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. lionlylamb2013

    Though the 'framed' works of humanists who stand upon this Rock of Ages planet allows one and all their owned views and perspectives, I for one would not be so voiced as to put any atheist's ego on par with that of God nor of yet unknown godliness ideals.

    As atheists become more socially verbalized in their transgressions and rebuking novellas, the Christendom's nurtured natures should or ought never call out any blemished contriteness that vilifies and disrupts the moral dignities of religious civilities congruently rent and established by one's personalized beliefs. For atheisms are stupor in their ritualized indignations and they wallow away their life's livelihoods upon censored audacities forsaking the human suffrage of religions and their flocks faltering faiths.

    The God of enthroned judgments will judge one and all in the timeliness of God's adjudications befitting ways...

    July 17, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • .

      LL is the belief blog pseudo intellect, don't bother reading their posts they are poorly written, just laugh and move on.

      A pseudo intellect is someone who acts pretentiously and wishes to impress, rather than modestly trying to communicate effectively uses rhetoric over content.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:52 am |
      • Colin 2.0

        Will you please quit with all the copy/paste. I think your opinion about LL is very well known now. All you are doing is coming off as a tool.

        July 17, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • Which God?

      ll threw up one of his two brain cells, again. Unintelligible psycho-babble.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:54 am |

      There is no god. Your diatribe is completely false. End of discussion.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • Words of Wisdom

      Apocrypha: "Let thy speech be short, comprehending much in a few words.'"

      Christopher Buckley: "The best advice on writing I've ever received was from William Zinsser: 'Be grateful for every word you can cut.'"

      Truman Capote: "I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil."

      Rachel Carson: "[Writing is] largely a matter of application and hard work, or writing and rewriting endlessly until you are satisfied that you have said what you want to say as clearly and simply as possible."

      Winston Churchill: "Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words when short are best of all."

      Cicero: "When you wish to instruct, be brief; that men's minds take in quickly what you say, learn its lesson, and retain it faithfully. Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind."

      Samuel Taylor Coleridge: "Words in prose ought to express the intended meaning; if they attract attention to themselves, it is a fault; in the very best styles you read page after page without noticing the medium."

      Leonardo da Vinci: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

      Albert Einstein: "If you can't explain something simply, you don't understand it well."

      Albert Einstein: "Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in language comprehensible to everyone."

      Albert Einstein: "Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius–and a lot of courage–to move in the opposite direction."

      George Eliot: "The finest language is mostly made up of simple unimposing words."

      Wilson Follett: "Whenever we can make 25 words do the work of 50, we halve the area in which looseness and disorganization can flourish."

      H.W. Fowler: "Any one who wishes to become a good writer should endeavour, before he allows himself to be tempted by the more showy qualities, to be direct, simple, brief, vigorous, and lucid."

      Anatole France: "The finest words in the world are only vain sounds if you can't understand them."

      Anatole France: "The best sentence? The shortest."

      Learned Hand: "The language of law must not be foreign to the ears of those who are to obey it."

      July 17, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • Robert

      "Anatole France: "The best sentence? The shortest.""

      lionlylamb doesn't understand that concept, they're only here to stroke their ego.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • Words of Wisdom

      William Safire: "It behooves us to avoid archaisms. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do."

      William Shakespeare: "Men of few words are the best men."

      William Strunk: "A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts."

      Mark Twain: "I never write metropolis for seven cents when I can get the same price for city. I never write policeman when I can get the same money for cop."

      Mark Twain: "As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out."

      Mark Twain: "Anybody can have ideas–the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph."

      E.B. White: "Use the smallest word that does the job."

      William Butler Yeats: "Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people."

      William Zinsser: "Writing improves in direct ratio to the things we can keep out of it that shouldn't be there."
      Mark Twain: "I never write metropolis for seven cents when I can get the same price for city. I never write policeman when I can get the same money for cop."

      Mark Twain: "As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out."

      Mark Twain: "Anybody can have ideas–the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph."

      July 17, 2013 at 10:59 am |
      • Observer

        Words of Wisdom,

        Great advice for lionlylamb, but his ego will likely not let him absorb it. POMPOSITY is more important to him than actually imparting any wisdom he might have to others.

        July 17, 2013 at 11:15 am |
        • lionlylamb2013

          Bemusing Observer,

          I tarry naught and build upon my owned understandings and need little from others worded compromising contrivances which conjure up misnomers in bitter séances deliriums leading ever the someone's dementia into illegitimate lopsided gestations forsaking God and the godly virtues that manhood dares to deny. You see, I am mankind's sacrifice made flesh and bone and intellectually grown whereupon my death, I will face God and either be condemned for my deeds done or my continual repentance may acquit me of the socialists who ever try to lure me away from my ever repenting ways...

