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Famous atheists and their beliefs
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. mzh

    Thanks to all for your postings on this regards… I know there are no answers… but I was more likely expecting that you would answer from what you believe in… I mean your faith book i.e. Bible, Torah, Ghita, Tripitak or any others if there is any…

    I am a proud Muslim and I live each and every step of my life by reflecting the teaching of Quran… I study other religions too to know it… and when I know something new, it helps me compare my own faith and also it elevates my level of faith in Islam much more… that I do not submit myself to a creature or any material objects but to The One worthy of Worship who is unseen and towards whom we are returning…

    Here is what I found from Quran and I believe this the best answer and more importantly the truth… now if you want me to show the proofs that you want to touch or see mathematically, no one can at these days but I am definitely absolutely positive that if you study Quran with patience and go to someone who has knowledge of it, you will find yourself something that you have perhaps been looking for your entire life:

    1. WHERE DID WE (or I) COME FROM

    There are 2 elements of human body:
    1. The body which has been created from dust – from the earth
    2. Soul breathed in to it which makes the body to move or ability to think and so on – from up and no one knows more details about it

    # 1: The body which created from dust
    40:67 – It is He who created you
    1. from dust, then
    2. from a sperm-drop, then
    3. from a clinging clot; then He brings you out as
    4. a child; then [He develops you] that you reach your [time of]
    5. maturity, then [further] that you become
    6. Elders (old age).
    7. And among you is he who is taken in death before [that], so that you reach a specified term; and perhaps you will think.

    4:1 – O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you.

    # 2: Soul breathed to the created body
    32:7 – Who perfected everything which He created and began the creation of man from clay. Then He made his posterity out of the extract of a liquid disdained. Then He proportioned him and breathed into him from His [created] soul and made for you hearing and vision and hearts; little are you grateful.

    There are 4 ways of human creation:
    1. Adam from dust
    2. Eve from Adam
    3. Off-spring of Adam from the mixing of sperm and ovum which we all are
    4. Jesus The Son of Marry – created from only mother without father and this is a miracle or a sign for mankind to know that when God wishes to create anything He only says ‘Be and it is’…

    2. WHY ARE WE HERE (WHAT IS OUR MISSION IN THIS EARTHLY LIFE):

    We are here with a mission and this mission will decide what would be the end result. As we all know that nothing we do without a purpose and so human creation…

    51:56 – And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.

    4:36 – Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbour, the neighbour farther away, the companion at your side, the traveller, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, Allah does not like those who are arrogant and boastful.

    7:158 – Say, [O Muhammad], "O mankind, indeed I am the Messenger of Allah to you all, [from Him] to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. There is no deity except Him; He gives life and causes death." So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the unlettered prophet, who believes in Allah and His words, and follow him that you may be guided.

    3. WHERE ARE WE HEADING TO
    When we end our life the human body stays in the earth as it was created from the earth and the soul goes up where it came from which of course no one knows, and this soul and human body will be merged again on that day for accountability and that human body will not be the same as this earthly life as the environment will be totally different.

    32:11 – Say, "The angel of death will take you who has been entrusted with you. Then to your Lord you will be returned."

    45:26 – Say "Allah causes you to live, then causes you to die, then He will assemble you for the Day of Resurrection, about which there is no doubt, but most of the people do not know (meaning do not use their intellectual to know.)

    45:27 – And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. And the day the hours appear – that day the falsifiers will lose.

    2:28 – How can you disbelieve in Allah when you were lifeless and He brought you to life; then He will cause you to die, then He will bring you [back] to life, and then to Him you will be returned.

    Then Quran gives lot of pictures after the judgement and there will only be 2 ways, either heaven or hell and there are no third options.

    I hope it will make us to think about the human creation, the purpose of the creation and the end…

    I would ask the mankind to accept Islam as your way of life but its up to individual as there are no compulsion in choosing religion.

    Peace!!!

    July 29, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Maranatha

      Jesus, the Christ, said: "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

      Follow Him and you will find Eternal Life.

      July 29, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
      • mzh

        I felt obligated to let you and others know that what one of the things that Quran teaches about Jesus:

        3:49 – And [make him Jesus] a messenger to the Children of Israel, [who will say], 'Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay [that which is] like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of Allah . And I cure the blind and the leper, and I give life to the dead – by permission of Allah . And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Indeed in that is a sign for you, if you are believers.

        3:50 – And [I (Jesus) have come] confirming what was before me of the Torah and to make lawful for you some of what was forbidden to you. And I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear Allah and obey me (Jesus).

        3:51 – Indeed, Allah is my (Jesus) Lord and your (companions) Lord, so worship Him. That is the straight path."

        5:116 – And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, "O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, 'Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah ?'" He will say, "Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, You would have known it. You know what is within myself, and I do not know what is within Yourself. Indeed, it is You who is Knower of the unseen.

