July 15th, 2013
02:50 PM ET

Behold, the six types of atheists

By Dan Merica, CNN
[twitter-follow screen_name='DanMericaCNN']

(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.


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.

Daniel Burke

- CNN Belief Blog

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

soundoff (9,518 Responses)
  1. Pokydoke

    As a child playing with a neighbors child I announced that I did not believe in a god. She of Catholic persuasion called to her mother and said "Mom, Steve doesn't believe in God" as if I should somehow be punished for this travesty. Her mother, also of Catholic persuasion said that it was none of her business and that I could believe as I chose. Growing up in the 50's and 60's being an Atheist was difficult and I kept my lack of belief to myself. I am greatly encouraged by the growing Atheist movement as it moves out into the light of day. The holy rollers are screaming bloody murder but the gate is open.

    July 17, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  2. Tamalak

    #5 here. Hard to believe that this is the smallest group. Every baby is in #5. At some point, those #5 babies either get indoctrinated directly, or feel enough social pressure, or let their fear of death convert them to some imaginary beliefs.

    I don't believe in god for the same reason I don't believe there's an anaconda living in my basement. I don't hate the idea of it, or those who believe in it, or have any kind of activist plan or blah blah blah. It's just that there's no evidence of an anaconda in my basement, or the slightest reason to think there MIGHT be. And I feel only mild confusion about all the people who insist there is.

    July 17, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  3. Thoth

    What a waste of time. These 'students' are simply lumping various human personalities that would exist in any grouping you generate. Atheism is best described as a rejection of claims to the existence of supernatural dieties. Once you go beyond that and create sub-categories then you are no longer considering 'atheism'; you are sub-dividing various personalities. The only way for these students to properly present this would be as 'types of personalities within the human species'.

    July 17, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Alias


      I tried to say this about 90 pages ago, but i didn't express it so well.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  4. MrNice

    What's the point for this story? So what.

    July 17, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • Madtown

      I think it's mostly about generating web traffic to please advertisers. Almost 5000 comments, looks like it's been successful.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  5. Biffster

    Humans are born without a belief in god(s). This is our natural and normal state. Theism is something that is pushed upon us by believers and if we refute it, we are called atheists. I prefer the term "normal human".

    July 17, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • The born free argument

      I hate that argument. People are born with out math and language too. They are born without object permanence. It doesn't make any of those things a good idea.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Madtown

      Humans are born without a belief in god
      You sure about that? If that's the case, why have independent cultures with no contact with any other culture all developed their own notions of spirituality?

      July 17, 2013 at 10:36 am |
      • OTOH


        People are sometimes sort of insulted by the fact that humans are social mammals. They seek a leader (of the pack, if you will), who has qualities of wisdom, benevolence, and the power to protect them from harm. They range from leader of the tribe, to leader of the nation, or some other group unit. Sometimes these human leaders were considered gods. Since humans are aware that their lives will end, and they are not at all thrilled by this fact, they then seek an imaginary leader who will provide the same wisdom, benevolence and protection in a much hoped-for afterlife. It is not surprising that they envision this leader with human-like characteristics of love, anger, wisdom, benevolence, etc. Also, much of nature was a mystery to them and this fantasy filled the huge gaps in their knowledge.

        The supersti'tions dreamed up over the eons regarding what these gods liked, hated, rewarded, punished, etc. fill many books. The shamans, whether they believed the supersti'tions or not, found a great mechanism for power and control of the populace.

        July 17, 2013 at 11:10 am |
  6. JimK57

    You can do whatever you want, it does not effect god one bit. We all go to an afterlife and there is no hell.

    July 17, 2013 at 10:05 am |

      There is no afterlife, Jim. And there certainly is no god. No evidence has ever been found of one.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:08 am |
      • JimK57

        You are free to believe that, it does not effect our creator one bit.

        July 17, 2013 at 10:16 am |
        • MY PANTS HURT

          There is no creator. That's the end of the discussion.

          July 17, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • LOL!