          July 17, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
        • Paul

          "but his ego will likely not let him absorb it. POMPOSITY is more important to him than actually imparting any wisdom he might have to others."

          Since they replied the way you said, you are proven correct.

          July 17, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Brianbgood

      This is the most horid attempt to mangle words into sentences I have ever, EVER tried to read. Seriously, if you were trying to craft the perfect example of constipated thinking since leviticus you sir have well exceeded your aims.

      July 17, 2013 at 11:08 am |
      • Paul

        I think Robert nailed it better; this commenter doesn't care if they are communicating effectively. They are here for their personal ego.

        July 17, 2013 at 11:12 am |
        • lionlylamb2013

          Sired Paul,

          We all are guilty of stroking our own egos and while many are seeking other egoistic strokes round socialisms, I care not to be stroked for stroking's sakes. I am guilty of sinning and will die as a sinner when Life dare takes me to God's enthroned judgment seat. Yes I fear death and God's judgment yet I have but little faith that Christ Jesus, being my and mankind's best hope for remaining as a sanctified creature of humane habits upon this: a rock of all Ages planet we call the Earth. Of dirt were we all made from and to ashen dust will we return. People are all paupers whose mannerisms are delicately rationed...

          July 17, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
        • Paul

          ""but his ego will likely not let him absorb it. POMPOSITY is more important to him than actually imparting any wisdom he might have to others.""

          Yup, Observer was correct.

          July 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Benny

      "The God of enthroned judgments will judge one and all in the timeliness of God's adjudications befitting ways..."

      Funny that the only people who believe in some cosmic judge are the ones who feel that they will be judged kindly by such a being, and their enemies unkindly.

      July 17, 2013 at 11:14 am |
      • lionlylamb2013

        Benny my lad,

        Your snippet of my Word does in no way become suggestive of God's judgment being kind to me nor anyone for all anyone might hope for is mercy and I will throw myself down upon God's enthroned judgment seat and pray God will show me mercy even though I should be thrown to Hell's hounds and devoured by them! Your views are but mooted vestments of a person still yet bewildered and haunted by your own socialized dementia...

        July 17, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
        • Paul

          ""but his ego will likely not let him absorb it. POMPOSITY is more important to him than actually imparting any wisdom he might have to others.""

          Yup, Observer is correct again!

          July 17, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • uos_spo6

      You do realize that Sheep (Lambs) are ignorant flocking creatures yes? Therein lay the comparison that your own wordsmiths conjure. Religion is another example of man needing to find comfort in what is accepted as definite by his neighbors. Unknowns terrify human beings. You can be a good person all the same without buying in to some non sense story and repeating some self-serving circular logic riddles until it some how makes sense to you.

      "Gods" are tools of archaic men. If you still have need of them in your perspective and considerations, you are behind the curve and only keeping the global community from progressing to a higher more harmonious evolution.

      July 17, 2013 at 11:18 am |
      • lionlylamb2013


        My flangeless commentaries are lectured and strewn. The less tenured atheistically perverted "symbologists" knows not the séances of their conjuring ways nor do the religiously debonair covet their innateness desecrations. Neither parts are submissively a soundness to be acclimated and the mid-ground line is muddied and strewn, almost an invisibility.

        July 17, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • lionlylamb2013

      Young and serviced are mankind's lots needing no censoring...

      Old and bitter are the ones with truths' swords....

      The ages are all awash upon the rock of Ages...

      Bitter fruits are now people's wantonness, for sugar will ever lesson their tastes...

      Even lemons are squashed and squeezed for its nectar for so it is with the humanities...

      True Life is yet to be lived and liars are now today's social fabrications...

      Idolaters idolize their own kinds in like mannerisms...

      Atheisms are constipations of minded depositaries....

      Religions are likened to atheisms' depositions constipations...

      Neither ways are trustworthy and should both be abolished...

      Socialisms are the fruits of mentally bewildering Ceanothus arborous...

      Gather well your kitchen tools and make ready the small fries to boil them in oil...

      Heaven is but the logical means to one's End....

      Nothingness will ever be for the nobodies who believe that the nothing they deem ever so proudly to someday become...

      God forbid them not who instills nothingness as science to be upheld for even the foolish are sensually aware of something...

      Love God and despise one's own pilfering ways for in transgressions do we all lament and ever fail to repent...

      July 17, 2013 at 11:34 am |
      • Paul

        Oh look lionlylamb is still stroking their ego. Dude grow up already!

        July 17, 2013 at 11:37 am |
      • Robert

        I guess you have poor reading comprehension because if you look at what "word of wisdom" posted writing should be simple and direct, not full of pompous words.