        5:117 – I said not to them except what You commanded me – to worship Allah , my Lord and your Lord. And I was a witness over them as long as I was among them; but when You took me up, You were the Observer over them, and You are, over all things, Witness.

        5:118 – If You should punish them – indeed they are Your servants; but if You forgive them – indeed it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.

        5:119 – Allah will say, "This is the Day when the truthful will benefit from their truthfulness." For them are gardens [in Paradise] beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever, Allah being pleased with them, and they with Him. That is the great attainment.

        5:120 – To Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and whatever is within them. And He is over all things competent.

        I hope you find the TRUTH about Jesus (peace be upon him).

        Peace be upon all of you!!!

        July 29, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
        • Mihail

          The question is:
          How can Islam claim Jesus said certain things when Islam came way after Christianity and way after Jesus?
          Well, there are only two ways of explaining this 1) either copied it from the bible ( yet Islam says the book is not true?) or simply made shhh up just to make it look like they actually know something about Jesus that of course ooonly Islam knows as it always claims lol....so which one is it?

          July 29, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
        • chrisnfolsom

          >How can Islam claim Jesus said certain things when Islam came way after Christianity and way after Jesus?
          -OK, you do know that not one author of a book of the bible actually spoke or heard to Jesus? So if the Bible can claim Jesus said things what is wrong with the Quaran?

          July 30, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • Evangeline

      I have no problem with anything you quoted, but your own words confuse me... "no compulsion"? Do you have the freedom to abandon your religion if your conscience prompted you to do so? Does your religion respect other's beliefs? Forcing others to accept Him seems to go against God's very nature, and His gift of free will. Other gods demanded submission, but never the God of the Bible. Even now, we must come to Him individually. Please be "completely" honest as God commands us in Leviticus, for the Old Testament is one of your Holy Books as well...isn't it? Correct me if I'm wrong please, and peace be with you also! I sense a sincere heart within you!

      July 29, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
      • mzh

        Dear Evangeline

        Thanks for your reply… may The Almighty make things easy on your and your loved ones and anyone around you in this earthly life and most importantly hereafter, amine.

        ‘No Compulsion’ meaning you do not force anyone to accept Islam and does not mean that Islam will accept others.

        There is no different God (s)… there is only one God, the God of Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Zachariah, John, Jesus and Mohammed (may the peace and blessings upon all of them)… Quran clearly says that there is NO DISTINCTION BETWEEN THESE PROPHETS OR MESSENGERS…. They were all Muslim meaning submitted to The Lord Almighty. But human took the different direction which took human away from worshipping One True God who is unseen and who has no son or any associations and made Jesus as Son of God and so on…

        Either you with God The Almighty or NOT… its up to individual whether they want to follow or not.

        About respecting others – Quran teaches that let the other person know about Islam and let him decided, if he does not want accept Islam then say ‘you do your religion and I do mine – chapter 107

        I am glad that you have mentioned ‘free will’, human invents these deities by using this ‘free will’, anything happened to them? NO, not in this earthly life, otherwise no need of judgement day, everything is kept for that day.

        I would not be a Muslim if I do not believe in the books were sent prior to the Quran which are Injeel was given to Jesus, Jabur (psalm) was given to David and Torah was given to Moses. Now if you put these books together, you should be able to find the core message is the same as they were sent from the same soruce… I ask you do you see any similarity between NT and Quran or OT and Quran or Psalm and Quran? The answer is NO, then who is correct then? Both can’t be correct… right? Please be honest… there is always one truth…

        Peace be upon you…

        July 29, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
        • Evangeline

          You are very good at explaining your religion! I wish you would explain to me why Christians (and others) are still being martyred today for failing to convert to Islam. Are you saying the rumors we hear are all lies?

          If what you're saying is that because of "free will" there is no punishment until judgment day, I disagree. People have to live with the consequences of their actions now, as well as in the future.

          The Quran appears very similar to the Old Testament, but not identical. Jesus quoted from the Old Testament, confirming it as truth. As for the New Testament, Jesus claimed to be God, so that is a huge contradiction....is it not? If you believe He was a true prophet, would He have dared to lie? I seem to remember a warning in the Bible "not to add or subtract anything from it", yet wasn't the Quran written long after the Bible was completed?

          I hope you won't find my questions insulting in any way, but you did say we were perfectly free to accept your religion or not. I choose not to at the time. I'm realize I'm not qualified to debate religion with anyone, but I enjoyed trying to figure it out with you. Thank you for sharing.

          July 29, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
        • chrisnfolsom

          @Evangeline – It does amaze me that Christians always bring up this point about martyrdom and Islam. All religions have killed in the name of their religion, and splinter groups or sects have always gone even further. Evangeline – things are very different in the worlds of Muslims and Christians – and I generally mean America and Europe.