      July 17, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Colin

      JimK57. Which god does it "not effect, Jim. – Is it Azura Mazda, Angus, Belenos, Brigid, Dana, Lugh, Dagda, Epona, Allah Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Atehna, Demeter, Dionysus, Eris, Eos, Gaia, God, Hades, Hekate, Helios, Hephaestus, Hera, Hermes, Hestia, Pan, Poseidon, Selene, Uranus, Zeus, Mathilde, Elves, Eostre, Frigg, Ganesh, Hretha, Saxnot, Shef, Shiva Thuno, Tir, Vishnu, Weyland, Woden, Yahweh, Alfar, Balder, Beyla, Bil, Bragi, Byggvir, Dagr, Disir, Eir, Forseti, Freya, Freyr, Frigga, Heimdall, Hel, Hoenir, Idunn, Jord, Lofn, Loki, Mon, Njord, Norns, Nott, Odin, Ran, Saga, Sif, Siofn, Skadi, Snotra, Sol, Syn, Ull, Thor, Tyr, Var, Vali, Vidar, Vor, Herne, Holda, Nehalennia, Nerthus, Endovelicus, Ataegina, Runesocesius, Apollo, Bacchus, Ceres, Cupid, Diana, Janus, Juno, Jupiter, Maia, Mars, Mercury, Minerva, Neptune, Pluto, Plutus, Proserpina, Venus, Vesta, Vulcan, Attis, Cybele, El-Gabal, Isis, Mithras, Sol Invictus, Endovelicus, Anubis, Aten, Atum, Bast, Bes, Geb, Hapi, Hathor, Heget, Horus, Imhotep, Isis, Khepry, Khnum, Maahes, Ma’at, Menhit, Mont, Naunet, Neith, Nephthys, Nut, Osiris, Ptah, Ra, Sekhmnet, Sobek, Set, Tefnut, Thoth, An, Anshar, Anu, Apsu, Ashur, Damkina, Ea, Enki, Enlil, Ereshkigal, Nunurta, Hadad, Inanna, Ishtar, Kingu, Kishar, Marduk, Mummu, Nabu, Nammu, Nanna, Nergal, Ninhursag, Ninlil, Nintu, Shamash, Sin, Tiamat, Utu, Mitra, Amaterasu, Susanoo, Tsukiyomi, Inari, Tengu, Izanami, Izanagi, Daikoku, Ebisu, Benzaiten, Bishamonten, Fukurokuju, Jurojin, Hotei, Quetzalcoatl, Tlaloc, Inti, Kon, Mama Cocha, Mama Quilla, Manco Capac, Pachacamac or Zaramama?

      Let me guess. YOUR god, the only true one, right? Simpleton.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:11 am |
      • JimK57

        Maybe man invented all of these rituals and mythologies to worship a creator in their own way.

        July 17, 2013 at 10:14 am |
        • MY PANTS HURT

          Incorrect theory, Jim. Cute, but incorrect. No evidence exists that your claims are true.

          July 17, 2013 at 10:17 am |
        • JimK57

          You are correct, I have no proof to offer you.

          July 17, 2013 at 10:19 am |
        • Robert

          "You are correct, I have no proof to offer you."

          If you believe in a god (creator) then what religion do you follow?

          July 17, 2013 at 10:20 am |
        • JimK57

          I do not follow any religious organization, but the closest would be gnostic. Knowing god is a personal experience.

          July 17, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • tallulah13

      It sounds like you created your own religion, Jim. A lot of people do that. But it doesn't alter the fact that this isn't a single trace of evidence to support the existence of any god, nor any rational reason to believe in any heaven or hell or afterlife.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:19 am |
      • Afterlife questions

        Well I thought this was a giant pile of science fiction too but here it is none the less. Remote viewing.