        ""George Eliot: "The finest language is mostly made up of simple unimposing words.""

        If you really love writing then why don't you take a class on how to do it.

        July 17, 2013 at 11:40 am |
        • lionlylamb2013

          Kindly worded Robert,

          If it is your suggestive reasoning that I remiss and become lectured by the likes of those less educated phenols of barbarism ladles, I respectfully decline to be re-educated. I have spent my lifetime in living footnotes of others and will not allow the footsteps of others to be followed for I blaze my own pathway and it will lead me onward and inward and never outwardly constrained.

          July 17, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
        • Paul

          "I blaze my own pathway and it will lead me onward and inward and never outwardly constrained."

          That's just an excuse so you can post your nonsense and stroke your ego.

          July 17, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
        • Robert

          "If it is your suggestive reasoning that I remiss and become lectured by the likes of those less educated phenols of barbarism ladles, I respectfully decline to be re-educated. I have spent my lifetime in living footnotes of others and will not allow the footsteps of others to be followed for I blaze my own pathway and it will lead me onward and inward and never outwardly constrained."

          You must be a troll and not a true Christian because pride that stems from self-righteousness is sin.

          July 17, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
        • lionlylamb2013

          Dire sired Robert,

          Trolling trolls are everyone's fancies, so for wants to inflame do many find flames from which to expunge and extoll. We are all bound by servile anguishes of serpentine dilemmas from which no one dare can escape from! I am as a bitterness to the religious and likewise to ills of the non-religious! I am both sides worst enemy for I tarry not and waste not nor want not of kindness platitudes which are but suggestive conjuring and séances of wanton bigotries meant to enslave all mannerisms that mankind struggles to overcome and never will.

          July 17, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
        • Paul

          ""but his ego will likely not let him absorb it. POMPOSITY is more important to him than actually imparting any wisdom he might have to others.""

          Yup, Observer is correct again.

          July 17, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
  2. M.E.

    I call myself an apatheist. I just don't care if there is or isn't a god. There are so many more interesting things in the world to spend time studying and pondering. Tangible things like art, history, music, and science. There's so many other wonderful things on this planet, I just don't have the spare time or energy to care either way about something that can never be known.

    July 17, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • lionlylamb2013

      M.E. hello,

      Spare me your time spent here in jest of informal indignations for I am but a lowly socialist with much time... So, you consider yourself as being an atheist do you? Imagine that! An atheist with vitality and vigor...

      July 17, 2013 at 11:08 am |
      • M.E.

        No, I am neither here nor there. I don't consider myself an atheist, a believer, or anything in between. I consider myself someone who can't be bothered to contemplate such things when there's art to be created, sciences to be studied, and friends to spend time with. The unknowable simply doesn't matter to me. I'm here on this rock with this life and I'd like to live it. If I get another life after this, cool. If I go to an afterlife, fine. If my brain simply ceases electrical signals, that's fine too. None of that matters to me, what DOES matter is this life I am living.

        July 17, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Observer

      Yes, lionlylamb is already ignoring the advice that so many people have given him, as above.

      July 17, 2013 at 11:17 am |
  3. move

    the followers of religion are the real idiots. it sounds horrible to say but is so true... let me explain... A schoold can get shot up..hudnreds of kids murdered and some of you will say its god will and some will say its the devil..but in no way did your "god" step in to help these innocent helpless children from being slaughtered.. an on the other side, we have a lady or man who has just won a ball game or a lottery and they thank god for helping them win.. sounds a little selfish..to think that someone would let someone die just to help you win a game..or could it be the person youre thanking does not exist.. if god does exist then he has to be the most cruelist sob that ever existed.. to let innocent people die and not do anything..just standby and let it happen..and the followers are calling it "his will"..

    July 17, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Richard

      I wouldn’t have said it was the work of the devil. I think you’re grouping all religious people as one.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:54 am |
      • move

        if you would have read carefully, you would've notice I said SOME would say its the devil..some being the key word