          If Muslims had Nuclear bombs and basically controlled all the power in the world and all of our business, trade, wealth came from the Muslims – and the Muslims even gave some of our land away to one of their friendly religious groups (Israelis of course) then Christians would have the same problem and probably deal with it the same way – remember that the Revolutionary Army were essentially Terrorists to the English during the war – whatever is justified to win...

          As recently as 100 years ago most of these muslims were living in a very different world where there were (and are) kings and tribes and they also took care of their own problems – through their religious groups – Remember that through much of Christian history the Church was involved in business, diplomacy and politics. Christians have not had anything like this, even similar for quite a long time.

          I believe that Muslims will change a bit as they rely more on a central government and as people start to do better economically and actually have something to loose – there are few things scarier than an opponent that has nothing to loose – and perhaps 72 virgins to gain. So Christians please get off any moral superiority and work towards solving the problem by learning more and actually following what Jesus would do and embrace your enemy, understand them and work toward solutions.

          August 4, 2013 at 12:59 am |
    • Hamsa

      Very nice post. Just an FYI (For Your Information), but the Torah and Tanakh are both part of the Christian Bible (not the Talmud though, which is 12th century commentary on the 2 Jewish texts...like Sadiths are to the Koran I think). If you really study Judaism/Christianity (Judaism/Judaism for non-Jews) I think your mind will open, as well as your eyes...Good Luck

      January 29, 2014 at 4:16 pm |
  2. alan

    I hate the atheists who protest your right to believe in god. They don't want to see any religious symbols in public places FU. I am not religious at all but people have a right to celebrate their religion and this country was founded by religious people.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • prairienymph

      Alan, hate is a very strong word. Many of the people who protest public displays of a certain religion don't do it because they want all traces of that religion removed from society, but because they see the religious bigotry behind them and only want fairness. If only one religion is allowed to use public property to promote their religion and other religious worldviews are denied- that is unfair. In my experience, that unfairness is what is protested. I stand by that.

      July 29, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
  3. Steve

    As someone who's not Christian I always found it odd that people in the United States want to call me "atheist" or "non-theist". I'm not atheist, I'm normal. It would be weird to start calling Americans "non-Trekkies" as if being a Star Trek fan was the norm.

    July 29, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
  4. Bob

    Fascinating article. After reading it I can comfortably place myself in the category of Seeker-Agnostic. I have always had questions about the existence of some supreme being, even after 16 years of Catholic education. One of my biggest issues is that I have always been told that God is infinite in all his ways. Omnipotent, omniscient, Omni-present. We humans are mortal creatures with finite brains. A finite brain is incapable of grasping the infinite and an infinite god of some sort. Given that, the only way to accept a god is by a blind leap of faith, for which I do not have the resolve. And so I question, think, and listen. And I separate gods from religions. They do nothing positive and are unnecessary in determine ones belief in a god. I think they get in the way quite frankly. I guess in that respect I fall into the category of Anti-Theist.

    Again, a thought provoking article, and one that made me think. Which is a good thing. By the way,I'm sure I will be criticized for being a "fallen Catholic" No fall involved, I made an informed and conscious decision to walk away from the non-stop sin and eternal damnation I heard about for all those years. As Mahatma Gandhi said, "Faith... must be enforced by reason... when faith becomes blind it dies."

    July 29, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • Robert

      "Given that, the only way to accept a god is by a blind leap of faith, for which I do not have the resolve."

      True.. if we were left to our own devices. But your missing a key concept of the Christian faith, Revelation. Consider a creator with a personal/intimate interest in his creation.. Would he just leave them to their own devices, in ignorance of Himself? Or did He, as Christianity claims, take the initiative, set aside his glory and enter into the natural world to reveal his heart toward us. If this is true, there's nothing blind about accepting it.

      Christianity does require a leap of faith in the unseen, and Revelation should be logically scrutinized, but the unnatural (supernatural) elements of this claim are well regarded among respected scholars and intellectuals, both today and through the ages.. both religious and secular. It is unfair to call belief in the Christian God a BLIND leap, In light of Revelation, there's nothing blind about it.. many have argued that it is a very well lit leap.. divinely lit.

      Best regards.

      July 29, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
      • chrisnfolsom

        >It is unfair to call belief in the Christian God a BLIND leap, In light of Revelation, there’s nothing blind about it.. many have argued that it is a very well lit leap.. divinely lit.
        – Very beautiful reply and I wish it was true for me. I guess I didn't look hard enough. I look at my "leap of faith" similarly as my faith in facts as I see them – there is much light in my Atheism I see beauty in all there is, what we are, what came before us and what can be. I see Humans as the current pinnacle of evolution, and as beings who have actually transcended our DNA and now have intelligence in our society which allow us to carry information form generation to generation and to build on that to achieve whatever we may achieve – we have just begun.