        July 17, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • fintastic

      There is zero evidence for this "creator". It's just your imagination.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • The old family Oujah

      Awwe but MOM! I want to believe in the declaration of independence. You never let me have any fun.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • The old family Oujah

      Nothing giving us our rights pants hurt? Because you said so? Hmm

      July 17, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  7. Colin

    Why am I an atheist. Hmmmmm, let's see..
    Q.1 The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings on the planet are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the field of:

    (a) Astronomy;

    (b) Cosmology;

    (c) Psychology; or

    (d) Religion

    Q. 2 You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are influenced by:

    (a) your education;

    (b) your diet;

    (c) your family history; or

    (d) your religion

    Q. 3 I believe that an all-knowing being, powerful enough to create the entire cosmos and its billions of galaxies, watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty" like protect myself from disease with a condom. I am

    (a) A victim of child molestation

    (b) A r.ape victim trying to recover

    (c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions; or

    (d) A Christian, Jew or Muslim

    Q.4 I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am being influenced by:

    (a) My hetero$exuality

    (b) My genetics

    (c) My prejudice; or

    (d) My religion.

    Q5. I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am

    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;

    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly

    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or

    (d) your average Christian, Muslim or Jew who believes prayers are answered

    Q6. Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:

    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;

    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;

    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or

    (d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.

    Q.7 The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:

    (a) Architecture;

    (b) Philosophy;

    (c) Archeology; or

    (d) Religion

    Q.8 What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:

    (a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they MUST believe under threat of “burning in hell” or other of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;

    (b) Religion can make a statement, such as “God is comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;

    (c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas all religion is regional and a person’s religion, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than a matter of upbringing; or

    (d) All of the above.

    Q.9 If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:

    (a) a deep psychiatric issue;

    (b) an irrational fear or phobia;

    (c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or

    (d) my religious belief.

    Q.10 Who am I? I don’t pay any taxes. I never have. Any money my organization earns is tax free at the federal, state and local level. Despite contributing nothing to society, but still enjoying all its benefits, I feel I have the right to tell others what to do. I am

    (a) A sleazy Wall Street banker

    (b) the mafia

    (c) A drug pusher; or

    (d) any given religious organization

    July 17, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • grainman

      thank you.
      Copy. Paste. Print. Post.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Biffster

      Best post ever!

      July 17, 2013 at 10:15 am |
  8. indianriver

    Non-theist here...I don't care what people believe as long as they contribute to society positively. I have no belief in deities, the concept just doesn't make mathmatical sense in my head. If there WAS a deity, it would simply be nothing more than a hyper-evolved sentient, energy being that simply had an infinite amount of time to evolve to that state. This would explain its widely uncontrollable, irrational choices and behaviors based on emotion...

    July 17, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  9. Jim

    You forgot a subgroup. What about those who think there might well be a creator, but cannot stomach all the trappings of formal religion? More harm has been done in the world in the name of religion than you can shake a stick at.

    July 17, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • GBfromOhio

      Yep, or at least something greater than ourselves. It seems like most people either say you have to believe their primitive dogma or you will burn in agony for all of eternity or the other extreme you are an idiot to even keep an open mind that there may be something beyond this plane of existence.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • Madtown

      I think you're covered under #3, which is where I am also.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  10. GBfromOhio

    I'm a #3 with a good dose of #4. At times I don't really care, so guess I'm a #5 on those days LOL.

    July 17, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  11. Frank Goodman, Sr.

    You left out my kind. We are those who believe in truth over all. It is possible to believe in truth without knowing every fact, true of false. It is true that a true statement is true. It is also true that a false statement is false. Truth either way. Yet it is impossible for one simple statement to be both true and false with the same references. With time, space, and mass as references, all that it true become facts. A fact can be true or false, logically. Truth is God, God is Truth. Nothing and no concept is higher than truth, Truth. Truth is God. Truth rules all that is and prevents all that is not. Thus, I am an atheist (One who does not accept most religious concepts, but believes in the highest power and ruler possible as God.) I believe in God. It is not an oxymoron that I believe in Truth as God. God is not a fact, but Truth itself. If God were a fact it is logical to believe that there is a person, God. It is also possible to believe that there it is false that there is a person, God. Truth cannot be false, thus, God is Truth. When you believe that God is Truth, you believe as Moses did. You also believe as Muhammad did. However a burning bush is a fact, and so is the man, Jesus. A golden stature is a fact, and so are the moon, sun, and the stars which were believed to be the fact of God. Yet Truth transcends all that is true, whether you know it or not. True miracles are impossible. A round cube is impossible. If a round cube were a fact, it would be possible to believe there is such a form. A circle, square and a triangle are not just facts, but of Truth itself. God is 'I am', God is what 'he' is. It is impossible for God to be what he is not or not to be what he is. But it is possible to believe that a golden calf is God, or that Jesus is God, or that I am God. Belief is self deception. Deception is the worst sin and true knowledge is the highest good.