        July 17, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  4. guest

    This is an article that is, in short, is an answer to a question that I recently asked: “Why are you an atheist…?” This article is really getting a lot of attention. I think there are numerous reasons people are atheist as there are reasons for a person to be a Christian, or some other religion. Actually, the reason for being an atheist is not the theme for this article, rather it is more of a description of unbelievers and there may be more than is listed here. I think it interesting that there are some who are offended by the article.
    However, I believe that the majority of both atheists and Christians are quite like the description of the non-theist, that is: they really don’t think or talk too much about their beliefs.
    There are many, too many, Christians that if asked what or why they believe what they claim to believe can’t really give an answer; I am inclined to think the same about many atheists. I think if many atheists were asked why they are atheist they may just have the simple answer, “I don’t know, I just don’t think there is anything such as a god and I’ve never given it much thought.” These are not the kind of people that will be found on this blog site.
    The two different things that I have casually observed is: that in general, atheists who are well aware of their atheistic beliefs don’t have too much concern about their fellow humans beings; that is, it’s all about them, of course this like everything else, this is not 100% there are people regardless of their religious beliefs who care about others.
    On the other hand genuine Christians do care about their fellow human beings because it is a part of their belief system. Unfortunately, there are far too many, I believe an overwhelming majority, who call themselves Christian, but indeed are not.
    I think it would be well if somebody could do a study on those who believe in a god and why they believe. I’m sure there are many who, although they believe there is a god and they do attend church regularly, but do not make religion an important part of their life. On the other hand there are some who have had life changing experiences which inspires them to reach out to others and want to relay that experience to others that they might have the same kind of relationship with their God and Savior. These people include such people as Nicky Cruz and Ron Halverson, both of which were big gang leaders in New York, responsible for heinous crimes and the death of many, even hundreds of people, but they found the love Christ as their savior and have become evangelists. (Look them up on the Internet.) These people, beforehand, had no faith or belief in a god, but they pray and seek to convert others. They are true believers. But, I’m sure there are many reasons for people to believe in God.

    July 17, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Sir Jackson Peaks

      "that in general, atheists who are well aware of their atheistic beliefs don’t have too much concern about their fellow humans beings" <- Argument from ignorance. You don't know this to be true, this is speculation on your part. I agree that many religious types to acts of service, but so do non-theists. What you are really pointing at is solipsism, and this can be experienced by all walks of life.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • Melissa

      Atheists aren't unbelievers. Thats a term religious nuts use so they can feel superior. Everyone believes in something. They just don't believe in a deity. Atheists are only people that believe in one less god than you do. All gods are equally likely. And even if there is a good, the sheer arrogance of believing that you can EVER know how and what it think is just stu pi d.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:58 am |
      • Melissa

        And btw, I care more about my fellow mankind than any religious person I know.

        July 17, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Huh?

      "The two different things that I have casually observed is: that in general, atheists who are well aware of their atheistic beliefs don’t have too much concern about their fellow humans being"

      Religious people find it very annoying that people don't need God to be good, as science has now incontestably proved.

      For millennia, we've been brainwashed into believing that we needed the Almighty to redeem us from an essentially corrupt nature. Left to our own devices, people would quickly devolve into beasts, more violent, tactless, aggressive, and selfish, than we already are.

      Today, we know that this isn't true. With the discovery of mirror neurons by Italian neuroscientist Giaccomo Rizzolatti in the 1990s, we now have physiological proof of why - and how - our species became hard-wired for goodness. Mirror neurons are miraculous cells in the brain whose sole purpose is to harmonize us with our environments. By reflecting the outside world inward, we actually become each other - a little bit; neurologically changed by what is happening around us. Mirror neurons are the reason that we have empathy and can feel each other's pain. It is because of mirror neurons that you blush when you see someone else humiliated, flinch when someone else is struck, and can't resist the urge to laugh when seeing a group struck with the giggles. (Indeed, people who test for "contagious yawning" tend to be more empathic.) These tiny mirrors are the key to most things noble and good inside us.

      It is through mirror neurons - not God - that we redeem ourselves, achieve salvation, and are "reborn" in virtuous ways once co-opted by religions. Evolution knew what she was doing. A group of successful cooperators has a much higher chance of thriving than a population of selfish liars. In spite of what we read in the headlines, the ratio of bad to good deeds done on any given day across our planet holds at close to zero any day of the year. Although we are ethical works-in-progress, the vast majority of us are naturally positive creatures - meaning not harmful to our environments - most of the time in most of the ways that matter. And God has nothing to do with it.

      Spirituality does but God doesn't. Evolutionary psychologists tell us that our brains are hard-wired with a five-toned moral organ that focuses on a quintet of ethical values - one of which is purity, or sacredness. In a world that can sometimes be disgusting, we evolved an upper tier of emotional longing - the aspiration for purity - to keep us balanced in this satyricon of carnal delights (where animality beckons and frequently wins). Our need for sacredness is part of our ancient survival apparatus, and manifests in what we call faith, the need to connect with that sacred dimension. This has been the primary purpose of religion, of course - to congregate people for the Greater Good - but God has been, in fact, the divine carrot. The important part was communion, a context in which to transcend ourselves, if only for an hour on Sundays. Without this ability "to turn off the Me and turn on the We," moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt tells us, our
      species would still be wandering around as groups of nomads, unable to create a civilization.

