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July 18th, 2013
03:14 PM ET

`Six Types of Atheists' study wakes a sleeping giant

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - They were trying to prove a simple point: That nonbelievers are a bigger and more diverse group than previously imagined.

"We sort of woke a sleeping giant," says Christopher F. Silver, a researcher at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. "We're a bit overwhelmed actually."

Silver and his project manager, Thomas Coleman, recently released a study proposing six different types of nonbelievers - from strident atheists to people who observe religious rituals while doubting the divine.

The study clearly struck a chord, particularly among triumphal atheists and uneasy believers. Articles appeared in in Polish, German, Russian and Portuguese, Silver said.

Here on CNN.com, our story "Behold, the Six Types of Atheists" garnered about 3.14 gazillion hits and thousands of comments.

Half the fun seemed to lie in atheists applying the categories to themselves, kind of like a personality test.

"I guess I'm a 1-2-4 atheist," ran a typical comment.

Other commenters questioned the study's categories, methods, and even the religious beliefs of its authors.

Silver and Coleman agreed to answer our readers' questions via email from Tennessee. Some of their answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Several readers asked how you came up with your six categories of atheists? 

A: In a sense we let the participants inform our theory.

The categories were devised from a series of 59 interviews conducted with people nationwide who don’t believe in God. Participants were asked to define various terms of nonbelief as well as their own religious views.

We also asked participants to tell us their stories and how their religious views have changed over time. We found the most commonly repeated stories and descriptions and formed them into types.

We then used those types in the survey portion of the project. Each of the six categories proved to be statistically unique in a wide array of psychological measures.

Q: @PaulTK asks: Are atheists limited to the six categories your study proposes?

A:  We suspect that further research exploring people who don't believe in God will certainly expand the number of categories and fill in more details about the six we've named.

For example, we found that the Intellectual Academic Atheist type may produce a 7th type reflecting those who are more "philosophically orientated" versus those who are more "scientifically orientated."

Our study also gives some evidence that individuals may not believe in God but still identify with religion or spirituality in some way.

Q: @JessBertapelle asks: Can people fit into more than one category? 

A: The typology of nonbelief is fluid. Based on our interviews, we suspect people transverse the various types over the course of their lives. Since we did not conduct a longitudinal design (a study conducted over time tracking the same people) we are unable to validate this assumption.

For those of you who found yourselves agreeing with multiple positions, you may find characteristics that you identify with in all types but there is likely one type which is your preference.

Q: @Melissa asks: Why isn't there a category for "closet atheists"? 

A: This is an excellent question. Many of our interviews were done in strict confidence where the participant’s own parents, spouses, or children had no idea they were participating in the study. One participant hid in the back of her closet because she did not want her parents to discover she is an atheist.

But while there were plenty of “closeted” participants, they didn't agree in how they describe their religious views. That is, they ranged across a variety of our six types.

Q: stew4248 asks: How is this any different than religious divisiveness?

A:  There is vast diversity among religious believers, but it's unclear if such diversity exists within nonbelief.

We do know that the Antitheist category has much in common with religious fundamentalism. Likewise the Intellectual atheism/Agnosticism type has a lot in common with intellectual theology, although they are clearly not the same.

Q: How did you find the participants for the study?

Participants were recruited through nonbelief communities across the country. They were recruited face-to-face, through snowball sampling (participants sharing the study with friends), and through the Internet.

Project manager Thomas J. Coleman III is well known in the atheist community because he is suing the Hamilton County (Tennessee) Commission for their involvement in divisive sectarian prayer at meetings. His reputation helped locate “closeted” atheists to participate.

The regional breakdown of participants is presented on the project website.

Q:  A number of readers have also asked about your own religious affiliations, if you don't mind. 

Christopher F. Silver answers:

I was born and raised in the rural South to a deeply religious Methodist family. In my hometown everyone was Christian.  As was the case for many in our study, during college I was introduced to people from different cultures and ideologies. I was interested in studying different faith traditions and why people believe.

In many respects, research for this was a selfish enterprise for me. There is nothing more transformative than sitting with someone as they share their life story with you. Today I consider myself an agnostic in the real philosophical sense. The more I learn, the more I recognize the extensiveness of my ignorance.

Thomas J Coleman III answers:

My mother has been active in the Methodist church as a choir member and pianist for most of her life. My grandparents were very active in the church and went every Sunday. Growing up, I would often go as well.

But for me, “religion” was always something that other people did. I prefer to identify as a secular humanist.

Silver and Coleman would like to point out that their study was supported and conducted in collaboration with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Department of Psychology and the Doctorate in Learning and Leadership

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Faith • Nones

soundoff (4,594 Responses)
  1. JD

    Adults with imaginary friends and their absolute certainty...if in only that...crack me up...LMFAO...comical that the same ones force their kids to join reality with regards to Santa, tooth fairy, etc., but yet its OK for them to live in fantasy land. OK then...can't wait for rapture...planet will be a much calmer place with less arrogant mightier than thou's walking around! 🙂

    July 18, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
  2. CRC

    Eventually all will become believers, it will just be too late after you are dead.