    July 17, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • GBfromOhio

      Ah, a new category, #7 ... those that are totally incoherent and post cyber-babble.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:00 am |

      I find little more offensive than new age "enlightenment" styled beliefs. Listening to John Tesh and belting out a drug-fueled explanation of your inner cosmos isn't really anything worth the effort of translating. It simply isn't true.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Madtown

      It is true that a true statement is true
      LOL!! Good stuff, thanks. I'll play along in case you're not a troll: You can't know whether something is true or not without facts.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:07 am |
      • David Grim

        But unless truth is inherently true it is impossible to identify a fact as factual. This is a philosophical problem which no one has solved, and may never be able to.

        Er go Postmodernism or Positivism. We are at an utter loss to say whether the egg of knowledge came before the chicken of facts, or vice versa. For obviously old facts have been dispelled as untrue by new facts which appeal to a greater vector of the same truth which was previously appealed to.

        Thus truth is not just an aggregation of facts, it is the structure of what make facts facts. And yet a fact is never true by itself, but always in relation to a presumed truth it works to reference.

        See Problem of Universals, Mind-Body Problem, Duality, etc. ...it is a PICKLE!!!

        July 17, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • David Grim

      Interesting, your epistemologically-based 'Truth' argument seems to be very similar in structure to the ontologically-based argument for God as 'Being'. But is Truth contingent on Being, or Being contingent on Truth? Or are they one and the same? If same, then why do we yet experience a distinct duality between what IS and what we can KNOW?

      My preferred solution: I like the notion that God is the living dynamic between Truth and Being. This ever-present dynamic is intrinsic to reality in the most fundamental of ways. But as a dynamic, rather than a static proposition, it provides for more than reality. It provides an enhancement. What enhancement? It provides for the continual re-emergence of the Perennial Good in both existence and consciousness. What do you think about this?

      Thus, it is true, God is Truth by necessity. God is Being, again by necessity. But God is also Goodness when Truth and Being are able to resonate in proportional ratios.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • fintastic

      "Truth" requires evidence of which there is none for god.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:33 am |
      • David Grim

        ...unless one holds that God is Reality. Then God is a discovery rather than an assertion over and against reality.

        July 17, 2013 at 11:06 am |
      • fintastic

        Pure imagination.... nothing more.

        July 17, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  12. drowlord

    So #5... the smallest part of the atheist group is the invisible kind that don't advertise themselves. Heh. Maybe you're just not in a position to count them. My coworkers all think I'm a devout Christian, because... you know, why screw up my career over something I don't believe in?

    July 17, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  13. anon

    I firmly and without a doubt believe that there are no little green men inside my computer which is making it operate. Therefore, lets start a group where we sit around and discuss our firm belief that there are no little green men inside my computer. I've been searching for such a group concerning Santa Clause and couldn't find one. It's ludicrous to start a group based on the NON belief of something or someone. Before anyone tells me here that Santa causes no problems please remember:

    The belief in santa every year causes stampedes in stores, fistfights, traumatized children, and in recent years, has resulted in at least one death every Christmas season. Those deaths, few though they are, thankfully, are still just as bad as the deaths resulting in the other "holy" wars. One innocent death is just as bad as millions, and the emotional trauma to a child is every bit as bad as any blown off limbs. It is only our human nature and tendency toward drama and emotionalism that we think otherwise.

    So lets start an anti Santa group. Even the military is in on that one, by using expensive radar equipment to claim to "track Santa". Seriously, they turn the huge machine one, plaster a fake sleigh track into the computer of the thing, and show on t.v. "actual" radar footage of santa. Fostering the same belief that causes fistfights and traumatized children in the stores.

