July 18th, 2013
03:14 PM ET

`Six Types of Atheists' study wakes a sleeping giant

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(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. lionlylamb2013

    I believe in God, the Almighty Creator in all matters celestially created and all established evolutionary creations. You don't have to believe...

    I am thoroughly satisfied that Christ Jesus is this earthen world's King and Lord of all hosted relativisms made conceivable. You need not be satisfied…

    Be then of goodness and give good cheers to those in needs of being comforted. Don't steal nor cheat nor kill. These are my personified recommendations. Please follow them if one is able. If not able then duly consider the lawful consequences of one's actions...Social peace and lawful prosperities toward one and all...

    July 18, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • ME II

      But apparently even He can't understand you.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
  2. Puzzled in Peoria

    This study was based on only 59 interviews? As studies go, that's inconclusive.

    I imagine you could find six kinds of almost everything: Republicans, hermits, extroverts, TV viewers, and researchers.

    And Mr. Burke. Please don't use the term "gazillion" hits when you know the exact number. It lowers the intellectual level of CNN, unless that was your deliberate intent.

    July 18, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      The first qualitative phase was with 59 individuals.

      The second quant!itative phase was with ~1000 people.

      From the study:
      "With over 1,153 participants nationwide contributing to the current analyzed dataset, it was truly a collaborative effort brought to fruition thanks to the vastly diverse community of non-believers in America."

      July 18, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
      • lionlylamb2013

        GOPer... "over 1,153 participants nationwide"

        My humble hometown had more people in its town back in the early 70's then those who participated in this study. Their study is like a drop of water in an empty 50 gallon drum. It's a non-issue being inflated by propped up & misconstrued connotations...

        July 18, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • Jeff H

      The article is poorly written; I had the same reaction as you, but then I reread it and from what I can tell there were two phases:
      Phase 1. Interview 59 people to create a framework for the survey.
      Phase 2. Using the survey from Phase 1, get responses from a larger sampling pool.

      July 18, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • CNN Belief Blog Co-EditorCNN

      Hi @Puzzled

      Believe me, if I could have used the exact number, I would have. It's high.


      July 19, 2013 at 8:21 am |
  3. Eddie

    I am a passive nice Atheist until someone says something negative about Atheists .They are usually trying to proselytize about their religion to me .They are usually taken aback when I tell them that Im Atheist .I find it funny when they say ,but you`re so nice and giving > Yeah This is usually the characteristic of an Atheist....

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

      my wife and I were at our local Italian restaurant when a couple walked up and was speaking with us. they eventually got around to asking us what church we attend and when I said none, they asked why. when I informed them that I was an atheist they turned around and left, never to speak to us again.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
      • jonahxi

        When hundreds of thousands of your people are killed each year because of their beliefs you'll earn the right to be wary of people who oppose your beliefs.

        July 18, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
        • Dudeman

          Well that's the problem right there isn't it? Your people, my people ... That's how you make enemies.

          I think it's a little silly to cover for people of your religion for being rude, because they happen to share your religion. You wonder why people despise religion. It also doesn't help that people from your religion tend to commit genocide as well.

          July 18, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
        • Maani

          Actually, according to Rudolph Rummel, a historian considered the foremost expert on death in history, the number of people who have died in holy wars, Crusades, inquisitions, witch hunts, etc. is ~75-100 million – in all of recorded history. Yet the number of people who died under just three atheists – Lenin, Stalin and Mao – is 100-125 million – in just 75 years. And yes, we are talking about deaths as the result of SPECIFICALLY anti-theist policies.

          You might want to bone up on your history.

          July 18, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
        • Peter

          jonahxi what do you think Christians in Europe did for 1000+ years? That is correct they killed the non believers, as well as believers who happened to not believe the exact same thing.

          July 19, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
        • Peter

          O.K. Manni what atheist policy led Mao to kill even one person?