        July 29, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
        • jroeper

          One thing that should be pointed out is that not believing in God, or believing in no God takes as much or more faith as believing in God. Since none of us were actually there 100,000 years ago, or billions of years ago, we really don't know how the earth was formed, and while we may trust some findings of science, those findings are constantly changing and being refined. Also, no one really knows where their soul end up at the end of this life, because once it ends, we cease to be part of this reality that we are living in. All I know is, the world is too complex and far too intricately formed to have happened by accident, and so I find I must believe in God, knowing that someone with infinitely more knowledge and understanding than me, was smart enough to design all of this, including me. Also, in my experience, I find that the story in the Bible, while hard to comprehend, jives with what I observe of mankind, and the presence of both good and evil in the world. And, I have also discovered that as I personally embraced the person of Jesus Christ, and what he did and stood for, that many other things in this world and my life made sense.
          In response to a few comments above, I do not personally know exactly how old the world is, but if God is eternal, and the universe as well, whether the world developed in a big bang, or was deliberately created by someone 6000 or 600000 years ago, the materials could all still be billions if not trillions of years old. Therefore, also the beams of light. It requires just as much faith to believe the world is 2 billion years old as it does to believe it is 6000, and none of us can truly prove it since we were not there, we can only hypothesize. The danger is to see those scientific hypotheses as fact, and religious belief as non-fact. I know the earth is an incredibly designed object in an incredibly huge universe, and don't pretend to have all the answers.

          July 29, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
        • chrisnfolsom

          >The danger is to see those scientific hypotheses as fact, and religious belief as non-fact. I know the earth is an incredibly designed object in an incredibly huge universe, and don’t pretend to have all the answers.
          – I disagree with this as it is much easier to believe in what you can see and test then one of many different religions on earth. I would much rather believe in man's ability to shape his own future then a rapture coming (any time soon) as some time to save us all – some use that to say man has domain over the earth and should not care about conservation....God will fix that of course..

          I really don't want to shake anyone's belief as not having a belief in anything is a terrible thing – I just believe in evolution, and man's ability to control his destiny. If you believe in a deity that is great as long as you don't ask me to drink the cool aid and refute science to the point that our human race destroy's itself. Just as most Christians would not want radical Muslims (I don't mean all Muslims) to be in control of the United States – even if they won the election (sorry, Obama does not count) – I don't want Christians in office pushing their tribal beliefs on me, the country and the world.

          July 29, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
        • Cheeeeesssseee

          Great respone!

          July 30, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
        • Number 6

          @jroeper

          -“One thing that should be pointed out is that not believing in God, or believing in no God takes as much or more faith as believing in God.”
          How so? Just as believing and not believing in Little Red Riding Hood? Most 4 year olds are convinced that Santa Clause in real. I am not. Are both our beliefs equally valid?

          -“Since none of us were actually there 100,000 years ago, or billions of years ago, we really don't know how the earth was formed, and while we may trust some findings of science, those findings are constantly changing and being refined.”
          No we were not there. But you don’t need eyewitness accounts to prove whether something is true or not. There would be a lot more unsolved murders if that were the case. Science constantly changes as new evidence emerges. Unlike religion that is stagnant and bends the science to fit the facts.

          -“Also, no one really knows where their soul end up at the end of this life, because once it ends, we cease to be part of this reality that we are living in.”
          There is also no evidence that anything such as a soul exists. Or does that take just as much faith to not believe as believe?

          -“All I know is, the world is too complex and far too intricately formed to have happened by accident, and so I find I must believe in God, knowing that someone with infinitely more knowledge and understanding than me, was smart enough to design all of this, including me”
          Who said this world formed by accident? You’re using the God of the gaps argument. You don’t understand how something happened so “X” caused it. Just as in centuries past we didn’t understand epilepsy and so believed it to be caused by demons.

          -“Also, in my experience, I find that the story in the Bible, while hard to comprehend, jives with what I observe of mankind, and the presence of both good and evil in the world.”
          Which parts are hard to comprehend? The curing leprosy with bird’s blood, the Eve was created from Adam’s rib, the story of Noah’s ark, the exodus from Egypt? The list goes on.

          -“And, I have also discovered that as I personally embraced the person of Jesus Christ, and what he did and stood for, that many other things in this world and my life made sense.”
          Meek and mild Jesus, who was the first to threaten everyone with eternal torture? As nasty as the God of the Old Testament was at least when you died you were dead. He never said he would send you to a fiery Hell.

          -“In response to a few comments above, I do not personally know exactly how old the world is, but if God is eternal, and the universe as well, whether the world developed in a big bang, or was deliberately created by someone 6000 or 600000 years ago, the materials could all still be billions if not trillions of years old. Therefore, also the beams of light.”
          Not to be rude but, “If, if, if.” Again with the God of the gaps.