      Aside from mirror neurons, there's oxytocin, the molecule of connection (also known as the molecule of love). It's fascinating to learn that the vagus nerve produces more oxytocin when we witness virtuous behavior in others that makes us want to be better people ourselves. We are wired by nature to be elevated at the sight of other people's goodness, mirror neurons and oxytocin conspiring to improve the species. Miraculous though it is, this natural human phenomenon has nothing to do with theology.

      July 17, 2013 at 11:03 am |
  5. lol??

    Famous atheist leader,

    "......State retribution for tiny thefts, such as stealing a potato, even by a child, would include being tied up and thrown into a pond; parents were forced to bury their children alive or were doused in excrement and urine, others were set alight, or had a nose or ear cut off. One record shows how a man was branded with hot metal. People were forced to work naked in the middle of winter; 80 per cent of all the villagers in one region of a quarter of a million Chinese were banned from the official canteen because they were too old or ill to be effective workers, so were deliberately starved to death............."
    Mao's Great Leap Forward 'killed 45 million in four years'
    The Independent

    July 17, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • William Demuth

      General Tso is far more famous, and he only killed chickens

      July 17, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • Angry atheist

      Yep, evil men sometimes do evil. Sometimes those evil men are even atheists.

      "Evil men shall always do evil. For good men to do evil, that takes religion."

      July 17, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • Melissa

      And? Whats your point. Mao didn't do those things in the name of atheism, but thousands of children were murdered in the childrens crusades. Google it.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:51 am |
      • fintastic

        I think you meant to say "christian crusades"

        July 17, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  6. Fred

    Why does it have to be called something? It's not being an Atheist, it's being intelligent. Here's a few questions for the idiots who still believe "a God." 1. Can there be a physical realm more complex than this? 2. If there is an "Afterlife" what will we use for eyes? 3. If God exists why did He make women physically unequal to men? ... Recently my half-brother said to me, "Nobody really knows what happens when you die." I said, "I do." It's non-existence, and you didn't have a problem with it until you were born into this world so don't worry about it. The next 10 trillion years of non-existence will be just as memorable.

    July 17, 2013 at 10:42 am |
  7. AC

    I'm a hybrid of three types:
    1) Intellectual atheist/agnostic
    5) Non-theist
    6) Ritual atheist

    I like to debate my beliefs with a god-believer simply for the joy in arguing
    However my life doesn't revolve around religion or atheism. I just live life to the fullest and try to do good.
    And I participate in rituals such as Christmas and Halloween because they are a CULTURAL event to me. And I do see the need for religion in those people who take comfort in it. Just not for me.

    July 17, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  8. deme

    Flawed, flawed, flawed!

    Especially #2. "They tend to be vocal about political causes like gay rights, feminism, the environment and the care of animals." It seems to imply that they are liberal in their views about the listed issues, and that is just not true.

    July 17, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • Angry atheist

      No, atheists do tend to be "liberal" on those issues, since the only reason to be "conservative" on them is the moronic ravings of a bronze age patriarch who viewed women as property and thought that gays should be tortured to death.

      When you reject the idiotic ravings of aforementioned bronze age patriarch, why wouldn't you realize that gays and women are people too?

      July 17, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  9. Rick

    Heard a preacher talk about being in the war. He was in North Korea when 180,000 Chinese came across the Yalu river and surprised the U.S. troops. He said something that day that has remained in my head for decades. "You will never find an atheist in a foxhole."

    For all the atheist BS, that about says it all.

    July 17, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Colin

      Oh Bullsh.it. No atheist I know who has faced danger or even a terminal disease has suddenly reverted to the intellect of an 8 year-old and started praying to the Christian sky-fairy.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • JJ

      That's a factual lie and of course a preacher would say that to his sheep. Duh!

      July 17, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • Colin

      No believer I know, when faced with a medical condition, will rely on prayer in lieu of doing what the doctor orders. This makes their prayers superfluous. For all the believer BS, this says it all.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Angry atheist

      Funny, I spent 10 years in the military. Spent time deployed to the Middle East. Still an Atheist.

      Amazing how you only hear statements like that from Christians, a group that has always run a bit towards confirmation bias.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Sir Jackson Peaks

      I know plenty of Atheists that have been in foxholes. I know plenty of religious types too. They all say the same thing... the only things that will help you are close air support, your gun, and the guys on your left and right.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      You will find many of them in foxholes and your friend did not coin that phrase. That statement says more about the person saying it than it does about any actual atheist. It says "I'm so afraid right now I can do nothing but pray to an invisible man in the sky for comfort even though if he really existed and knows me then I shouldn't even be in this foxhole about to die."

      July 17, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • MeganColorado

      My son is currently on his 4th deployment. Being in the army, I believe, helped him become agnostic.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • AverageJoe76

      Experiencing fear does not mean there's a God, it just means your afraid. And in that situation, rightfully so.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • ME II

      That's insulting to all the atheists and non-theists that are currently protecting your freedom.