          July 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
        • Maani

          Peter: Read details about the Hundred Flowers Campaign and certain aspects of the Great Leap Forward. However, even if certain aspects of his campaigns were not anti-theist, my basic claim still stands: more people died under atheists than as the result of religion. Peace.

          July 20, 2013 at 12:23 am |
        • halbermunken

          Graveyards are filled with believers who were killed by other believers. And God watches it all with folded arms.

          July 21, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • JJ

      You shouldn't capitalize "atheist". It's just a word that we use for the theist's convenience.

      July 18, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
  4. Jim

    I'm confused. 59 people who all know each other in a 6-degrees kind of way is not a study. I applaud the attempt to better understand atheists/agnostics, but I feel the methods of creating these categories is, at best, too flawed to called a "study".

    July 18, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  5. Mohammad

    My 14 yeor old niece is smoking hot!

    July 18, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
  6. Ray Schaub

    Reblogged this on BKM Car and Limo.

    July 18, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
  7. Reality

    The Apostles' / Agnostics’/Atheists' Creed 2013 (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    (References used are available upon request.)

    July 18, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • lionlylamb2013

      Sired Reality...
      What exactly do you or many folks truly know about the atomic kingdom domains?

      Does not our celestial bodies need atomic sustenance to remain a viable commodity of nurtured natures? How far down our bodies does the elemental needs of being nourished flow?

      Do our body's atomic nucleuses need sustainment of elemental food-like synergisms in order to be a molecular force of one's base elements being atomically rendered and nourished by issues we have yet to be determined?

      July 18, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • Jeff

      There's atheists, and then their's anti-Christians. You sir, seem to be the latter.

      Its not enough to vocalize that you do not believe in the existence of any god, you have to specify what religion you're specifically rejecting.

      I'm not trolling you, just found that interesting. You might too, if you are the type that likes to study your own behavior.

      Don't worry, I'm no bible-thumper either, but neither am I a koran-thumper or anything else.

      There are many many more ridiculous things in the world for you to reject... don't blow your whole atheist wad on Christianity. All that anger isn't good for you.

      July 18, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
    • Reality

      Only for the new members of this blog:

      Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

      • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

      • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

      • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

      • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

      • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

      • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

      • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

      • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

      Added details available upon written request.

      A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

      e.g. Taoism

      "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

      Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

      July 18, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
      • herbert jones

        Too much learning has made you "mad." You have complicated the simple gospel of the word of God. It does not take a rocket science; seminary professor, lawyer, or any extra knowledge to understand the gospel in its simplest form, God would not be just, if he required special training in understanding his direction for our lives. In the beginning. God created heaven and earth and everything therein. God, "Jesus Christ," walked the earth, die on Calvary cross for the sin of the world, he arose on the third day, and was seen by many after his death, and he assented to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father, making intercession for me and for all that call upon him, and there is "God" the Holy Spirit, that comfort us, guide and teach us every day. So keep it simple. That why there is so much division is the

        July 18, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
      • herbert jones

        Too much learning has made you "mad." You have complicated the simple gospel of the word of God. It does not take a rocket science; seminary professor, lawyer, or any extra knowledge to understand the gospel in its simplest form, God would not be just, if he required special training in understanding his direction for our lives. In the beginning. God created heaven and earth and everything therein. God, "Jesus Christ," walked the earth, die on Calvary cross for the sin of the world, he arose on the third day, and was seen by many after his death, and he assented to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father, making intercession for me and for all that call upon him, and there is "God" the Holy Spirit, that comfort us, guide and teach us every day. So keep it simple. That why there is so much division is the church.

        July 18, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
      • Reality

        Why would your god allow the following:

        Number of god's creations who died horrible deaths from the following diseases:

        1. 300,000,000 approx.

        2. 200,000,000 ?