    July 18, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      Oh ye of little faith.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • ram

      And that is your opinion. Just as some would say otherwise.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • snowboarder

      sorry. i'm not buying it. man has created innumerable deities over the course of history. yours is just another of the creations of the imagination of man.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • ME II

      Assuming you're right, why is it too late? What's wrong with posthumous conversion?

      July 18, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Mormons do that all the time.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      Too late or what? Sounds like you want those that don't worship a so called 'god' to be in fear of a spiteful God.

      Not going to happen here.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:33 pm |
    • halbermunken

      Yes. Everyone will believe in Zeus.

      July 21, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
  3. phrancis

    No one can definitively prove nor disprove the existence of God (Christian God?) to all others. Therefore we are all more or less "Agnostic". While moderate mainstream religions provide a moral compass for society, the extremist fringes are the bane of humanity. Therefore we should all just follow the "golden rule" and the world would be a better place.

    July 18, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      While I'm agnostic I disagree that most people are. Take the Zimmerman case. I still don't understand how anyone can have an opinion as to what really happend that night, but 90% of people do. Even people that start out with 'I don't know'; as they keep talking they say things that imply they do know. I find the same thing happens when a so called 'god' is discussed. On most things in life people want to belong to a camp. They have the need to pick a side and "I don't know' just doesn't cut it for them.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • halbermunken

      What kind of morality is it which asks people to obey or be severely punished? The morality of a slave.

      July 21, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  4. GeorgeO

    Talking about agnostics in the same spectrum as atheists undermines any value of this study. The first part of this article hides that muddling of concepts, although it's said later explicitly. The degrees of doubt or uncertainty for an agnostic has nothing to do with being an atheist or not, and it's a mistake to think of being an atheist as "profound doubt" or "very deep doubt" (my paraphrase). It is a ruse by atheists to increase the perception of their numbers by including doubters in their club The consequences of behavior for atheism is profoundly different than someone in "doubt". I can build some trust with an agnostic because they are still noting their doubt and are open to talking about it further to relieve (or confirm) their doubt. A true atheist is no long searching since, for example, there is no basis to search (e.g., metaphysics is meaningless in his case). The guides for atheists are people like Sartre , the objects of their devotion, and a sad replacement for the people and God most of us (believers and agnostics) hold worthy of admiration and imitation..

    July 18, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
    • snowboarder

      I think you might want to look up the meaning of the word "agnostic". I doubt you will find any agnostics that hold admiration for any gods.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      George,

      you either believe in God or a higher power, or you don't.

      There's no need to create involuted nuances of positive belief in divine non-existence or strong disbelief or lack of belief or doubt. There are believers and non-believers. It's pretty simple really.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
      • jazzguitarman

        I guess you're correct since those like me that say "I don't know' don't believe in a so called higher power. While I feel there is this nuanced middle area between believe \ don’t believe I can also see while others like yourself would say my view is folly.

        So how about in the Zimmerman case? In situations like this is there a middle area or does one have to believe he was justified in the killing or not? i.e. is it also folly to say “I don’t know”. How is that situation different?

        July 18, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • lol??

      Interesting take. Which group is the clumpiest in their socializing would be a clue to their origins.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      GeorgeO; I find your comments interesting. As for the degree of doubt; While I label myself agnostic, the level of proof required for me to change my POV (i.e. to remove my doubt), would be the same as an atheist.

      I’m also not a ‘seeker’ since I believe the odds that any of the existing theories (views), related to a so called afterlife, are actual truths, is one in a million. So while I’m open to the possibility that there is something beyond this life or even a so called higher power, I’m very cynical that any existing views represent truth.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
  5. No one

    Literally everyone is an atheist, to other religions.
    Do Christians believe in Allah? Do Buddhists believe in Yahwe? Do Muslims believe in Thor? Do Hindus believe in Zeus?

    The framing of the debate is skewed because people are stupid. The question shouldn't be, do you believe in a religion? It should be, which religions do you not believe in?

    July 18, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • lol??

      Score a knockout blow for Notisms of Nonbelievisms. Express your grati*itude to No one.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • GeorgeO

      No. We respect other religions as reflections of the one we believe holds the best picture of the whole. We respect that each person on their journey find elements of truth in different ways, and that individual path leads to different religions in that quest for the truth. The one path that most of us feel is an absolute dead end is the path that isn't a path, but a cliff. There is nothing else save what we see, there is no meaning to any thought save my own (because the fact of other beings doesn't relate to me and my existence), etc. etc. it is a path to ultimate depression and despair, relieved by some superficial and illogical belief in "doing good", "respecting others", without any substantial, objective standard to back it up (because there's no basis for an objective standard). Yes, we feel sorry for the atheist, and feel empathy to others in other religions.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
      • jazzguitarman

        GeorgeO; You must not be a Christian since that believe system clearly says that one has to accept their so called savior or they are dammed. Christians and Muslims can say they respect other religions but at the end of the day, anyone that doesn't follow the rules is rejected. I don't think you're being honest here.

        July 18, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
  6. saraleigh

    Saw this on a church sign once..."God prefers a kind atheist to a hateful christian" I love it. I believe "kind" atheists are stronger people and better people than Christians. A kind atheist has no other motivation to be a good person then just enjoyment of the act itself. I do not need a book to tell me how to be a good person; I am because it is the right way to live my life.