          -“It requires just as much faith to believe the world is 2 billion years old as it does to believe it is 6000, and none of us can truly prove it since we were not there, we can only hypothesize. The danger is to see those scientific hypotheses as fact, and religious belief as non-fact.”
          No, “you” can’t prove it. Science can. Study cosmology, quantum mechanics, the geological record, the fossil record, etc. The biggest problem with religion is it doesn’t like its followers to be educated.

          -“I know the earth is an incredibly designed object in an incredibly huge universe, and don't pretend to have all the answers.”
          It’s not designed, nor is it an accident. Science can explain how it came about within thousandths of a second after the big bang. (The age of the universe is 13.77 billion years, with an uncertainty of only 0.4%, – NASA., and the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.05 billion years – U.S. Geological Survey),

          July 30, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
        • Cheeeeesssseee

          Read the bible before you try to critique it. Jesus wasn't the first person to talk about damnation. Also "Science can explain how it came about within thousandths of a second after the big bang. (The age of the universe is 13.77 billion years, with an uncertainty of only 0.4%, – NASA., and the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.05 billion years – U.S. Geological Survey)". Do the math, what is 0.4% of 13.77 billion. It's 54.8 million. That's a pretty big friggin error! I don't see that being a thousandth of a second. Maybe in God's seconds! Boom, mind blown!

          July 31, 2013 at 8:11 am |
      • joe

        Pray that the Muslims don't take over the world, then you'll see some serious intolerance.

        July 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
        • chrisnfolsom

          >Pray that the Muslims don’t take over the world, then you’ll see some serious intolerance.
          -Muslims have no monopoly on intolerance. Almost all religions are good during good times and get conservative during bad. Muslims – at leas the radical ones are products of their environment as modernism, science and war – along with the state of Israel – have put them under pressure – so they go radical.

          This of course is the same issue with Christians in America who feel pressure as they are loosing their majority in America, and as the majority controls the government that is a problem. Also the pressure of science and facts are putting pressure on their beliefs as the day after day proof that prayer makes no difference (other then personal peace) and scandals cannot be forgotten with modern day communication – the emperor is being shown to have no clothes.

          Again, I am for religion, just not radical ones that promise things they cannot keep and are willing to polarize our nation against science and reason to protect themselves.

          So will Christians give up the country without a fight and follow our founders rules for our Democracy – many country's are dealing with this issue? We will have to see as it is inevitable.

          July 29, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
  5. greg

    I am a seeker-agnostic. I believe to be anything else requires more arrogance than I have. I know nothing and will most likely know nothing til the day I day as I know all others will be the same.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • Bob

      Greg. Well spoken.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • chrisnfolsom

      Greg – I agree to a point. Although you have to fight fire with fire and when dealing with people you have to work with how people look at beliefs or how they look at facts. People listen to those who have absolute certainty about their beliefs and give them more merit – even if they are wrong – which has been proven over and over as every religion is "correct" to it's believers although of course they cannot all be correct.

      I would love to say that I am an Atheist "unless being proven wrong", but that will not work as people give positive assertions more merit then negative. I don't believe someone should get more credit just because they are not willing to admit they might be wrong as almost all theists do. I believe I am just as correct as any religious person in my views so I have quit being "nice" and just state my position flatly as "Atheist" and leave it at that.

      July 30, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
  6. marquel

    Can you elaborate more on what the difference between an activist atheist is and what an anti-theist atheist is? They seem very similar to me.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  7. Ariel

    Was this study published in a scientific journal?
    I'm a scientist and I would really like to read the article if that is the case. This topic is rather fascinating for me. I'm an atheist, and a Ritual Atheist from the looks of it. However, this new typology seems to hit some marks quite well and I would love to see how it progresses.

    July 29, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  8. Canadian 2

    If you don't believe in God then you are susceptible to every crack potted theory that comes down the pipe.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • chrisnfolsom

      >If you don't believe in God then you are susceptible to every crack potted theory that comes down the pipe.
      -IF you are an idiot, you are an idiot and what you "think" does not matter. If you believe in the wrong god – you know, all the others – aren't those "crack potted" other religions? If you don't allow for some light, facts, thought you won't find the right "facts", or the right religion.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • tallulah13

      I think you have that backwards. I don't believe in god because there is no evidence that a god exists. When you wait for evidence you are not easily fooled by empty claims and promises of non-existent rewards. When you wait for facts, you are not susceptible to "crack-pot" ideas like religion. See how it works?

      July 29, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • MP206

      I think NOT believing in an imaginary person means we are LESS likely to believe in equally dumb things.