        3. 100,000,000 approx.
        Black Death

        4. 80,000,000–250,000,000

        5. 50,000,000–100,000,000
        Spanish Flu

        6. 40,000,000–100,000,000
        Plague of Justinian

        7. 40,000,000–100,000,000

        8. 30,000,000[13]
        AIDS pandemic

        9. 12,000,000 ?
        Third Pandemic of Bubonic Plague

        10. 5,000,000
        Antonine Plague

        11. 4,000,000
        Asian Flu

        12. 250,000 or more annually Seasonal influenza

        July 19, 2013 at 7:45 am |
  8. Just the Facts Ma'am...

    "Today I consider myself an agnostic in the real philosophical sense. The more I learn, the more I recognize the extensiveness of my ignorance." – Chris Silver

    "As for me, all I know is that I know nothing, for when I don't know what justice is, I'll hardly know whether it is a kind of virtue or not, or whether a person who has it is happy or unhappy." – Socrates

    Anyone with a brain who does any kind of serious research eventually reaches this conclusion. Anyone who is too lazy for serious work jumps ahead and is inder the false impression that progress has been made when in fact, the more you actually know the more you understand that you know very little. This means people who actually know a lot don't think they do and people who don't know shlt talk like they were there at Creation. I applaud Christopher for understanding this.

    July 18, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • Reality

      What we do know: (from the fields of astrophysics, biology, biochemistry, archeology, nuclear physics, geology and the history of religion)

      1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame.

      2. Asteroids continue to circle us in the nearby asteroid belt.

      3. One wayward rock and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

      4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

      5. Most contemporary NT exegetes do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.

      6. All stars will eventually extinguish as there is a limit to the amount of hydrogen in the universe. When this happens (100 trillion years?), the universe will go dark. If it does not collapse and recycle, the universe will end.

      7. Super, dormant volcanoes off the coast of Africa and under Yellowstone Park could explode cataclysmically at any time ending life on Earth.

      8. Many of us are part Neanderthal and/or Denisovan.

      Bottom line: our apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE. The universe apocalypse, 100 trillion years?

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

        High five and fist bump on that remark ....

        July 18, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
  9. zbegniew

    A grammatical note to the authors of the study: there is no such word as "orientated." The word you are looking for is "oriented." Similarly, there is no such word as "administrate." The word is "administer."

    To my fellow Church of Christ alumnus, just say it out loud. It gets easier.

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

      Pedants of the world, untie!

      July 18, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • ME II

      Oxford seems to disagree

      July 18, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      The dictionary says you're wrong:
      administrate: to manage or direct (the affairs of a business, institution, etc.)
      orientate: 1. to orient. 2. to turn toward the east.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
    • ME II

      p.s. I think alumnus is singular, so unless there is only one other you might have meant alumni.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • EnoughAlready

      Funny, you can find Orientated in the OED. I'm pretty sure that uts on the Official List Of Real Words

      July 18, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        and here is what is says:

        orientated, adj

        1. Having a definite or specified orientation; = oriented adj.

        July 18, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
  10. Amy

    Nothing more then history repeating itself in a endless cycle of people who think they are the first with a new never thought of bright idea. Atheist were around in biblical time and they around now..Big deal ..yawn..

    July 18, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • lol??

      Yes, but all time is biblical time.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        That's what the bible says – just like it says Adam was formed as part of one day's work and Eve came from Adam's rib (an oversight by the omniscient god) and there was a flood that covered the earth. We know those are incorrect and that the bible is only about 5 millenia old. So another fail for the bible.

        July 18, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
      • Amy

        just saying people act like this is new lol..In reality its so damn retarded we keep going through the same garbage.. just leave each other alone .Unbelievers are all throughout bible just leave em be to themselves

        July 18, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
        • G to the T

          BIG difference between people who don't happen to believe in YOUR god versus the people who don't believe in ANY god.

          July 19, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Eddie

      Why does your god keep making them ? Oh by the way ,most medical advances and cures ,treatments for diseases and vaccines came frrom Atheist Scientists

      July 18, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
      • Amy

        Don't people ever get tired of conflict i know i am. everyone should just go to there corners and shut up..