    July 18, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • Jiao

      I don't think that the mean Christian is representative of all Christians.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Of course not. Many people who self-identify as Christians are mean-spirited and hateful. We encounter them here every day.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        And right on cue we have the following ...

        July 18, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
      • ME II

        I would guess that the nice one isn't representative either.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • lol??

      Sara, are you sayin' enjoyin' the act itself is its own reward?? Must have been a clause in the Screen Actors Guild contracts. I'm always hearin' the actors say they love the nameless, faceless audience.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • Maani

      It is absolutely true that there are atheists and agnostics who are just as "good," if not more so, than many self-proclaimed Christians. But you are mixing apples and oranges.

      Although I realize you will reject the following argument, it nevertheless represents a more accurate description of Christianity. Christianity believes in an immortal soul within a mortal body. In this regard, Christianity is comprised of two separate, but ultimately related, parts. One is how we live in the temporal world; i.e., what we do, say and think during the ~90 years that our physical bodies exist. The other is what happens to our souls for the remainder of eternity.

      Re the first, we are expected to live a "Christ-like life," which means living according to the 11 precepts of His ministry: love, peace, compassion, forgiveness, humility, patience, selflessness, charity, service, justice and truth. And yes, there are non-believers who live by all, most or many of these virtues who do so to the same or greater degree than many "Christians."

      However, the second – which we refer to as salvation and redemption – can only be achieved through belief in Christ: His life, ministry, innocent death, and resurrection. (For some, "immaculate birth" is also included.) According to Paul, the main precept here is: "If thou shalt profess the Lord Jesus with thy lips, and believe in they heart that God has raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." This is based on Jesus' claim that, "I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me." There are other passages that elaborate on this, but these are the foundational ones.

      So while it is true that an atheist can live a more "Christian" life than some Christians, this only avails them during their mortal lives; however, they cannot be "saved" solely by their "good works." As an aside, there are plenty of self-proclaimed Christians who would not know Jesus if He bit them on the ear, and may well find themselves unsaved when the time comes. Again, i know that you do not "buy into" ANY of this. But I wanted to explain it so you understand the two "parts" of a Christian's life.

      Peace.

      July 18, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
      • Ralph Monkman

        Well said but, sadly, to ears that refuse to hear. C.C. Lewis said the greatest sin was PRIDE. Out of pride comes selfishness and all other sin. Pride in our intellectual abilities and achievments deludes us into believing there is nothing greater than ourselves. Humility, on the other hand, opens us up to have a personal relationship with God. That is why the poor are more religious than the rich. They may not have material wealth but they are rich in spirit, faith, wisdom and love. The rich are so consumed with protecting their wealth they ignore their spiritual nature. They can afford all sorts of earthly pleasures and that often leads to the sins of the flesh. It is so convenient to deny an afterlife when you are comfortable in this one. Yet the truth is that we are all souls on a human journey and our destination is the afterlife. As Christians, our hope is to be welcomed by Jesus and to see our loved ones once more. I feel sorry for non-believers who don't have that hope.

        July 19, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
  7. Dawn Givasheet

    "Believe" whatever helps you live happily... reliable, open-minded science or skygod angelic fantasies. But if you build a massive, ornate prayer palace to congregate with the like-minded, PAY YOUR FOCHING PROPERTY TAXES YOU LEECHES instead of tossing that infrastructure burden onto the backs of non-participant individual homeowners. And don't coercively control what others watch, read, say or do to suit your puritan preferences. Got it?

    July 18, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • Vic

      The congregants themselves are taxpayers! Get it?!

      July 18, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
      • Athy

        What does that have to do with the property-tax exemption for churches?

        July 18, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
      • Jake

        No. This is irrelevant. Profit-generating businesses are subject to taxes, even though their owners, officers, directors, etc. are taxpayers. Churches should be treated the same way. Get it?! Thanks for playing!

        July 18, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        I'll go out on a limb here Vic, I'm guessing you wouldn't want your taxes helping out Planned Parenthood. Get it now?

        July 18, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
      • OTOH

        Maybe they should be charged luxury tax too. Way too many of the (yeah, not all) are fairly dripping with fantastic ornamentation and extrava.gancies.

        Here's just one:

        The new Catholic Cathedral which was built in Los Angeles about 10 yrs. ago.

        The prices for some cathedral furnishings have also caused consternation. $5 million was budgeted for the altar, the main bronze doors cost $3 million, $2 million was budgeted for the wooden ambo (lectern) and $1 million for the tabernacle. $1 million was budgeted for the cathedra (bishop's chair), $250,000 for the presider's chair, $250,000 for each deacon's chair, and $150,000 for each visiting bishops' chair, while pews cost an average of $50,000 each. The cantor's stand cost $100,000 while each bronze chandelier/speaker cost $150,000

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathedral_of_Our_Lady_of_the_Angels#Criticism

        No time, nor inclination to look up The Crystal Cathedral, Eddie Long's church, Joel Osteen's Megachurch, and oodles of others.

        July 18, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      Dawn; So that Christian flower shop owner should be allowed to NOT sell to gays? Otherwise it is liberal policies that are controling what she does. How does that fit into your world view?