      July 29, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
  9. bobbie

    As Whites began to see the truth of the Black existence in the land of Israel, you will see more and more of them embracing atheism. For this type, lost in mind, will not worshp a Black Diety, such as Jesus Christ.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • Evangeline

      Your racism is showing....why see everything in terms of "black or white".... when God doesn't view us that way? There are black Jews coming back to Jerusalem from Africa in droves. Try to think in terms of "God's people" rather than being consumed by varying shades. Maybe that's why God remains invisible...so He can be God of ALL of us.

      July 29, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
      • chrisnfolsom

        >Your racism is showing….
        – Now that is amusing – you are flipping racism back on him as if Christians are any less racist than anyone else? Tell me where a black person would be safer walking – a suburb in "radical" California, or a white suburb in the bible belt? Just like the marriage myth where "Christians" have better marriages (not – Christians have a higher divorce rate btw). God may see whatever he see's, but his followers see what they want to and invariably they don't like people who aren't like them. They judge and they act on those judgments. It's great to say What Would Jesus Do (WWJD) and wear bracelets, but it's another to actually follow that tactic.

        July 29, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
        • Maani

          With respect, simply parroting the statistics provided on the very first link that you find on Google is not exactly "research." In fact, the stats you cite re divorce by the Barna Group are considered wildly inaccurate not just by faith groups but by many secular groups as well. In addition, the Barna Group's methods have come under scrutiny.

          If you bothered to do a little more "deep" research, you would find that the actual stats show that, among Christians who attend church at least once per week, the divorce rate is SIGNIFICANTLY lower than other groups, including atheists. In fact, even in Utah – in which 75% of the residents are believers (and a majority of those are Mormon) – the divorce rate, while third highest in the U.S. by state, is only .01 percent higher than the national average.

          July 29, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
        • chrisnfolsom

          Thanks for the reference – I was not quoting Barna specifically, but it was good reading. Please don't assume, or accuse my methods of research as being inadequate – unfortunately most comments on the internet (and Fox News) are opinions....

          >The Barna Group are considered wildly inaccurate not just by faith groups but by many secular groups as well. In addition, the Barna Group’s methods have come under scrutiny.
          -Perhaps, although they were done by and Evangelical priest, and though he found divorce rates more (marginally) for religious than agnostics he DID NOT blame religion for the divorce, but simply stated:
          "Born again adults who have been married are just as likely as non-born-again adults who have been married to eventually become divorced. Because the vast majority of born again marriages occurred after the partners had accepted Christ as their savior, it appears that their connection to Christ makes less difference in the durability of people's marriages than many people might expect."

          YOUR reference I found was written by Brent A. Barlow of Orem is the chairman of the Governor's Commission on Marriage a Mormon with a vested interest in debunking the Barna study. If there are others please let me know.

          Now, as this seems to be important to you is it your contention that those who attend church once a week are less apt to get divorces? I just wanted to make sure. I personally don't believe that religion is the best "risk factor" for divorce, but income, age of marriage and education make the largest difference (the same as out of wedlock births).

          July 29, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
  10. Peter C

    I love this article. It seems everytime someone finds out im atheist they try to put me in the activist category.

    July 29, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  11. Number 6.

    "A bus returning pilgrims from a weekend visit to a Catholic shrine went off a bridge in southern Italy on Sunday, leaving at least 38 dead - including some children..."..CNN. If He can do that to his own I don't see Him having a problem with dropping a piano on my head. But he doesn't. Remember Sandy Hook and decide if there really is a God do I want to be associated with Him?

    July 29, 2013 at 3:17 am |
    • chrisnfolsom

      "God works in mysterious ways".... Besides it's the born-again evangelicals that pray for things on earth – Catholics are more about health and salvation – they have had thousands of years to try and sell earthly things – and it doesn't work, so now they concentrate on the more heavenly things and now now getting killed by the pray for stuff people in south america – it's always nice to be promised "stuff" from your God – I wish it worked... :(

      July 29, 2013 at 3:50 am |
    • Paul in San Fran

      oh my God...you truly made me laugh..but you're right! And totally true!

      July 29, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • Andy

      God allows us to run our sinful world. People die and get hurt all the time because of sin not God picking and chosing who to kill. Things like Sandy Hook happen because the first man and woman on this earth decided they could run the world better. So God granted us the privelage and for the most part we've run things into the ground

      July 29, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • MaryNC

      God is all good, He can NOT do something bad. Sad/bad things happen, Jesus told there would be good and bad in this world because the "evil one" is present too. The 3 women in Ohio: the good is they got free from an evil man and the little girl seems to have brought them much joy in and now out of their hell. God is good and answers prayers.

      July 29, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • Ruf

      Great humor. Most religious would say God called in the dead and they are with him. If there were injured, God spared their lives or they would be dead.

