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. Hungry Hungry Hippos

    I don't have a belly button. Someone stole it. Now, there's a rabbit there.

    July 18, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
  2. edmundburkeson

    You might even call it a religious awakening – a religion of the irreligious. An ultimate reality of the material race!

    July 18, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
    • lol??

      Hasn't there been a material girl slinkin' around for a while??

      July 18, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
  3. Paul

    Atheists have always tried to portray an image that they are one. That they are not as "splintered" as they imagine Christianity to be, and that reasoning, they believe, is proof that their belief is more cohesive and stronger. This study shows that they are as varied as Christianity is. Very few would agree on the same definition of what an atheist actually is. LOL!

    July 18, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
    • Neo Atheist

      Yeah, which means that we actually think for ourselves and not follow blindly in some mythical figure.

      July 18, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      I've never tried to portray atheists as 'one' and any atheist that does is a turd sandwich.

      July 18, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
    • No one

      I don't think anyone ever said they are one, unlike the bible or quran or whatever other scriptures no one has to believe in one absolute word of anyone else.
      Almost worse than fanatics are apologist religious who literally say, they don't take the word of their books literally but pick and choose bits of it just because. When they are considered as bad as people that picket soldier's funerals they cry like babies. Really we should quote their own words at them, the picketers are actually more correct in following their religion(wrong morally, but following their beliefs sure), though they haven't yet gone to the absolute of stoning people to death.

      July 18, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
    • Lance

      Wow, what are you talking about? I've always heard that getting atheists to organize and agree amongst themselves is like trying to herd cats. Atheists tend to be too independent in their thinking and unwilling to trust authority.

      July 18, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
    • Really

      Its probably more accurate that atheists realize a bunch of people believing the same idea doesn't give the idea any greater credibility. Which is part of the reason why they don't accept religion...

      July 18, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
    • Mike

      "This study shows that they are as varied as Christianity is."

      This statement will be worth considering when there are 10,000+ officially defined denominations of atheist.

      July 18, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • jimmy

      You've simply created a strawman "atheist" to be a simplistic target for your condescending ridicule. Your characterization doesn't say anything about the relative validity of atheism or religious belief.

      July 18, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
  4. lionlylamb2013

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

    Yes, 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 10:20 pm |
    • Neo Atheist

      YEah, and damn and condemn all others who don't believe in your God. Kill those who don't worship Jesus. Force others to believe in what you do because you are right and have the moral imperative given to you by your worthless God. Yeah, that's the only way people like will ever have peace and prosperity is by forcing it onto others. Nice God there.

      July 18, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
      • Neo Atheist

        Now it will be just a matter of time before you post some stupid bible quote and convince me of absolutely nothing.

        July 18, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
        • lionlylamb2013

          N.A. It seems to me that you need to have a way to be disgustingly anecdotal in your written words... I would want to see you seeking a behavioral health care specialist before your rants and raves overpower your abilities to be soundly reasonable. Please seek help before your profuse dementia over powers you. 🙁

          July 18, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
        • herbert jones

          The day will come when you wished you had entertained what I am preaching, then it will be too late: when you reach the other side. Its all up to you ,You can only receive this message on this side.

          July 18, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
        • Johnny

          Herbert, that is not what the Mormons tell me.

          July 19, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
      • lionlylamb2013


        Did I say anything of worth regarding your condemning connotations? I said nothing of the sorts. You seem to have a lot of angered anguish in your words... Why?

        July 18, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
        • Johnny

          I doubt anybody knows what you said at all. Why not right in a way that someone other than yourself will know what you wrote? Or are you just trying to look smart by using as many big words as you can come up with?

          July 19, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
        • Johnny

          write not right.

          July 19, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • Dan

      Do you realize how silly you sound?

      July 18, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
  5. Hugo Stiglitz

    Type 7: Atheist/Hater

    July 18, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      Elaborate please.

      July 18, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
      • Hugo Stiglitz

        Sorry, I meant.