      July 18, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
  8. Alaistair

    Matthew 7:14

    July 18, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      Lord of the Rings – Two Towers. Chapter 12.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
      • aaronjones21

        Riiiiiight because a book written by a human author is comparable to the Bible

        July 18, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
        • sam

          ...which was written by human authors.

          July 18, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
        • Dagger_32

          I see what you did there!

          ...and it was awesome!

          July 18, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
        • CommonSensed

          Wheee!

          July 18, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
        • snowboarder

          @aaron, of what species were the writers of the bible? I suppose if there can be talking snakes and donkeys there could be bible writing dogs or monkeys.

          July 18, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
        • Rick

          Who do you think wrote the bible? At least I can read lord of the ring sin its original language.

          July 18, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • Robert

      Henry V Part 2, Act 2, Scene 3

      July 18, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • Rick

      Rick 7:14

      July 18, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • Dan, Tx

      Luke 19:26 and Luke 19:27

      July 18, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
  9. mark

    Seems that the idea of people as individuals got lost in preparing the original article, and it certainly has become lost in many "religious" people.

    mark

    July 18, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
  10. lol??

    I could save the taxpayers a bunch of money for all this educated studyin'. Like the students already know, being an A&A is a fluid thing. Science claims to have found something in ye ol' noodle for worship. The default will end up as self-god. It's ordained.

    Jhn 10:34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?

    July 18, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Another quote from the self-serving guide to delusion. How informative and convincing.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
  11. Joe Schmidt

    Here's the definition of an atheist: A person who has no invisible means of support. 😉

    July 18, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Observer

      Yep. Only intelligence and common sense.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • total recalls

      its the truth lol! they only having the support from welfare jajaja

      July 18, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
      • Robert

        Yeah...on welfare...like Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffett

        July 18, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
  12. CommonSensed

    A man should not believe in an ism. Isms in my opinion are a bad thing. A man should not believe in isms, he should believe in himself.

    -The Walrus

    July 18, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • The walrus

      coo coo ca choo

      July 18, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
  13. Jeremy Brennan

    There is no such thing as an atheist.
    If one does not worship the living God then one is either worshiping a dead idol or dead idols.
    Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

    July 18, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Arrogant presumption.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • sam

      That's a pretty confining space you live in, can you still breathe ok?

      July 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      There's this saying about a fool continues to speak and solidify his ignorance where a wise man shuts up.

      Please, continue.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • CP in FL

      I worship nothing. God does not exist.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • IrishinToronto

      You're just not getting this concept are you...

      July 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • squeeky

      That is bizarrely narrow minded of you. Because you can't imagine not believing in a god you can't imagine others cannot, but trust me dude, I don't worship ANYTHING. Anything / anyone that is dead is gone. I have no idea what "idols" are other than the ones who sing on a TV show. You need to get out of your jesus bubble.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      I worship the universe. It seems pretty alive to me.

      Which universe do you live in Jeremy?

      July 18, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Laura

      How very closed minded of you.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • Gregg

      who says they worship anyone, thing...???

      July 18, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Brett

      Right, there are no atheists. It is not possible for a man (whos knowledge is obviously limited) to make such a claim that there is no God! One would have to have infinite knowledge to make such a claim, and of course only God has such knowledge. There are no atheists, only agnostics.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
      • Bob

        Brett, calling us angry and other descriptions is about all you can do, as your absurd religious fiction slowly but surely dies out, and you with it.

        Come back when you have something valuable to say.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
      • cedar rapids

        silly claim.
        You may as well say i also cannot claim there are no purple pixies called nigel that can only be seen on the night of a full moon because i dont know everything.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        One would have to have infinite knowledge to make a claim for a god, yet believers do it all the time.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
      • SurelyUjest

        So if man cannot claim that god does not exist, how can man claim that god does exist? This double standard crap seems so childish. No god of any religion current or historical has any proof that he/she/they/it has ever proclaimed their own divinity. This has always been proclaimed by man.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
      • sam

        Right, there are no christians. It is not possible for a man (whose knowledge is obviously limited) to make such a claim that there is a God! One would have to have infinite knowledge to make such a claim. There are no christians, only agnostics.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
      • Peter

        By the same logic there are also no theists. Thanks for playing.

        July 19, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'If one does not worship the living God then one is either worshiping a dead idol or dead idols.'

      how does that logic work then?

      July 18, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      There is no such thing as a Christian.
      If one does not require proof before believing something, then they apparently do require proof before believing other things.

      The above comment makes no sense to me. Neither does your comment Jeremy.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • ram

      I don't think you even get what atheism means. Did you read where it means they don't worship anyone? Guess not. But thanks for sharing your opinions.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • PrimordialSet

      “We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.”

      July 18, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • Imagine

      Wow, such ignorance about others.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • snowboarder

      sorry Jeremy, but that is BS.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • sam stone

      it is interesting that people desire eternity with a being from whom they feel they have to be saved.

      July 18, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
    • halbermunken

      All I will say is... do not bear false witness 😉

      July 21, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  14. Terri

    I don't have a problem with most atheists. Some are really mean though and are as intolerant as the lunatics on the far right fringe. Extremism is extremism no matter what one believes or disbelieves.