      July 17, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • Terri

      Funny, while I have never and will never be in a fox hole, I have been in more than one life or death situation. God didn't cross my mind in either experience. One on my motorcycle, all I thought was "this is going to hurt" the other in a car and I thought "well this is it". As a matter of fact the only time I think of a God is when I see natural beauty and wish there was someone to thank for it. So much for the foxhole theory.

      July 17, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  10. TimK

    CNN is obsessed with stories about atheism. It is now becoming glaring obvious to me that there is a pro-atheist agenda at the news corporation.

    July 17, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Angry atheist

      Oh shut up. There is so much Christian bias in this country.

      One article a month about a significant (if by far outnumbered) minority is not a bias toward that minority.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • The old family Oujah

      Number of articles on the occult to date by CNN = Zero. At least you get an article.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • JJ

      Perhaps you should just stick with FAUX "news" where it's Jesus 24×7.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Thinker...

      I would guess it is less about CNN having an atheist agenda and more about atheism stories bringing tons of page hits that CNN makes money on. Business exist to make money and CNN is in the infotainment business. That isn't to say that CNN is without bias of course; I find it to biased to the left of the spectrum though not as much as some and by being to the left CNN is more likely to portray cultural differences in a positive light than would a right leaning company.

      July 17, 2013 at 11:42 am |
      • TimK

        I think it's been more than one article a month. By the way, I wouldn't consider myself a religious person, this is just based on an observation. Also, I don't know of any Jesus 24-7 mainstream news agencies, and if there were I wouldn't watch them because Jesus didn't repor the weather, so...yeah..... Again, just observation. Perhaps you are all living in a place where people chase you all day and throw Bibles at you at the bus stop or something. Sounds like a place that would make me an "angry atheist too". Perhaps you should move. I was thinking about a career in journalism though. Maybe if I put atheist organizations on my resume I can get a job with CNN. I'd be fine with that.

        July 28, 2013 at 8:19 am |
  11. teamjw

    I am a Christian who believes in God. However, I would never tell anyone that my belief in a higher power is the only way to feel and believe. My question is this – if they don't believe in God, therefore they must not believe in the promise of Jesus, do they still celebrate Christmas? Guaranteed the answer (more often than not) is YES!

    July 17, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Robert

      " if they don't believe in God, therefore they must not believe in the promise of Jesus, do they still celebrate Christmas? Guaranteed the answer (more often than not) is YES!"

      Christmas was stolen from the holiday Winter Solstice to convert people to Christianity, the bible makes it clear that your jesus was not born during the winter. So the reality is you are celebrating a pagan holiday.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:37 am |
      • Melissa

        Exactly. Its a pagan ritual anyway, with its name changed and its so called purpose changed. jesus wasn't even born in the winter by your own bible (shepherds do not watch their flocks by night in the middle of winter, they'd die of exposure along with their sheep).

        July 17, 2013 at 10:47 am |
        • OTOH


          Correct, but don't use the weather as a reason. It's Israel they're talking about, not Minnesota. Low temps in the winter there are in the 50s.

          July 17, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • Madtown

      Realize also that you can believe in God, but have no idea who Jesus is. Christianity is certainly not the only way, you are correct, but it's also not even shared or accessible by lots of people throughout the world. Some aren't even aware it exists, yet they still believe in God. It's just that they define God differently than you. They are not wrong.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • AC

      Christmas has become a CULTURAL event and can and does get participated by many non-Christians. Just because you exchange gifts and put a pine tree in your living room doesn't mean you believe in a god.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Melissa

      Yes, why? Christmas may be called christmas but that really only means something to you christians. To the rest of us, it's a day off work spending time with family we hardly ever see to open presents and eat good food (for some families its also time to drink yourself silly).

      Last year, we didn't even put up a tree or bother with presents. It just seemed like too much work. Most of both our families live very far away. The most we did was have dinner with a friend.

      You religious nuts really need to chill out.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • TGofCA

      I would assume most atheists in the usa celebrate Christmas in some form mostly out of tradition. I don't see this as being hypocritical if that's what you are trying to imply. *enters joke about Christians in science class*

      July 17, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • StClown

      Yes, but it has to do with meeting expectations set by others. My mother was devout Catholic. For me to skip Christmas celebrations because I have no faith would have been devestating to her. Missing the celebration because of a celebration with the in-laws would be one thing, intentionally skipping it altogether is something else entirely. It's the go-along-to-get-along things we do for our parents.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      I haven't celebrated Christmas in over 15 years since I became an atheist. Christmas was one of the things I disliked most about Christians as it is "The Most Wonderfully smug time of the Year!" besides the fact that it fosters greedy little children who you have to lie to in order to illicit good behavior. I now have an almost 5 year old and we have not and will not be celebrating Christmas in my household.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • In Santa we trust

      Despite separation of church and state, christmas is a holiday.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • Thinker...