        Type 7 – Hater/Atheist

        July 18, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

        That's not an elaboration. I'm going to assume you're a troll from now unless you genuinely elaborate.

        July 18, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
        • Hugo Stiglitz

          You must be a fool or void of imagination if you need one ounce of elaboration beyond what has been presented to you thus far.

          Well? C'mon......which is it? 🙂

          July 18, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

          OK troll, you'll have no more responses from me. Enjoy your life, I hope you mature someday.

          July 18, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
  6. Neo Atheist

    To me, I believe that nature and the universe is a very cold and uncaring place. Hurricanes don't care what god you worship, an asteroid doesn't care if you go to church every sunday. A volcano doesn't care that you did good deeds in life. The universe was here billions of years before mankind appeared and will be here billions of years after we are long extinct and forgotten by the cosmos. We as a race don't matter. Every single one of us knows this on same base level and we develop religion and spirituality to comfort our fears of this truth and to give our lives meaning. In reality we don't matter.

    July 18, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
    • Hugo Stiglitz

      So you're saying your glass is have empty. 🙂

      July 18, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      You're right apart from the don't matter bit. If we ever reach the singularity ( hypothetical, I know, but some futurists consider it a possibility), humanity could matter an awful lot to the universe.

      July 18, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
      • lol??

        Oh, ooooohhh. Are you speaking code for a savior of the universe??

        July 18, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
    • lol??

      Your dark matter overtook the light matter.

      July 18, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
    • Neo Atheist

      I don't forsee that as ever happening. We have a hard enough time getting along with ourselves let alone achieve something greater than what we are. We are a very petty spiteful race prone to fits of anger, this will be our downfall. We can do great things if we put our minds to it, but we will never do so. Just read the comments of others here and other places. The hate, the bickering, name calling accusations. No, we will never live up to our potential because our base instincts take over and we react to with violence to things we don't like or are afraid of.

      July 18, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

        I don't think our inability to get along would inhibit our progress towards the singularity. If there's one thing in human nature that's on par with our ability to hate, it's our inquisitive nature. Who knows though? We'll almost certainly be dead when/if the technological singularity occurs.

        July 18, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
    • Neo Atheist

      Then what would we do to the universe if it should suddenly be open to us? We cant take care of our own planet let alone the rest of the universe. We would spread across the cosmos like a disease, pillaging and plundering other worlds and star systems. Spreading our beliefs across the stars and warring with other races out there because they don't believe in the same Gods that we do. Or we feel superior to others so all those who are not human must be eradicated. Yeah, we would matter to the universe because we are a threat and a threat that will need to be destroyed.

      July 18, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

        If the singularity were to occur, the machines would likely eradicate the superst.itious aspects of humanity.

        July 18, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
        • Neo Atheist

          And then what? What about emotion? Those things that make us human? We would just become cold and uncaring as the rest of the universe and go about taking what we need to perpetuate our race. We would be the foot coming down on an ant hill of other races. Don't care that they are there but their planet has the raw materials we need so we will take them. If they bite we just eradicate them.

          July 18, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

          Once we get past the singularity, natural resources will become irrelevant. Humanity will likely exist as a single technological enti.ty, and other intelligent species would likely become part of this ent.ity. You're right about emotions though, the 'humanity' in humanity would likely cease to exist.

          July 18, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
      • Hugo Stiglitz

        In all seriousness, if that is how you feel, then why do you go choose on living?

        I mean....if nothing REALLY matters.

        Yet you choose to LIVE.......I'm sure for many good reasons.....but reasons that apparently don't matter?

        No insult intended but you really just sound like a Neo-pessimist.

        July 18, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
        • Selective Atheist

          The reality is that in the big picture nothing really matters. While reality can be depressing, acceptance of reality can give peace and give you a reason to live – enjoy life but not at the cost to others. For most people reality is a bitter pill to swallow. That is one of the reasons why we have religion – it creates an illusion that we matter. A common theme across most religions is "be good, do good" but without a God with carrot (heaven) or stick (hell), we are prone to ignore that. Of course, that creates the side effect of "absolutism" in some of the followers of religion. But, overall for most people religion has a positive effect though I personally do not feel the need for "God" or religion. Seems to me that Neo Atheist has given considerable thought to this. Kudos!