    July 18, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • CP in FL

      Is it mean to point out to people that there is no evidence of god's existence? If there is no evidence of god and he does not influence this world in any way does he really exist? If god created our universe then he must exist outside our universe. If god exists outside our universe then by definition he does not exist.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
      • GeorgeO

        Extremely simplistic positioning of what 'God" is.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
      • Terri

        The way I see it, god is compassion, love, and peace. God is also faith, hope, and charity. There's evidence of that all around us as well as evidence of evil. I know atheists who behave more like christians than people who claim to be christian do. Hate and intolerance of anyone else is not a christian value. It's not a "atheist" humanitarian value either.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
      • JohnC

        well it's mean if as you start to point out your point of view you aren't aware and respectful of their negative reaction and don't back off out of respect. I agree there is no real proof of god - only things that 'suggest' a god as a possibility. If there is a god he started outside this universe but that does not preclude him now being a part of it in some sense. I know there are other non-god potential explanations for the universe - all are pretty incredible but no more incredible than a supreme being especially one that seems to go out of his way to hide his existence other than to show up in feelings, dreams and such of some that claim to have experienced him. I personally have to accept that there are things I may never know though I will keep alert for answers. I'm okay with having doubt because the alternative of freaking out or incorrectly picking any answer is worse. But until I have 100% proof there is no god I will respect those that feel they know he exists - and even then I will try to share that proof kindly.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
        • Jake

          Well, who has the burden of proof? In my view, the person making the claim does, especially when the claim is controversial and contrary to common sense.

          For example, I can't prove that you aren't a really a alien-built cyborg that is so sophisticated that human beings are unable to detect any differences between you and a real human. But I doubt that you would say it is reasonable for believe that you are such a cyborg until someone 100% proves that you are not. You would probably say that you wouldn't even consider the possibility that such a statement is true unless I provided you with some reasonable basis for it.

          July 18, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
      • Maani

        CP:

        Although I disagree with all of this, I have a SERIOUS problem with your last line. Why would it be so that if God DOES exist, but "outside our universe," then He does NOT exist? Setting aside the blatant contradictory nature of the statement (that He DOES exist, but that He DOESN'T exist), I assume you are familiar with the theory in physics that there may in fact be multiple universes? I am guessing that, as a rationalist and empiricist, you would at least accept the possibility, given that it comes from the realm of science. So...if multiple universes may exist, then "things" are likely to exist WITHIN those universes. And it could be that God exists in one of these other universes. But that does not mean He "does not" exist – nor, indeed, that He does not have the "power" to exist in multiple universes.

        Thus, if you are willing to say that "If God exists outside our universe," you cannot then logically follow with "then He doesn't exist."

        Nice try. LOL.

        July 18, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Yep. Some people are nice, and some people are mean.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • SamP

      I wouldn't want to trust an atheist with any moral decisions though

      July 18, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
      • EnjaySea

        Because one must be gullible in order to be moral?

        July 18, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
      • ram

        Yes, because trusting someone who doesn't need someone watching over him or her and the threat of Hell to make moral decisions makes no sense, right? How funny.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
      • sam

        Yeah, that's brilliant. Someone who does good things without being threatened with hell first must be totally untrustworthy.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
      • kerfluffle

        I feel the same way about christians.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
      • snowboarder

        @sam, that is just plain stupid. morals are societal, not from religion.

        July 18, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
        • sam

          snow, I think I may have laid the sarcasm on a little too hard and crossed over into 'crap it looks like I was agreeing with him' territory.

          July 18, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
        • snowboarder

          sorry sam, I meant samp.

          July 18, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
      • Peter

        The entire foundation of Christianity is immoral. That is to say that letting Jesus take your punishment is immoral.

        July 19, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
      • halbermunken

        Of course not. It would make more sense to obey the heavenly dictator who cannot do anything wrong.

        July 21, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • ram

      I am glad you added the part where any extreme view can bring out the nastiness in people.

      I don't get why anyone has the need to point out to others why his or her view is the only way to think. Let's just leave others to make up their own minds.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
  15. lol??

    Not giants!!!!

    Fee-fi-fo-fum,
    I smell the blood of an Englishman,
    Be he live, or be he dead
    I'll grind his bones to make my bread

    And use the KJV as a napkin
    on my chinny-chin-chin.

    July 18, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • Jiao

      That's better than what it should be used for.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
  16. Dagger_32

    I hope when humanity gets wiped out the only texts that survive are from The Onion.

    July 18, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • sam

      There have been news days recently where the real headlines are even more ludicrous.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • Saraswati

      OK, that made me chuckle. And to think that media from China to Iran have already fallen for those stories and republished them...yeah, that would be pretty funny.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • holvey

      My wife always wondered what it would be like if human history was remember and studied by audio recordings of The Ramones

      July 18, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • OTOH

      Heh. Reminds me of the movie, "Galaxy Quest", where some far-distant aliens received broadcasts of a "Star Trek-line" TV series, and built their society around the heroes and storylines!

      July 18, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
      • OTOH

        *Star Trek-like

        July 18, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        By Grabthar's hammer,

        Never give up, never surrender.

        July 18, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
      • Saraswati

        Yep, Galaxy Quest was what I thought of, too.

        July 18, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
  17. Catholic4ever

    Imagine if everyone believed?? Atheists are the reason I believe. Some would say Christians are the reason they are atheists yet they have never believed.. I have been an atheist, believed and behaved like one and boy was I wrong!!