        July 18, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
  11. YeahItsMe72

    One things is for sure. Whatever random religion you parents drag you to for indoctrination, er I mean assimilation, er I mean for education is clearly the one true religion and all other religions are just foolish.

    July 18, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • John W.


      July 18, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • phrancis

      Live long and may the force be with you...

      July 18, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
  12. Me

    Atheist my whole life!!!

    July 18, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • Fitz

      Same here.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
      • John Roush

        Not Me!

        July 18, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • Eddie

      not until the age of 8 ,then I got smart

      July 18, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
  13. I was just thinking..

    Growing up going to church, in my case the Church of Christ and no not the lader day saints,. We were taught once you doubt the existence of God or Jesus, even if you do not speak it, just think it. You were going to hell. I know most of religion is manmade and meant to manly keep women subservient. But how does one break through that last step and one day proclaim I now no longer believe in God!

    July 18, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • ME II

      I think for many people it is not so much a step, but a realization that they no longer, or often never did, believe.


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

      If all it took was a thought, there would be maybe, what, 2 or 3 people that would be eligible for anything aside from hell.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      It is "Latter Day" as there is no such word as "lader" in english at least. Though from the definition of "2.Belonging to the final stages of something." I think the Mormons only qualify if that something is dementia...

      July 18, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • snowboarder

      I grew up in a religious household and attended parochial school my entire young life, but never felt anything regarding the reality of a god. there just wasn't anything there.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • Dawn Givasheet

      How? You get an education, you acquire critical thinking skills, and usually the pivotal moment is when you get angry... that you were lied to by self-serving holier-than-thou used car salesman equivalents who sold you a lemon.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
  14. Jesus

    Keep praying to me sheep, keep watching your televisions, keep stuffing your bloated bodies with soda and skittles...you are much easier to control when you can't think 🙂 Don't worry, I'll be back soon -wink wink-

    July 18, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      Don't forget to remind them to make a few extra holes in their bible belt, it's getting so tight I thought I saw some Red States turning Blue...

      July 18, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  15. John Harshbarger

    Just to clear up things that will be brought up here. An agnostic, when used it the way most mean it, is an atheist. Agnostic/Gnostic refers to knowledge while Atheism/Theism refers to to belief. If you hold a belief that a god exists you are a theist. Any thing else is an atheist. Same with Gnosticism, if you KNOW a god exists then you are Gnostic, anything else is Agnostic. If people were honest with themselves then everyone would be Agnostic as you can't know if a god exists as it's never been proven.

    July 18, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • David Palmer

      When we talk about atheists, I think we generally understand that to mean people who don't like religious concepts and would refuse to accept the existence of a god no matter how strong or conclusive the evidence presented.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        No, we don't.

        July 18, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        So present some conclusive evidence. If there were evidence we'd all believe and in the same god. Clinging to delusion may be comfortable but the evidence is against you.

        July 18, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
        • David Palmer

          I don't think we all would. If there were proof of a god I think there would be plenty of people who would refuse to bow down and accept a higher power.

          July 18, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          OK so we don't know for sure, but in the hypothetical case of an actual god that could demonstrate all its abilities I doubt that anyone could argue or even survive if the god were as vindictive as the OT god.

          July 18, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
      • YeahItsMe72

        I think most of us Atheists would be open to evidence suggesting that organized Religion had the slightest shred of evidence that it was in any way shape or form based on actual knowledge of divine information. Alas time and time again evidence that is presented fails to meet any reasonable standard of logic or science. The facts unfortunately point to organized Religion being a complete and utter fraud.

        July 18, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
      • No one

        You have it backwards.
        "if all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate." -Kurt Wise, Geologist

        If there were evidence to prove god besides 'miracles' and self proclaiming books, I'm sure many would be happy to ask for his divine powers to help say the 23 Indian children from not being poisoned.
        Whereas theists are literally saying, even with evidence presented to them, they will not become unbelievers.