          July 19, 2013 at 12:00 am |
      • Hugo Stiglitz

        I think you've seen AVATAR a few too many time.

        There is plenty of Unobtainium for everyone!!

        July 18, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
    • Selective Atheist

      Well put!!!

      July 18, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
  7. jimmy

    I wish there was a god to save us from its followers.

    July 18, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
  8. NorthVanCan

    I believed in Santa long after I gave up on God. Probably cuz Santa gave me stuff.

    July 18, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
  9. Timothy Paul Wilson

    "The words I have spoken to you-they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe."

    "Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, "I am God's Son? DO NOT BELIEVE ME UNLESS I DO THE WORKS OF MY FATHER."



    July 18, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • NorthVanCan

      Read history and be free from religious dogma.

      July 18, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      The foundational parts of the bible have been proven to be incorrect. There is very little in the bible that has been proven to be correct. Why trust a book of ancient superstitions?

      July 18, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Part of a typically strange exchange between people who believed that they believed in the same God of Israel. The bible is a ripping good read.

      July 18, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
      • Mike

        "The bible is a ripping good read."

        You should do stand-up, because that's hilarious.

        July 18, 2013 at 10:40 pm |
    • D'oh

      You would be surprised that most Atheists HAVE read the Bible and often know it better than many professed religious people. Just because it's written in a book, doesn't make it true.

      July 18, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      I read The Bible. I didn't so much like the latter part of the book which is more like all preachy talking, than fighting and the old in-out. I liked the parts where these old yahoodies tolchock each other and then drink their Hebrew vino and, then getting on to the bed with their wives' handmaidens. That kept me going.

      July 18, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
      • bostontola

        I liked the parts with the old in-out in-out.

        July 18, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

          Who doesn't?

          July 18, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
        • bostontola

          You may not if you were put through the Ludovico Technique.

          July 18, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

          Duly noted, I better avoid authoritarian behavioral correction techniques.

          July 18, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • lionlylamb2013

      "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and the Words were with God"! Therefore ye who continues on reading and writing and learns many more words, the more the Gods' words will be with you...

      July 18, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
      • faith

        "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and the Words were with God"!

        big deal. lil hanji schwartz first wrote that down on 65th st b4 mass transit destroyed the old neighborhood

        July 18, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
      • faith

        "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and the Words were with God"!

        big deal. lil hanki schwartz first wrote that down on 65th st b4 mass transit destroyed the old neighborhood

        July 18, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
    • jimmy

      You should study the various methods of establishing belief, and then you might understand why reading the Bible is not sufficient to satisfy the needs of everyone in their search for truth.

      July 18, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
  10. Always wondered

    What do atheists think of the softer things like qualia, imagination, and creative thought as they relate to the word "exists".

    July 18, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      It's a good question and encompasses the source of concepts like an appreciation for art, music, nature or even a sunny day, and the notion of sentience itself.

      I don't know how these concepts materialize in the brain, nevertheless they are there. I also think it's highly probable that most mammals are self-aware. (I think most people who have had pets would agree.)

      To say that they are manifestations of the soul is a slap-dash philosophical short-cut that is equivalent to "God did it" as the answer to the existence of the universe.

      July 18, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      I wouldn't call those things softer, if anything, these things are the hard problems of consciousness. To be honest, I couldn't fathom how those things come about. I know Dennett and Harris have tried to explain qualia and consciousness but I never found their explanations convincing.

      July 18, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • jimmy

      Why would you separate out those specific facets of consciousness with respect to atheists? Consciousness, and all its aspects, just like the limbs and organs of our bodies, exist because they serve a useful evolutionary purpose.

      July 18, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • lol??

      Give em enuff time and new myths are born.