    July 18, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • midwest rail

      You were wrong – for you. The behavior of contemporary American Christians is central to my choice to avoid church at all costs.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • dmwinsd

      Except for the prayer and ritual parts, why would you expect an atheist to behave differently from a Christian? Raising children with love, treating others well, helping those in need, not lying, etc. aren't necessarily linked exclusively with Christians or any other religion. What exactly is the behavior of atheists you refer to? And even though Christians presumably shouldn't behave like that, isn't it your experience that some Christians behave like that anyway?

      July 18, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      How, exactly, do ALL atheists behave?

      Or do you now behave like a mob boss who kills, but then confesses so it's OK, or maybe like a terrorist who kills children in the name of his god?

      Please – illuminate us poor, ignorant souls.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • Greg

      I have never spoken to a self-proclaimed "ex-atheist" Christian that wasn't completely full of it. Most consider their rebellious teenage-early 20's years as being an atheist.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Atheists are the reason I believe'

      interesting claim, how are they the reason you believe exactly?

      July 18, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • ram

      How sad that you ever based your own life choices on other people's behavior. If you believe that is fine and if you don't it is fine. But do what you do because it feels right for you.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      How does one "behave like an atheist"? Pray, tell us.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • snowboarder

      behaved like an atheist? how does their behavior differ from anyone else?

      July 18, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • halbermunken

      "Atheists are the reason I believe. " No they are not. You were likely told that your faith is right and everyone else is wrong since you were born. And you cannot escape this fantasy.

      July 21, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
  18. Tony Montana

    You're the idiot conceptually. Now to a centrist position without being mean. People who 'believe in science' are misguided. Science IS HOW god made the universe.

    July 18, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • Catholic4ever

      exactly! God made science. Man thinks it belongs to him. God gives it, God takes it.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
      • Dagger_32

        If the universe was made by science, could it not just be made again by another scientist?
        Would that scientist then become a God?

        July 18, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
        • squeeky

          Hah... just wait, the Hadron collider in Europe will allow us to do just that. Unfortunately, humans will not survive long enough to see the planet come to full fruition.

          July 18, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
      • halbermunken

        Science isn't based on authority, religion is.

        July 21, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      Who made your god?

      July 18, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • Terri

      Who decided to make a rule that anyone with a religious background can't possibly appreciate science? A well rounded mind appreciates the human spirit as well as scientific discoveries. Extremist atheists have closed the right side of their brains and extremist people in the far right has closed the left side of their brains. There's nothing wrong with thinking outside the box even if it doesn't make sense. An open mind is what makes new discoveries happen.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
      • Honey Boo Boo

        A religious person does not appreciate science because science is the study in which you need prove for the conclusion from experiments and religious people accept the conclusion of God creating everything without substantial evidence. They only reference a fictional book that was written by primitive people who were so impatient about explaining their origin that they unethically wrote the Bible which had the consequence of misleading people, retarding human civilization for a millennium in technological progression.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
        • SamP

          Modern day scientists don't behave that way at all. They have dogmatic beliefs and if anyone in the community dares to question those beliefs they are shunned and denied any further opportunity to publish, interact with students, or gain funding. The era you're describing is dead.

          July 18, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
        • Terri

          That's a very closed minded and generalized thing to say. Faith and dogma are two different things. I don't believe that there's only one "true" church and all the rest are going to hell. That's an unrealistic dogma and the kind of thing that Hitler condoned. Einstein was a religious man and a genius. He understood that science without faith is lame and faith without science is blind. There's been many scientists with a religious background. There's been many civil rights leaders with a religious background too that made great things happen. Slavery came to a halt as well as other forms of inequality because of compassionate religious people.

          July 18, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          SamP, Do you have examples?

          July 18, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
        • pictogramsgonebad

          Scientists can explain a lot about the universe, life, and the world around us, but there will always be unexplained variance in any scientific model. There's plenty of room for God in that error term.

          July 18, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
      • halbermunken

        What's an extremist atheist? Like someone who aggressively doesn't collect stamps?

        July 21, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • ram

      Not being mean, but you called someone or a view idiotic?

      You believe as you wish and let others do the same without calling names.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
  19. norman

    interestign how you didn't question the relevancy of your comment. The study and the article is about atheists and christians, the doiminant religion in the US-other major religions arent advanced enough to give any weight to atheism

    July 18, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
  20. Brett

    Its sad that some people have rejected the Lord and now they live alone with their own thoughts. I was searching for answers at an early age and the Lord revealed His truth to me. When I heard that God sent Jesus to this world to die for our sins, so that we could have peace with God and eternal life I responded. I asked Jesus into my life as my Lord and Savior. I will never forget that moment. I was flooded with peace and joy and blessing. I knew that my sins were forgiven and that Jesus truly was the Son of God. Praise God! I hope many of these who are truly lost souls, will find peace with God one day through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. God Bless

    July 18, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • norman

      vats majority of the planet doesnt believe in your "lord"-dont be so egotistcial to think just cause you happened to be born in the western world, your religion is "correct"!