      July 29, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • Maani

      #6: Your logic is wildly faulty. If there is a God, then He literally created you: gave you life. Would He not then have the right to TAKE that life whenever, wherever and however He sees fit? Why is that so surprising?

      July 29, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
      • Evangeline

        Excellent point!!

        July 29, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
      • Number 6.

        "If..." That is the question. And lets suppose he did. I like many here have children, and I'm sure mine are not unique in being able to disobey and ultimately annoy me, but that doesn't mean I will turn my back on them and eventually throw them into the pit of hell to be tortured for eternity unless their completely kneel down before me and beg for forgiveness. I will make the statement that I am a better father than God has every shown himself to be. If he really was our father, child services would have removed us from his house a long time ago.

        July 29, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
        • Maani

          #6: Your logic continues to be faulty. You are comparing your "human" fatherhood with God's "absolute" fatherhood. Yes, you "created" your children. But, if we continue to follow the logic I expressed, even THAT creation was of God; i.e., you could not have fathered children without God having "fathered" you. (As an aside, this means that God is also the "ultimate" father of YOUR children.) So what you would or would not do vis-à-vis your children is entirely irrelevant to what God has a RIGHT to do. As for God's "fatherhood" bona fides – again, following the logic I expressed in response to your post – you are still alive, and have children of your own. Thus, God has allowed you to remain alive, to procreate, and to do whatever good (and, yes, bad) things you do, and have whatever things you have (both material and otherwise). The fact that He has the power – and RIGHT – to take that life whenever, wherever and however He sees fit simply "is."

          July 30, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
  12. Mark

    You might say the activist and anti-theist atheists are very evangelical about what they believe, and have a very dogmatic religion (in terms of having a set of beliefs about truth for life and human flourishing)

    July 29, 2013 at 2:59 am |
  13. Steve Raven

    To be an atheist, you have to pretty much have a screw loose. Either that, or too much pot smoking in California....

    July 29, 2013 at 12:05 am |
    • Rico

      Judge not. Remember that? You are a Christian in name only.

      July 29, 2013 at 12:54 am |
      • CM

        I wouldn't call that judging someone based upon God's law. It's more a simple observation, and there's something to be said for that observation, moreover.

        July 29, 2013 at 1:00 am |
      • The Great Gazoo

        Atheists shouldn't be imposing Christianity on anyone.

        July 29, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Shaun

      Sure, Steven. Believing in fairy tales, such as the bible, makes much more sense than scientifically proven hard evidence. I'll keep believing in science and you keep believing in santa claus.

      July 29, 2013 at 4:21 am |
      • Cheeeeesssseee

        Isn't science's foundation on "hypothesis" and "theory". I love hearing people dog christians saying that they "believe in fairy tails" while the non-believers believe in the "facts" of science. The majority of scientific conclusions are based on an inidividuals own obersvations or account for anothers observation.

        July 29, 2013 at 9:18 am |
        • chrisnfolsom

          >Isn't science's foundation on "hypothesis" and "theory".
          -The Scientific method starts with a Formulation and hypotheses... You then have a prediction and testing to verify observations in the real world. From there you have analysis as even if you have valid answers you still need to make sure the testing was valid.

          You can have tests that are too simple like "air is important for breathing", and while we all know it is, it really is air containing oxygen which is important...

          >I love hearing people dog christians saying that they "believe in fairy tails" while the non-believers believe in the "facts" of science.
          -Yes, much better to believe in something that cannot be tested at all, changes from year to year and has so many different versions which all claim to be "the one" solution. I personally have no problem with theists unless they try to rewrite history or influence politics – and then I have to defend myself and the future of the nation.

          >The majority of scientific conclusions are based on an inidividuals own obersvations or account for anothers observation.
          -Yes, I guess a fact is not a fact unless it is in the bible, or developed from someones interpretation of the bible. All of science is a mystery if you don't study it. So you are saying the earth is 6000 years old, Satan made all that weird stuff in the dirt to trick us – along with continental flow and the fact that when we measure light which travels like a clock at a certain speed – light that appears to us to be 12billion years old was only started 6000 years ago. And recently an elaboration of the Genesis story says all animals were vegetarians (even though predators teeth can't chew plants, and their bodies can't digest them) and lived in peace until a woman ate an apple because a talking snake tricked her? Please, the lessons and stories of the Bible ARE incredible and much can be learned, don't cheapen it by divining claims it cannot defend...

          July 29, 2013 at 10:03 am |
        • Cheeeeesssseee

          Science changes everyday. I believe christian views do also. See, man is the problem with religion. People use it to control others (slaves were huge christians), make themselves feel better, find comfort in death...ect. Man uses christianity, or any other form of religion, to his benefit. Same with science. People used to use scientific theory to control others also (. i.e. the world is flat don't leave this great land so we can tax you).

          Jesus came to get rid of religion. To get rid of the manipulation. Problem is man can't do that. We are pretty jacked up evil creatures.