    It's an illusion and it's a disease which must be stopped in our society.

    July 17, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • faith

      how bout a plungin u no who right in her butt! lol

      July 17, 2013 at 10:01 am |

      The problem with your diatribe is that you failt to acknowledge the atrocities brought on by belief and the need to abandon it.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:01 am |
      • faith

        thank you, but i ain't no member of any tribe. gaawwwwd is the Big Killar! it is all her fault,

        July 17, 2013 at 10:09 am |
      • faith

        i no. i'm hopin to start in your club as soon as i quit believing, but its hard man. i hope to become like people who ain't got belief in nothin cause they seem much nicer.

        July 17, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • GBfromOhio

      Got it ... you're a #2. I hate religious dogma myself. Basically I'm a #3.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  14. Tristan Chambers

    This article is irresponsible journalism. What is describe as a new "study" by "doctoral students" is just a class project by some grad students. The students interviewed a scant 59 people. That is an insignificant sample size. CNN please stop publishing lazy fluff articles. It's a disservice to your readership and the country.

    July 17, 2013 at 9:52 am |
  15. Thoth

    This study illustrates IMO one of the constraints within human thinking. We naturally want there to be order. There just has to be. Even though evidence points to random events, we just have to try and create structure. Same with this study. These folks just have to categorize 'atheism'. You apparently can't just reject unsupported claims...no....you have to fit some grouping of similar thoughts and actions. I suspect (without evidence beyond anecdotal experiences) that many non-believers fall across several of these 6 divisions. And that is what this is really about; creating division....

    July 17, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  16. mirf

    Is it unfair to term those who are described by #5 by using a label with the word theist in it... "non-theist"? Don't the more vocal atheists get a bad rap anyway because the word atheist itself means "without gods" from the Greek roots? IOW, they need the myth of gods already sitting on the table so they can revolt against it. I would think those who don't want any affiliation with any religious beliefs–pro-god(s) or anti-god(s)–would not wish to be called "xyz-theist", but perhaps a-religious or something a little more general. Ideas?

    July 17, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  17. Tom B

    I guess I fall into category 6; ritual atheist. I am Buddhist, and the techniques of meditation do indeed help one live a life in balance, without the concept of a God.

    July 17, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Ocean

      I have read about Buddhism lately and was fascinated to find that in the traditional experience of Buddhism, they find a belief in a supreme being to be an impediment to spiritual/character development. Whereas, beliefs in other higher powers that are not infinite or permanent are relatively harmless so long as the associated rituals are harmless and it is understood that they do not confer any spiritual benefit. Since I am not an expert on Buddhism but have an interest in Buddhism, if anybody knows this understanding to be inaccurate, feel free to correct!

      As someone who used to be (theistically) religious, I was prone to using a belief of a supreme being as a crutch for laziness perhaps in ways that other religious people do not, so this experience is the lens through which I understand the Buddhist experience as I tried to convey it. The religion thing confuses me in hindsight and I don't think I was really ever sure what people do when they pray or meditate.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  18. Jon Larcen


    July 17, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  19. JD

    What a joke. They could've skipped the "study" and gotten the same information by reading the Wikipedia article on atheism.

    July 17, 2013 at 9:44 am |
  20. So Sad

    So sad for all of you. The beauty and miracles that happen on this planet everyday cannot "just happen" without a divine power – God. Criticize all you want. I feel it is everyone's right to believe how they choose, but it still makes me sad.

    July 17, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Agnostickids

      Good. Be sad. We don't care.

      July 17, 2013 at 9:47 am |
      • faith

        i no i no!

        what's 4 lunch?! lol

        July 17, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Your dog is an atheist

      All kinds of violence, injustice, disease, poverty, hunger, can "just happen" without a divine power – God. He knows all, can do all things, but does nothing.

      July 17, 2013 at 9:50 am |
      • JimK57

        Man does these things, not god.

        July 17, 2013 at 9:52 am |
        • LOL!