      July 18, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • Brett

      Really? Are you delusional? Didn't you read what happened to me? I guess I should pretend that God never came to me since there are people in the world who don't believe in Him. Really? lol

      July 18, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
      • Dagger_32

        Next time take a picture.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
      • ram

        Obviously what happened to you is profound to you and that is wonderful. You are missing what others are saying, though. My experiences have been profound as well, and they don't involve God. I am happy for you and wish you every happiness. To each his own.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • CP in FL

      Do you realize how silly you sound. Do you think your god controls every aspect of your life. You are pathetic.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Brett pondered: "Its sad that some people have rejected the Lord and now they live alone with their own thoughts."

      I don't live alone with my own thoughts. I live with my family, and they fill me with joy. I don't need mythical creatures and legendary heroes to make me happy. Life makes me happy.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
      • Brett

        Enjay, your right, you really should avoid mythical creatures. I totally agree. lol

        July 18, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          Your god is a mythical creature.

          July 18, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
        • Dippy

          You're, not your.

          July 18, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • Brett

      CP, you sound like an angry atheist. Wait, thats the only kind I have known. I wonder why that is? Mmmm, thtas a real mystery. lol

      July 18, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
      • Bob

        Brett, calling us angry and other negative descriptions is about all you can do, as your absurd religious fiction slowly but surely dies out, and you with it.

        Come back when you have something valuable to say.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
        • Sue

          bob as others have pointed out, the spread of reason over the internet is accelerating the death of Christianity. That is happening faster now, as a % of the total pop. But I hear ya, mon.

          July 18, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
        • Brett

          Bob, well you know if you don't believe in God then of course He will go away. And hell will disappear also. Isn't that convenient?

          July 18, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          Brett, There are thousands of gods that you don't believe in. How convenient.

          July 18, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
        • OTOH

          Brett
          " well you know if you don't believe in God then of course He will go away."

          What else that's real works that way? Stop believing in gravity and it will go away? Stop believing in diseases and they will go away? Stop believing that your mother-in-law exists, and she will go away? Does your "God" have a weaker hold than real things... that it can only be there *if* *you* *believe*?

          July 18, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
        • Brett

          Otoa, your stating the obvious. Thats the point. He certainly won't go away because some claim to not believe in Him. Thank You for making my point.

          July 18, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
      • sam

        Congrats, Brett, you're a master at setting expectations and then making sure things turn out exactly the way you envisioned. You decided to feel peaceful, and then magically you were peaceful. You think all atheists are mean, therefore they're all mean. Maybe for your next trick, you can envision yourself over on the Fox news site.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
        • Brett

          Sam, you must be right. I must have conjured up the peace and joy I experieinced when I received Jesus into my life in my own mind. I must have continued to conjure it up the many years since. I really should listen to you, you have so much to offer us. lol I said atheists are angry, you said they are mean. I wonder why you would have misquoted that? Mmmm, that is also curious. lol

          July 18, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
        • sam

          Ah, you're adorable. I'm sure Jesus wants you here, doing this, all day. You're a perfect christian. Don't forget to use 'lol' every chance you get, too. It makes your points super valid!

          July 18, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
      • ram

        The point you are missing and the idea that angers some people is that you assume people who don't believe as you do must be lost and miserable without love or joy in their lives. That is your blind spot. I am happy that you are happy in your beliefs and respect your right to believe as you wish. Why not stop assuming anyone who doesn't see things as you do must be wrong and unhappy, angry, and lost?

        Those "angry" atheists you mention may be pretty happy people generally, but when you start telling them they are lost and must come do what you want them to do I can see why they might get annoyed and come across as angry to you. Did you ever consider just letting them be? I don't believe in God, but I believe in many other things and people and ideas, and I have a peace in my heart that brings me joy. So please speak for your own experience and don't assume you have the only "right" way to live or be happy.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
        • Brett

          Ram, you are talking to me from the heart, that I like. You seem more honest to me than many of the so called "atheists". All I can tell you is that He is real, and we all must give an account to Him one day. I hope you are ready when that day comes my friend. God Bless

          July 18, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
        • ram

          Brett, yes, I am talking from the heart. But once again, I say he is real to you and that is wonderful if you are happy and peaceful because of your beliefs. All I can tell you is that I have never seen anything that indicates to me there is a God, so no, I don't believe.

          But I have seen many wonders and I have experienced incredible things in my life. I have no desire to find a God, just as you have no desire to lose yours. So I live the best I can and you live the best you can, and as long as neither of us tries to impose our will or beliefs on each other we will be fine. I think you mean what you say in your beliefs and I don't wish for you to lose them or feel that you must to be happy. I ask the same from you as well. I don't know everything and I am merely human, so all I can do is be the best person I can be and hope that you (and others) would simply accept that as you are happy with your beliefs, I am happy with my life and my own spirituality. I accept your wish for your God to bless me and would answer that I wish you peace.

          July 18, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
      • Peter

        Probably becuase you act like an a$$hat in real life too, and the atheists treat you in kind.