        If you really want a fun example, what would a Christian/Catholic/whatever they call themselves, think if it was proven for certain that Allah was the actual one true god?

        July 18, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
        • robert grant


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

        Wow. This is an absolutely ridiculous characterization of what it means to be an atheist. Atheism is the lack of belief in a diety. Atheists simply believe there is insufficient data to make it reasonable to believe in a diety. They are not absolutely closed to evidence. Ignoring evidence and data tends to be the province of the religious, actually. If you really had conclusive evidence of the existence of a diety, most atheists would change their minds. But you don't have any.

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

        @david, I don't think that is true at all. most atheists I know simply recognize that man has invented innumerable gods over the course of history and that the christian doctrine is entirely too absurd to be real.

        July 18, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
      • W A Roark

        Not even close.

        July 18, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I fully agree with John H's definitions.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • tony

      If a fully fledged god lands on earth, and demonstrates his/its powers, but doesn't look at all like the biblical god. . .

      then current atheists will probably accept true evidence and believ en masse. (whether they liked the idea or not). But I doubt the religious will believe it, because evidence is so unacceptable to the religious minded. . .

      July 18, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
      • snowboarder

        a society of sufficiently advanced technology would appear as gods. I doubt there would be a way to convince the world en mass of the divinity of any being in this age.

        July 18, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • tony

      What's worrisome is that strong believers seem to be more aligned with the crowd that supports the "gun carrying freedoms" pushed hard by the likes of the NRA.
      Which makes the future possibility of believers "standing their ground" is valid when ldefending a religious argument far more likely. As the Taliban now does so frequently.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
  16. popseal

    Professing themselves to be wise.....they became fools! The fool says in his heart, there is no God. He that sits in the Heavens shall laugh when their catastrophe comes upon them. Sudden destruction will come upon them and that without remedy.

    July 18, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • ME II

      "... anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell." (Matt 5:22)

      July 18, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      cedar rapids says that only a fool doesnt believe cedar rapids is a god.

      ...see how easy that is to make such claims that those that disagree with you are wrong?

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

      And so goes your belief system.

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

      Oh, my! I'm shaking in my boots! Shaking because I'm laughing my ass off!

      July 18, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • steve

      that sounds as insane as these extremist Muslims. If god loves all his children and gave us all the power of free will then when I die, if he is real, he should understand my lack of belief and forgive me for my "sins" and let me in anyway right? SWEET DEAL

      July 18, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • ionymous

      I go to church every Sunday but more and more I'm starting to question. It seems people can't believe in God without getting all extreme about it. And it seems so much hatred stems from religion. It's starting to scare me and I'm wondering if I want to be a part of it.

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

      I heard a rumor that god purposely made some people to do nothing but question stuff. MIND=BLOWN

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

      Hi popseal, after better part of my life teaching children of christians that their faith was reasonable and worthy of all they had to offer in time, devotion, etc; I actually stopped and listened to what others had to say in regards to science, philosophy, religion, the bible, etc. Furthermore, I reflected on my own born-again experience as a young teen. I am now much more secure in my agnostic position then I ever was as a christian. Furthermore, I am able to recognize that my "relationship" was an entirely one sided affair. Very sad in a way but I am thankful all the same to be "out" of one of the few world sanctioned religions. I hope the same for you.

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

      Um, no it won't. That's just fear-mongering. That may have worked a couple thousand years ago with uninformed, unintelligent peasants, but it doesn't fly in today's society. Today, the fool says in his heart there IS a god.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • halbermunken

      "And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."
      Matthew 5:22 from the "good" book.

      July 21, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
  17. Bummby

    Why am I starting to get the feeling from CNN that Atheists are very soon going to overtake Jehovah's Witnesses as the most annoying group in America?