          So, my conclusion, I am a man. I can't phathom eternity or define God. No one on this earth has the brain power to comprehend it all. Maybe that's why God tried to dummy it down for us in the bible. Could you explain an iPhone to anyone 2,000 years ago? They couldn't comprehend the phone part.

          Just my theory. I don't think anyone should push their beleif on any other person. Christian or athiest (or muslim, jew, buddhist, Hindu...)

          July 30, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • Alan

      Steve, comments like this do nothing but degrade any intellectual value or validity your argument may have and draws a resounding face-palm from both sides of the argument.

      July 29, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  14. Tommy

    There are plenty of other typologies if you insist on keeping the "door" open. Try Christian existentialist; humanist or religious humanist; secular Christian; post-modern, non-theological Christian...and their numbers are legion, to borrow a phrase. Christ himself was not a Christian. If so then what kind of Jew was the man? Tired of working in a carpenter's shop and seeking a career change? Maybe the idea of a movement was secondary to what he had to say? From our advanced perspective we see into the distant past darkly, as through tainted glass. The current age does not propose a Natural world which induces fear – we understand the mechanics of weather patterns, earthquakes, cosmic radiation, and how to generate energy from the earth’s resources. Maybe atheism is the end point of religious sentiment or maybe it is a window to the next dimension of human aspiration or maybe it a pre-condition for the elimination of cultural diversity. If the latter then it could signal a darker age ahead for humankind.

    July 28, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
  15. student

    Hi, this looks like a great start on a typology. I hope this hasn't been asked already, but I wondered whether you could elaborate on the different between activists and anti-theists? Also, and again sorry if this is redundant, it seems like there might be 2 dimensions here; perception of religion (really simplified, could be positive, neutral, or negative) & behavior (active vs passive, for example).
    I really appreciate that you mention the limits of a typology- sadly, it seems like many commentators didn't catch that. Can't win them all. Like Box said, all models are wrong, but some are useful. Thanks for your work!

    July 28, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • chrisnfolsom

      Ditto, and if you judge success by comments I am sure you have succeeded – PLEASE get a new comment system!!!

      July 28, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
  16. Dylan Rainwalker

    When people ask me "What are you? What do you believe?" I just say "I'm a philosopher."

    July 28, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • chrisnfolsom

      I usually just say I have my own personal God – and if pushed I say that it's personal, but I am working on it even though I am an Athiest there are certain times to butt heads and certain times to just get along as I really don't want to "Change" anyone, but more just keep religion out of politics (which is where my friction is) and live a nice life, propagate more nice life and help make the world a better place through my own example.

      July 28, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
      • maggie

        If you are looking for a religion that is not involved with politics at all there is one.

        July 29, 2013 at 10:40 am |
        • chrisnfolsom

          No matter what religion I may be, or follow personally the attack I see with the Republicans wrapping themselves in the Flag and the Bible and proclaiming themselves as the moral gatekeepers against the evil liberal Democrats, attacking schools, compromise and the very government itself is what I have problems with. The gridlock we have today is a result of people who would rather be purified in the flames of Satans fires then compromise with a democrat. Our country was founded in compromise and at least respect for others – no matter what the disagreement. We have lost that now.

          July 29, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
  17. Gary Rickard

    I think these are helpful distinctions. Atheism in much of Europe tends to be different from that in the US. Many in Europe are in the "non-theist" category - in many cases because they come grew up in non-theist families.

    July 28, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • Keary

      Is it that atheism is different in the US than it is in the UK(did you say?) Or is it that it is looked at differently from theists and so called 'non atheists' in the respective countries, thereby fostering a different type of relationship between thiests and non thiests?

      July 28, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
  18. adfgerfg

    I think it's kind of counterproductive to subset atheism. It's not a religion. Atheists do not have denominations. You're either an atheist or you're not. If you're an atheist just for the sake of arguing on the internet, then you're a jack*** and a troll but still an atheist. By the way, agnosticism is not atheism. They are completely different by both dichotomy of the words and by definition. 3 is also agnosticism, paraphrased.

    Atheism is atheism is atheism. All of these are not types, subsets or denominations in any way. They are mentalities that hold no bearing on beliefs.

    July 28, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  19. BA

    Interesting. But, as with all attempts to categorize such a large and growing group with such a small sample size, there are gaps. As an atheist, it's difficult to place myself firmly in any one of these categories. More research needed.

    July 28, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  20. Paranoia

    And the authors of this paper are from a University that thought it was ok to have christian prayer at football games? Come on everyone this is a very victorian attempt to catagorise what they don't understand. It's no surprise to me that atheists are hard to define, because by their very nature they reject unthinking authority and try to defie categorization

    July 28, 2013 at 8:35 am |
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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.