      I don't really celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. My family does though and I wouldn't miss the chance to be with my family when they all come together. Personally I think that even if religion dissapeared overnight people would find some reason or other to have a big celebration at least once a year! I would probably try to spread the holidays out more though. Maybe instead of a second winter celebration (the first being Thanksgiving in the USA) having something in March to mark the start of spring would be good.

      You don't need religion to celebrate life and happiness with friends and family!

      July 17, 2013 at 11:29 am |
  12. KenO

    You forgot a rather large group, the "Trendy Athiest". They are usually teenagers who decry a belief taught to them by their parents because it makes them feel a stronger bond with their friends who often share the same type of rebellion.

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

      " They are usually teenagers who decry a belief taught to them by their parents because it makes them feel a stronger bond with their friends who often share the same type of rebellion."

      Deuteronomy 21:18-21

      18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; 20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. 21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Philospophernicus

      Trendy atheist = see hipster, millennial, ipod addict

      July 17, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • Jesus

      I just have to ask because I never do this, don't you have anything better to do other than decry teenage atheists at 10:35 AM?

      July 17, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  13. tony

    Tthere is a massive world-wide program of teaching impressionable young children religion. Only very few are able to reason themselves out of that as they grow up and mature. Atheism doesn't have the equivalent organizations (if any) or political power.

    July 17, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Philospophernicus

      Give it time. It will.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  14. Colin

    Actually, you’ll find that most (ex-Christian) atheists don’t believe for one or more of the following reasons:

    The concept of an immortal being makes no sense to us.

    The concept of an all-powerful being makes no sense to us.

    The concept of an all-knowing being makes no sense to us.

    Throwing the three together into one being effectively cubes its already dispositive implausibility.

    We tend to have a good working knowledge of the age, size and history of the Universe. The idea that a being would create the entire thing – with 400,000,000,000 galaxies, EACH with 100, 000,000,000 starts and even more planets, then sit back and wait 13,720,000,000 years for human beings to evolve on one planet so he could “love them” and send his son to Earth to talk to a nomadic group of Jews about sheep and goats in Iron Age Palestine (while ignoring the rest of the 200 million people then alive) makes no sense to us. We can’t help but ask ourselves, “did God make the Jews or did the Jews make God?”

    The answers usually proffered for what we see as basic logical flaws in Christianity – “you have been blinded by your lack of faith” “God moves in mysterious ways” “God is outside the Universe” or “our minds are too small to understand the greatness of God” are never satisfying to us. We see a retreat to mysticism as the first refuge of the cornered fool.

    The common argument, “well, what caused the Big Bang?” with the implication that, because we have only theories and no iron clad explanation for the Big Bang yet, the Judeo-Christian god must have caused it – does not make sense to us. “I don’t know” does not equal “god” to us, much less the Judeo-Christian god. We feel the answers to such a question are much more likely to be found in Einstein’s equations, quantum physics, large particle accelerators and radio telescopes than in Genesis Chapters 1 through 20. We’re crazy aren’t we?

    We do not see miracles in things like tornadoes missing a certain trailer in a trailer park, cancer going into remission or Tim Tebow winning a football game.

    We understand that Christianity is one of many, many religions in the World, and we don’t think that we were lucky enough to have been born in the one part of the World that “got it right”. Likewise, we know how all faiths evolve, morph and change over time and do not think we were lucky enough to have been born in the one generation that “got it right.”

    We tend to have a basic knowledge of history and know that there is nothing magical or special about the supposed history of the Jews, gospels, letters, apocalyptic story (Revelations) and other materials that found their way into the Bible, in that they are largely indistinguishable from the other mythology and religious writings of the Greco-Roman Mediterranean.

    Human beings are terrified of their own deaths and we see the various religious beliefs that try to “wish it away,” such as reincarnation, living happily ever after in Heaven with Jesus, having your own Mormon planet etc. as nothing more than childish stories for the more näive, timid minds among us.

    We do not see morality as predicated upon a belief in the supernatural. We accept that one can be moral without believing in the supernatural and that doing so is no guaranty that one will conform to the norms of society that people call “morality”.

    “You can’t prove God doesn’t exist” is not a convincing argument to us, or even a relevant point, because an inability to disprove something is a far cry from it being true. We cannot prove that the Hindu gods Shiva or Vishnu do not exist either, nor Santa Claus for that matter, but that is hardly a reason to believe in them. It is not even evidence for their existence. It is impossible to prove a negative in this context.