    July 18, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • No one

      Don't worry, you won't be woken at 10am on the weekends for us to spread the work of science, well unless you live near a launchpad or something.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
      • Bummby

        I didn't think that enthusiasm about science was a requirement to be an Atheist, only a non belief.
        Are we to assume that all Atheists are science lovers?
        I thought that assumptions kind of went against speaking "truth."

        July 18, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          Are we to assume that all Atheists are science lovers?


          What assumptions are you speaking of?

          July 18, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
        • No one

          You don't have to, though it helps, unlike preaching a fairy tale, if you ask for proof, if they have the tools to replicate experiments you can enjoy the show.
          To debunk intelligent design for instance, look up Richard Dawkins and some colleagues dissecting a giraffe.

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

          um . . . . the assumption that all Atheist love science. The one you just repeated.

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

          And are you saying that it's okay to make assumptions because it's helpful sometimes?
          Especially when it comes to seeking truth? I never thought so, then again, I'm not an Atheist.
          I don't make assumptions about people. Not even Atheists, like Atheists and Theists seem to love
          to about each other. But when confronted with that statement, often times the people that hit the reply button
          will often state that they never do that, and then give some line about their tolerance.

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

          Course that sounds like an assumption too. But I'm just making an observation about the statements already here.

          July 18, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


          what do you refer to when you use the word "truth".

          That word is the domain of philosophers. After millenia of thinking about it, they still haven't got it sorted out.

          July 18, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
        • No one

          As far as 'loving' science, that can be a choice, I for instance hate chemistry, confusing beyond my imagination, but I don't doubt its facts. If they do not want evidence, then sure zealots do not have to be shown such evidence, but if they keep asking for such things as the missing links or proof they have to take 5 minutes to reflect on what they are asking for yet refusing to be given.

          July 18, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
    • ram

      Interesting since I never had any agnostics or atheists show up at my door lying about their intentions and trying to trick and shame me into going to their church. Now THAT is annoying and intrusive. Some people are just annoying no matter what they believe.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
      • lol??

        Red states, blue states, Crips and the Bloods, Boy Scouts, Gay Scouts

        Stay away from my door longhair!!

        July 18, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
      • John Roush

        I have

        July 18, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
        • Jake

          I call BS.

          July 18, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • sam stone

      they got a long way to go to catch up with evangelicals

      July 18, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • halbermunken

      You hear from us more on the net because we receive a lot less of those silly death threats that God's various chosen people so lovingly share with us. Internet is where religion goes to die.

      July 21, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  18. Agnostic about everything

    I just wanted to point out to everyone that now that I started to read about atheism I realized I take the existence of beryllium on faith. It's not the only element on the periodic table I think is there just because someone said it is. I can not prove it is there, I have had no personal experience with beryllium. I have a lot more reason to believe in God than I do in beryllium. The only reason I know silver and copper exist is because I have seen them. I also believe it is oxygen I am breathing because someone told me that it was and I believed them. There really is no end to what we take on faith.

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

      Well there you go. All the names of the elements were invented by man.

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

        Adam, the little redster, was a namer, too.

        July 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
      • lol??

        I don't know exactly when he morphed into a cla*ssifier. It most likely was when Eve got done with him.

        July 18, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
        • Jen

          Are you a bot?

          July 18, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • No one

      Do you believe on faith that your wireless devices work just because people say so?
      Though the average Joe doesn't have access to a particle accelerator to create such elements, the basics of science are, if you do happen to have the same equipment and such to work with, you'll be able to replicate the results.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I also believe it is oxygen I am breathing because someone told me that it was and I believed them.

      Your dependence on oxygen is pretty easy to prove. Ask us how.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
    • ME II

      @Agnostic about everything,
      "I can not prove it is there."

      Sure you can. You just haven't gone through the necessary procedures. Just because you haven't personally seen the evidence does not mean that the evidence does not exist.