      When: year 3525
      Where:ruins of the continent Sizzled, east coast
      Who:archaeologists from planet Gotaway
      What:old photograph of Fearless Leader Clinton, called first black President
      Expedition results:primitive peoples lost capacity of sight, possible lead in eating utensils TBD

      July 18, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
  11. Terry

    Laughable...people go through such lengths to prove who they are not and often it is years before they actually discover what they believe. Many may claim to be whatever and in the end change their minds and try to cover all bases. If you believe fine if you do not its your choice just don't force your beliefs on me in either case.

    July 18, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      Who's forcing anything here?

      July 18, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
      • Forcing the issues

        You're right. For the moment all is quiet. We shall see how long that lasts.

        July 18, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

          How long what lasts?

          July 18, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
        • lol??

          He who laughs last lasted last.

          July 18, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
  12. Julie

    It turns out, much to everyone's surprise, that different people have different personalities, and express their beliefs, or lack thereof, in different ways. Shocker!

    July 18, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
    • lol??

      They mixed up the images.

      July 18, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
  13. Selective Atheist

    I do not believe in "a God" but I do believe that we are not in control and that nature (call it God if you will) is all powerful. I do also believe that the idea of "an all powerful God" helps people accept our limited abilities to control our destiny which is correlated to the genes we are born with and the lessons we learn early in our childhood (though there may be exceptions). Further, while I am non-religious, I do think that religion does more good than bad. There are many negative side effects of religion but it also provides order (preventing chaos that will otherwise occur due to human nature), helps people deal with grief and have peace of mind.

    July 18, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      What you are describing sounds a bit like 'deism' to me – though not quite. Deism usually refers to a higher power / ent!ty external to the universe, and not an anthropomorphic God.

      July 18, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
      • Selective Atheist

        Deism would imply belief in a deity or higher power. Not so in my case – rather it is simply acceptance of our limited abilities. We are all puny before the forces of nature. We can take credit for our success but luck has such a large role to play in where we end up in life – where we are born and the opportunities that are presented to us are out of our control. And the ones we take or not take are substantially determined by our genetic make up and how we are brought up. Not to mention adverse events such as earthquake or disease. Growing up I was an "intellectual atheist" who believed that I controlled my destiny. However, I have evolved over time.

        July 18, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • Cherilyn B

      We do not need religion to prevent chaos. Our mode of government provides civil law and, if need be , martial law. I do agree that weak people need crutches. For some, it is religion.

      July 18, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
      • Selective Atheist

        With all due respect, I disagree. You might consider them weak, but religion does provide a moral compass for a vast majority of people. Some people can be moral without religion but laws, which have also mostly originated from religion, alone by themselves can only go so far.

        July 18, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
        • Mike

          Find me one person who gets their morals from religion, and doesn't just craft their religion to fit their morals.

          July 18, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
  14. Henry

    How can you even ask this question when it is not fully defined exactly what a "believer" is ? There are so many beliefs......"Believers" are not limited to an old man with a beard who lives in the sky.......

    July 18, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
    • lol??

      Yeah, Lucy can be a S*L*U*T* at times.

      July 18, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
  15. erin

    I wondered why their results showed that the group of people who don't believe, but don't feel the need to question other people's beliefs as the "smallest" group. It seemed to me that that should be the largest group. I know a lot of atheists, and the only ones who are actually anti-religion are those that were raised in highly religious families or communities. most are very laid-back about the whole thing. Then I see that "participants were recruited through nonbelief communities across the country." Well, there you go.

    July 18, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      Actually, I completely overlooked the fact about where participants come from. Most atheists don't really give two hoots about belonging to an atheist community, so you really are only getting responses from a specific type of atheist.

      July 18, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      This is because the non-theist group doesn't care to be involved in discussion of religion.

      People who were surveyed were 'known' to be non-believers. They had to want to get involved in the process. This naturally excludes a large number of non-theists who don't care.

      Had the survey been conducted differently, by an organization like Gallup, Pew or the PRRI, I think you would see this number was much larger.