          So man does diseases? LOL! So what about the tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, etc...by your poor logic you'll say that's man too. LOL!

          July 17, 2013 at 9:55 am |
        • JimK57

          No that is nature.

          July 17, 2013 at 9:56 am |
        • LOL!

          "No that is nature."

          Which is not part of your god either right. LOL!

          July 17, 2013 at 9:58 am |
        • tallulah13

          By inventing humans capable of atrocities, god is ultimately responsible for their actions. The biblical god is not the parent. He is presented as the very creator, and if he is omniscient, then he knew that these atrocities would happen and did nothing to stop them. (Don't harp about free will. If god knew it would happen, it was not free will. It's an inevitability.) Apparently, he just didn't care. Or, more likely, he just doesn't exist.

          July 17, 2013 at 10:01 am |
        • JimK57

          What I am saying is god is not mans baby sitter. I does not matter to god what you do.

          July 17, 2013 at 10:01 am |
        • LOL!

          "I does not matter to god what you do."

          LMAO! You don't know the bible.

          July 17, 2013 at 10:04 am |
        • JimK57

          I never said I followed the bible.

          July 17, 2013 at 10:07 am |
        • JimK57

          Sorry I posted my reply to you on the next page.

          July 17, 2013 at 10:10 am |
      • Robert Brown


        All that bad stuff you listed = the flesh, the world, and the devil.

        God = hope, peace, & joy.

        July 17, 2013 at 9:58 am |
      • Robert

        "God = hope, peace, & joy."

        Sorry but the bible clearly shows this is not true or are you just ignoring the OT.

        July 17, 2013 at 10:00 am |
      • faith

        amen bro!

        he's been busy r a p i n u no who in her butt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


        July 17, 2013 at 10:03 am |
      • So Sad

        So My Dog is An Atheist believes in God – he/she acknowledged He knows all things, allows them to happen but does nothing.

        July 17, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      There are no such things as "miracles".
      "Supernatural" is a null word.

      July 17, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • tallulah13

      The universe and everything in it can still be beautiful and full of wonder, even without a unnecessary, imaginary god.

      July 17, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • JohnD

      Just what makes you sad? The emotion seems so individual and self centered. Those that do not believe in a supreme being are not sad nor care that you are sad, so why express ????

      July 17, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Anti-Theist

      Well, I'm glad to hear that you take enough comfort in your fortune cookie sayings and teachings that you deem it worth the cost of the racism, torture, and murder it has been used to justify. Keep a tight grip on that security blanket.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • grainman

      The world sure is a mystery. How can I explain?
      Hey, I'll invent another mystery to explain it.
      What's wrong, don't you believe me?

      July 17, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Nick M

      Are you sad... really... with such a patronizing air – Why sad? you go straight to heaven, meet your creator and his angels, and feast thereafter eternal pius and know it all... Please god, save us from you and your followers!

      July 17, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Billy

      PLEASE don't feel sad. Please realize that us non believers accept the good and the bad and we feel accountable for our world and our planet. Sad states... "cannot just happen without a divine power-god" if you credit this divine power with miracles, you must also credit this divine power with; hate, injustice, disease, famine, hunger, violence, etc. you can't cherry pick and only credit god with the pretty things in the bubble of a world you live in, god gets credit for genocide in Africa, Asian tsunamis, earthquakes in India, etc. This non believer takes action and donates and spends time and teaches and shows love to homeless orphans in 3rd world countries. I'm sad that so many "waste time" with their hands clasped in prayer and sitting in an air conditioned church on Sundays, waiting for some mythical divine power to "do whatever it is you feel 'he' does", when they could be changing someone's life thru real actions. All of this comes from a person who has visited Asia, Africa, central and south America and understands the struggles that people endure daily, outside of our U.S bubble. Clean water to drink is a distant dream for millions of people outside of our bubble. You want to talk sad??? Forget sad, be active, accountable, realistic and DO something. Prayer doesn't count as doing something.......

      July 17, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Zeus

      It makes me sad that otherwise sane adults believe in fairytales, and brainwash their children to believe them as well.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:19 am |
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About this blog

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