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

      Aren't things like dark matter and dark energy based on faith until evidence is found?

      July 18, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
      • Athy


        July 18, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
      • ME II

        I don't think it's conclusiive, but here:

        July 18, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
      • Cpt. Obvious

        Not exactly. We can and do measure the forces that we name "dark matter" and "dark energy." We don't know anything about those forces, so we say that they are "dark" but we do measure their effects and can make predictions about matter and energy based on those measurements. God is so invisible and undetectable that there's nothing to measure.

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

        We have found evidence of something doesn't show up on current instruments that is apparently causing a gravitational effect. It's called "dark matter" until we find out enough to know what it is with more certaint.

        It's analogous to birds (unfortunately) flying into very clean glass windows. The glass is something they don't see, but they can tell, if they survive, that they just hit something hard that they didn't realize was there before

        July 18, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
        • lol??

          If they see their own reflection, they'll keep rammin' it. What you see doesn't necessarily change your belief.

          July 18, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • tony

      Beryllium copper alloy is used to make tiny springs. Faith has nothing to doing with accepting knowledge, if you can find reliably qualified witnessed records and proofs, or qualified, living people that have done the work.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • sharoom

      Perhaps, but the thing with beryllium is you could venture out of your house and find some beryllium in, for example, a chemistry lab. Or you could even try and mine for it in the dirt outside. The point is you don't HAVE to take it on faith. You can test that faith and find out if you can physically hold some beryllium in your hand. I'm not sure you can say the same thing for God though.

      July 18, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • Maani

      You make a good point. There are dozens of ways that ALL of us – believers and atheists alike – take things "on faith" during any given day. Atheists might call it "trusting" or "acting or not acting based on observation and experience," but some things are nevertheless taken "on faith."

      As for the comments re science in response to your post, some are correct, some are not. For example, some astrophysical things are, indeed, knowable directly. However, some are not. Quasars, pulsars, black holes and many other astrophysical things are only known because we can observe their EFFECTS; but we can only THEORIZE their existence; i.e., not even Stephen Hawking has "seen" a black hole; he has simply seen the effects of what is "theorized" to be a black hole. Likewise, it is obvious that no scientist (indeed, no human being) can "know" that there was a "Big Bang" that created the universe as we perceive it. Rather, scientists can only HYPOTHESIZE the "Big Bang" from a combination of things that ARE directly observable and some that are not.

      A "theory" is a supposition or hypothesis supported by evidence. The more (reproducible) evidence there is to support a theory, the more likely the theory is to be correct. But as you note, we cannot know whether we have all the evidence we need to support or reject a given theory.

      Re the existence of God, Carl Sagan said, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof." However, as someone else noted here, he is also said, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."


      July 18, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
      • Dudeman

        Virtual thumbs up.

        July 18, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
      • G to the T

        Faith – is belief without evidence. VERY different from believing in something that's been verified independantly mulitple times. That's not "faith" as used in religious sense.

        It's not "faith" that I use when I sit in chair. I've seen other chairs, they tend to support people that sit in them. I don't need "faith" that the sun will rise when it does it every day. I don't need faith in the periodic table because multiple people can do the same experiment and will come up with the same answer.

        July 19, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
        • Maani

          Not quite. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." This is not the same things as believing without evidence. And for those who believe, we have enough evidence to convince us that there is an "unseen" God. But that evidence is simply not "apparent" to all. You are free to reject that, but that is what faith is.

          July 20, 2013 at 12:31 am |
  19. Vic

    I find it very interesting that Coleman identifies himself as secular humanist, which is not one of the six categories!

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

      Vic, that is an excellent point.

      July 18, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
  20. kyzaadrao

    So the same type of questionnaire that was popular in Vogue is popular with atheists too. Who knew?

    July 18, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • lol??

      Flavor la Femme?? Say it isn't so!!

      July 18, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
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About this blog

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