        July 19, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'God sent Jesus to this world to die for our sins'

      which means what exactly? how did he 'die for our sins'? Its a nice phrase and all but doesnt actually carry a lot of substance behind it.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
      • Brett

        Cedar Rapids, that is an excellent question, much better than most that I see in here. Well, what seperates us from God is our sin.. We all sin. God is Holy we are not. We need to deal with the sin problem in order to have peace with God. This is why He sent His Only Son, Jesus Christ to this world, to reconcile the world to Himself. Jesus blood was the only blood that could pay for our sins, since He never sinned. This was God's plan, becuase He loves us. I hope you seek out the truth of this matter and find His peace. God Bless. I recomend you read the Gospel of John, I think that will help you. Take Care

        July 18, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
        • cedar rapids

          'Jesus blood was the only blood that could pay for our sins, since He never sinned.'

          but again that doesnt actually say anything. his blood paid for our sins how? as a process, how does that actually function? It would be one thing if mankind choose someone amongst themselves to represent them and they volunteered to die on their behalf but that is not what happened.
          Instead you had god create what essesentially was an avatar of himself, and allowed him to be killed by the Romans, and then brought him back to life again (so not really any sacrifice at all in that case) and go 'there, he died for you lot'

          doesnt make sense, doesnt actually mean anything.

          July 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
        • Brett

          Cedar, it means everything. I encourage you to read the Gospel of John. I think in full context you will understand much better the life death and resurrection of the Lord, and His atonement for our sins.

          July 18, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
        • CBKidder

          Brett, your tone comes across really arrogant, but that's beside the point. I have to take issue with this whole cost-of-sins business.
          1) Assuming someone never sinned (hypothetically), christianity says they still have Adam's 'original sin.' Why is it right to punish one person for the crime of another person who died thousands of years ago?
          2) I myself am a rigorous sinner. Assuming that god wants to forgive my sins, why not just do that? Is god really such a histrionic drama queen that he needs to make a human copy of himself (as Jesus) just so he can be brutally tortured to death on a cross in order to forgive himself for how me made us? Wouldn't an all-powerful god clear away our sins more easily than that? Wouldn't an intelligent god be able to come up with a less barbaric system than that?

          July 18, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
        • Brett

          CB, I did respond to you but it was posted as new. The response is on 7-19 at 7:54 PM.

          July 19, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
      • Imagine

        Cedar, the Bible is one of the best proofs that there is no god.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
      • sam stone

        allowing someone else to take the punishment you feel you deserve is about the least moral thing someone could do

        if christians were interested in justice, they would deny this supposed sacrifice and take their punishment

        don't hold your breath wating for that

        July 18, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior back in the 1970's.

      Here's what I experienced in my heart: absolutely nothing.
      Here's what I heard from the heavens: crickets.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
      • Brett

        Enjay, thank you for your honesty. I know God works in many different ways. Sometimes His presence can be very strong and powerful, and other times He seems to be silent, but that certianly doesn't mean He isn't there. I encourage you to continue to seek Him out. "Seek and You will find" "Knock and the Door will be opened".

        July 18, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
        • Poe alert

          Seek and you will find = 'want it and make it happen'. Your poe skills need some work, but you're getting there.

          July 18, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
        • EnjaySea

          Or your god doesn't exist, which also fully explains the silence.

          If the creature does exist, and has some investment in me believing that it exists, then the ball is in its court.

          But all signs point to it not existing, so I'm not holding my breath.

          July 18, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
    • OTOH

      Brett,

      I remember having those feelings as a kid and as a young (and not-so-young) adult too - thrilling, electrifying, stunning to feel that you are communicating with some super-being, eh? Trouble is, they only happen if **You** make them happen... with your thoughts and the resulting chemical/hormonal flooding of your brain and body. It is very powerful, seductive, and even addicting. There is no evidence that there is input from anything supernatural.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • Poe alert

      Today's poorly portrayed poe comes courtesy of Brett, who has the logic of a piece of digested chewing gum. Stay tuned for tomorrow's poe to see more of the same.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      You've kind of outlined what people think after trying weed, heroin or meth for the first few times.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
      • Brett

        Common, thats interesting. Does their "experience" from their dose of meth or weed last for many years? Or do they need to keep the drugs comming in?

        July 18, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
        • sam stone

          brett: has your experience lasted for years, or do you have to renew it with occasional hits of jesus?

          July 18, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
        • Brett

          Well Sam, that is an interesting question you raise. Actually the peace and joy that He gave me from the beginning is there always. He lives inside in Me by His Holy Spirit. As far as getting closer to the Lord at various times, yes indeed that does happen. For example when reading His Word, when praying, when gathering with other believers, or sometimes He just allows me to be in His awesome presence for His own reasongs. Blessed be the Name the Lord.

          July 19, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
    • Nadi

      Been there done that.. I too once tricked myself with wishful thinking and faulty assumptions, but I finally grew up into an atheist. Positive emotional experiences are NOT confirmation that a book is from the creator of the universe, that people rise from the dead, or that holy spirits float around in the sky..

      July 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
      • Brett

        Nadi, I'm sorry that you feel the need to let others interpret your life experiences. I get to walk by faith with The Creator of the universe and have no concern with what others think about it. Praise the Lord!

        July 18, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
        • Poe alert

          Brett, we're sorry you think there's only one true way.

          July 18, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • louis

      Amen

      July 19, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • halbermunken

      Reject? There is nothing to reject because it isn't there. I could ask you why do you reject Shiva?

      July 21, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
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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.