jesus was not god.

        Let's do it again: Jesus said that if you pray, your prayers will be answered without fail exactly as you ask, including having a mountain throw itself into the sea. Jesus was very wrong. Gods cannot be wrong, Jesus was not god.

        There's more, but you get the picture. The scriptures of all religions fall apart like that.

        So while the impossibility of disproving a negative keeps us from that last infinitesimally tiny finality, the possibility of the existence of any deity or supernatural force is so intensely minute that it is virtually impossible. And worse for Christianity and the other religions, it would not be their god.

        So atheism is massively supported by strong logic, and religion is both unsupported and extremely illogical.

        Here endeth the lesson.

        July 17, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
        • fred

          "Actually the complete and utter lack of any evidence whatsoever....for anything supernatural"
          =>supernatural means other than the natural which is proven to be very real. The only question is it supernatural such as God or an unknown natural property of mater or energy. Pre Big Bang cosmology points to abstracts that do not fit the natural. That does not mean God did it only that something more than the known physical natural world is at play.

          "Jesus said that the End Times and Kingdom of God would come in the lifetime of some of those there listening"
          =>no, that Dawkins sound bite is long dead. Jesus was referring to transfiguration or the Pentecost depending on the verse you are going with.
          =>most contradictions have been explained.

          "Jesus said that if you pray, your prayers will be answered without fail exactly as you ask, including having a mountain throw itself into the sea. Jesus was very wrong."
          =>no, in one case if you pray you forgot the key words "if you pray in my name". This has specific context which means to pray as Christ would or Christ's prayer i.e. you are fully in Christ at the moment. This has happened to me personally so I can personally attest to the fact such prayer is always answered.
          =>as to the mountain verse it relates to faith. If you have the faith of a mustard seed you could say to that mountain move and it will. The lesson from Jesus to the Apostles was that they did not have that little faith thus the mountain did not move.

          "There's more, but you get the picture. The scriptures of all religions fall apart like that."
          =>I agree most religions fall apart but not the way taught by Jesus which was very different.

          "And worse for Christianity and the other religions, it would not be their god."
          =>Jesus said I AM the way. I AM was also the name God called himself to Moses and the Egyptians in exodus. God is and God is the way. That way looks very different to different people but there is a way, a truth and a life that is according to the will of God.

          "atheism is massively supported by strong logic, and religion is both unsupported and extremely illogical."
          =>atheism has zero support for its belief as to purpose of life and origin as it cannot given total lack of evidence. Religions falter and most are illogical. There is a way and a truth which makes more sense than a purposeless existence.

          Here endeth the lesson.

          July 17, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
        • Wow

          Wrong on every count.

          "Pre Big Bang cosmology points to abstracts that do not fit the natural." No it doesn't. Christian misrepresentations of one particular pre Big Bang theory is unnatural, but that is because they falsely claim that science says the universe emerged from absolutely nothing. Wrong. It's a convenient straw man, but it's not what is postulated.

          "Jesus was referring to transfiguration or the Pentecost" – no, he was specifically responding to a question on the End Times, and he included a number of events that would happen. As these things did not happen at the transfiguration (which I don't accept happened) or Pentecost, then he is still WRONG.

          "if you pray in my name" – and it still doesn't work that way. You are throwing a lot of interpretations onto these problems that the text just does not support. Jesus said one thing, and you are adding in all this out-of-context and unrelated other stuff to explain why he wasn't wrong when he obviously was.

          "Atheism has zero support for its belief as to purpose of life" – there is only purpose if there is a god. This fails miserably. Life just is. Atheists do not bother with anything other than existential purpose, and saying we need to answer what we don't believe in, that's ridiculous.

          ". . . and origin (of life)" – abiogenesis is in it's early stages, so the research has a long ways to go, but nothing supernatural is even hinted at. Read up on it: it's fascinating. But given a choice between "Life began through natural processes" and "magic," I can easily tell you which one makes sense and which one is ridiculous.

          You failed on every point.

          July 17, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
        • fred

          "they falsely claim that science says the universe emerged from absolutely nothing"
          =>We all know science does not address God. Some comments from believers play off of non believers who claim there is "nothing" before or after death and other times "nothing' is not properly defined. Prior to discoveries of certain properties of weak and strong force the vacua was often thought of as nothing. Theories behind spontaneous creation and quantum gravitational phase speak to properties that are not the nothingness of non existence before or after life. In physics these forces do not cease to impact matter and energy except in abstract.
          =>The Bible speaks to God creating that which is visible (matter and energy) from that which was not visible prior to Gods action. A far cry form science.

          "Jesus was referring to transfiguration or the Pentecost"
          =>sorry but he was. Please give me the verse. If you wish I will acknowledge the translations are poor and only make sense in context.