    When one looks at the various Christian beliefs that were once firmly believed – Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood, people living to be 700 or 900 years old, the Red Sea splitting, water turning into wine, a talking snake, a man living in a whale’s belly, people rising from the dead, Jesus driving demons out of people and into pigs – but which are now acknowledged by most thinking people to be mere mythology, it is pretty hard to give a lot of credibility to what’s left.

    It is hard not to consider Christianity as based on circular reasoning. Most Christians believe in God because the Bible says so, then turn around and say they believe the Bible because it is the word of God. To draw an analogy, “I believe Mao Zedong was a great man because The Little Red Book says so, and the reason I believe The Little Red Book is that it was written by Mao Zedong, who was a great man.” Do you even have the slightest idea of how your Bible was compiled over the centuries or who decided what to include and what to exclude and on what grounds? Can you even name one of hundred plus authors who contributed to it? One of the many people who decided what got in and what didn’t?

    To be bluntly honest, the more one comes to understand mother nature, the less reason there is to believe in a god and the more one understands human nature, the more one sees why so many of us still do.

    So, before any Christian, Mulsim or Jew wishes to proudly proclaim that you know the secrets to life, death, the origins of life on Earth and the origins of the Universe, simply because your parents, Iman, priest or Rabbi taught you some comforting stories from the Greco-Roman Near East as a child, you might like to reflect upon the overwhelming enormity of the claims you are about to make and the complete paucity of evidence that underwrites those claims.

    Or, put another way, stop cuddling your Tanaka, Bible or Qu'ran and wallowing in your ignorance and face the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death with a bit of emotional and intellectual courage. If you want to spend your entire life groveling like a puerile supplicant before something, at least make it something that exists.

    You people are pathetic.

    July 17, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Michael Belanger

      Can I get an "amen" for that Brother!

      July 17, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • Colin 2.0

      All I saw in all of this blab is a bunch of "us" and a ad hominem at the very end.

      July 17, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  15. Afterlife questions

    I didn't believe someone who told me project Stargate existed. I thought they got the idea from a bad science fiction movie but it falls into the category of strange things and I'd love to hear some atheist perspectives on it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remote_viewing

    July 17, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • JimK57

      I had an NDE so anything is possible. I have a feeling that in the future science is going to prove things that right now seem impossible.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:41 am |
      • Vic

        I am sure teleporting is not one of them!

        July 17, 2013 at 10:47 am |
        • JimK57

          Who knows, there was a time when the greatest minds would laugh at the idea of quantum physics, yet here we are.

          July 17, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  16. GettotheMiddle

    Wow! What a horribly biased writer. The article, with every parenthetical aside, is just DRIPPING with sarcasm and haughtiness. I guess I should expect no better from CNN.

    July 17, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  17. ScottCA

    The writer of this is completely lost in regards to what it means to be an atheist. .

    July 17, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  18. Murkalael

    This is an incomplete research, there are also skeptics like me, that neither believe in god, demon or any sort of human way to phantasize their ignorance of what they don't understand and fear. Skepticals are usually people that seeks knowlege rejecting any attemp of supersticious imposition.

    July 17, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  19. Yassin

    #4 all the problems in this world is caused by religion. All religious nutters go f*** yourself

    July 17, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • The old family Oujah

      Does one have to be a religious nutter or can I while away the morning in blissful solitude...and then have a cigarette?

      July 17, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • The old family Oujah

      Oh wait, occultism counts as being a religious nutter...alright then, I'm on it. Just let me finish my breakfast.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  20. Vic

    I understand that when someones does not believe in God he/she gives it a rest for the most part. What I do not understand is why a lot of atheists spend so much time and effort dismissing God, and in some cases more than believers spend time and effort embracing God!

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

      I think it's mainly dismissing religion, which is completely different than dismissing God.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:24 am |
      • Vic

        That's totally understandable.

        July 17, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • fintastic

      Because a lot of believers attempt to force their imagination based beliefs into law and deny the rights of others.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:25 am |
      • Drinky Crow


        July 17, 2013 at 10:28 am |
      • Nancy

        I agree. Many atheists only wish to be left alone by religious imposition.

        July 17, 2013 at 10:35 am |
      • JimK57

        I agree, but also know alot of believers, including christian organizations, support pro-life and are in favor of gay marriage. So I think we are going to find a common ground.

        July 17, 2013 at 10:48 am |
        • Observer


          EVERYONE is "pro-life". It just depends if that is the life of the fetus or the mother.

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

      Because there is a massive world-wide program of teaching impressionable young children religion. Only very few are able to reason themselves out of that as they grow up and mature. Atheism doesn't have the equivalent organizations or power.

      July 17, 2013 at 10:29 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.