          "adding in all this out-of-context and unrelated other stuff to explain why he wasn't wrong when he obviously was."
          =>no I am not please give the verse as to "ask anything in my name and it will be granted"

          "Atheism has zero support for its belief as to purpose of life" – there is only purpose if there is a god. This fails miserably. Life just is. Atheists do not bother with anything other than existential purpose, and saying we need to answer what we don't believe in, that's ridiculous.
          =>it is still zero support for your position

          "Life began through natural processes" and "magic," I can easily tell you which one makes sense
          =>We both need to believe in something unknown and unproven as to origin.

          You failed on every point. If I failed you failed as we begin to make up our opinion based on lack of evidence.

          July 17, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • lol

      I love when people cite the bible to try to prove the bible

      July 17, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
      • Johnny Noir

        When you have no evidence at all for anything you claim, you are left with nothing with fallacies or threats as tools. If you know enough about fallacies, you will see that every approach religious people use is a fallacy or a threat. Check it out: it's true.

        July 17, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  19. M

    I am more the intellectual atheist kind, I guess. Maybe it's because of my growing up in a religious family and personally having been a religious person for many years. I got to learn and read and talk a lot about religion, both that of my family and other religions as well. Eventually I became an atheist, I do not believe in the existence of a God or an afterlife or anything like that, but I still take interest in religion and religious traditions, and enjoy a good debate with my religious relatives and friends.

    July 17, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Enter Atheist Hunter

      The reason you are still intrigued by religious debate is called battle of the flesh and the spirit. The spirit knows his creator, the flesh tell you he is not real. Listen to the spirit.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
      • Athy

        Hunter, you're beginning to worry me. Go see a psychologist.

        July 17, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
      • realbuckyball

        Look up the word "projection" in a Psych text.
        There is nothing in my head that tells me any such thing.
        Stop telling other what they think.
        I realize infants need to explain the complex world to themselves in simplistic terms.

        July 17, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  20. Bill

    I feel sorry for those people who are absolutely religious or absolutely atheist. It limits their world view. To the relgious person who think the Bible is the literal history of the world, they ignore the possibilities of science. To the absolutely atheist, they totally embrace science, but limit their world view to only what can be proved or directly detected. They forget that the universe is infinite, which means all knowledge is infinite, just as God is infinite. Carl Sagan himself, in "Contact" said that science could prove the existance of God, but you could never prove that God doesn't exist. Science and religion don't have to be mutually exclusive, in fact, they compliment each other.

    July 17, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • meifumado

      While you may not be able to prove or disprove gods existence, The lack of any evidence over the many thousands of years that mankind has believed in gods says a lot.
      One would think after all this time and all the thousands of different gods there would be something.
      But no there is not, and there never will be.

      July 17, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
      • Bill

        You don't need evidence of something for it to exist. Einstein postulated the Theory of Relativity long before it could be proved true. Isaac Newton's laws of gravity weren't conclusively proved until Apollo 15 in the early 70's, yet we had enough faith in his theories to design a spacecraft to make the dangerous journey to the moon. There is a theory in cosmology that says that multiple universes exist, but it's impossible for them to interact, therefore, you can't actually detect an alternate universe.

        July 17, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Theories make sense of all the available data in the most consistent way possible. If they are accurate models of reality, they provide predictability. That's why science is verifiable. There is no god belief out there that gives the believer special privileges with math and chemistry. You can't use religious belief to get better or faster results on experiments, unlike a good scientific theory.

          July 17, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
        • Ernest T Bass

          "sir, I'm going to have to ask you to power down your little word game now..."

          July 17, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
        • MY PANTS HURT

          Incorrect. Scientists have discovered what might be "bruising" in the cosmic radiation background that leads some to believe that our Universe has interacted with other Universes.

          You cannot try to use scientific examples to prove the existence of a fabricated being.

          Furthermore, you have demonstrated that scientific discoveries have been made through theories, which were later proven within a finite time frame. How many thousands of years have religions existed? And out of these thousands of years, not one shred of evidence exists of a deity. Just because you continue to fabricate a being that does not exist, it doesn't mean scientists are going to prove that it exists. They will not, because it does not exist. End of discussion.

          July 17, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
        • Bill

          You guys are missing the point. The purpose of science is to learn how the universe works from the movements of large galaxies, to the behavior of the smallest particles, and everything in between. So the question I have is, why is there any structure to the universe in the first place? Why are there rules that everything follows everytime? Who or what created this structure and these rules? What happened before the Big Bang? Is that something science will ever be able to explain? The Book of Genesis gives us a creation myth, but you change a few words, namely change "earth" to "universe" and you can say the Book of Genesis was the first recorded Big Bang theory. The writers of the Book just didn't know it yet, because their knowledge of the universe was very limited by our standards. Who's to say that the modern view of the universe isn't limited by the standards of the year 5013?

          July 17, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • MY PANTS HURT

      And here you are speaking in absolutes. How do you know the Universe is infinite?

      July 17, 2013 at 2:51 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.