      July 18, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
      • kikucat

        I am of the Just don't care category. I don't believe in God but don't care if you want to. Just as long as you don't try to force your beliefs on me. I don't go out of my way to admit I'm an atheist but am willing to defend my non-belief if necessary. Being told I'm going to burn in hell for my non-belief isn't going to change my mind. It will only amuse me 🙂

        July 18, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • Mike

      You're at least partially right on that, Erin; the other type of militant, in-your-face atheists that I've come across is the type that is egotistical and narcissistic, those with more general mommy-daddy-society type issues, or I'm a rebel ones. I'm by no means religious myself – I just don't see the need to tell others they are wrong. Truth be told, I've no way to know if I'm right and nor do they. Most have not actually studied the scientific evidence beyond a basic intro class. It's fine if they don't believe – it's more when they use that belief as a surrogate for their own need to feel superior that annoys me. It's intellectually dishonest to say "you know" if for no other reason than the universe is vast, science is complex and the understanding of even the most learned professor tends to be focused on a narrow specialty by necessity; there is no way to study everything in depth. Hence why, though I'm not religious, I hold out the possibility that I might be wrong.

      July 18, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

        We can say we know though in terms of Abrahamic monotheism.

        July 18, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
  16. lee

    I already knew that I didn't like KATHY Griffin now I know why.

    July 18, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  17. Mopery

    When a child believes in Santa Claus, it is innocence. When a forty year-old man believes in Santa Claus, it is ignorance.

    July 18, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
    • lol??

      When Mopery is STILL talkin' 'bout Santa it is insanity, unless of course, you are talkin' 'bout the Big O.

      Fill yer stockings with WAIVERS!

      July 18, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
      • Mopery

        You try too hard, fail troll.

        July 19, 2013 at 2:38 am |
  18. Birdyboyz

    I'd like to thank God for making me an atheist!!

    July 18, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
  19. Devout Atheist

    The fact that the two individuals who made the list themselves aren't atheist or even agnostic kind of ruins the credibility of the poll for me. When you ask one group of people to compile a list regarding another group of people, stereotypes and wild inaccuracies ensue.

    July 18, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "The fact that the two individuals who made the list themselves aren't atheist or even agnostic"

      Did you read the following?

      Today I consider myself an agnostic in the real philosophical sense

      I will grant you that I found the idea of going to the trouble of defining 6 categories of non-believer and then declaring "I prefer to identify as a secular humanist." (essentially, none of the above) to be ironic at best.

      July 18, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
      • D'oh


        July 18, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  20. just another atheist

    keep talking and coming out of the closet fellow atheists. One day we will all remember when this change to our culture started.

    July 18, 2013 at 8:25 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      Well I'm still looking forward to when a politician can openly say they are an atheist and win an election. It took a long time for gays but we are moving forward.

      July 18, 2013 at 8:33 pm |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

        Go to Europe, there are thousands of them.

        July 18, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
        • Jeff

          Doesn't really help us here; we're not Europe.

          July 18, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

          I'm just saying, it's not like that everywhere. In fact, it's almost the opposite in Europe. Although religious politicians often get elected, they tend to play down their religiosity. It's the opposite here, where politicians over-emphasize their religious beliefs and affiliation to get elected.

          July 18, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
        • jazzguitarman

          I go to Europe very often since my wife is from there (my other post might of implied I was gay), but even Europe isn't as progressive on social issues as I would want. Look at the protest in France about SSM. Still the world is generally moving forward.

          July 18, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

          Might've (sorry for being pedantic).

          I never thought you were gay. Also, I don't see how atheism relates to social issues.

          July 18, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
      • R.M. Goodswell

        might be waiting awhile on that Jazz. The politicians need to know you can and will ahh 'modify' the truth as necessary.
        If you can proclaim yourself on national TV a Christian, they know you can be 'trusted' to play the game.

        An atheist was yet to demonstrate he is willing to lie....Honesty is inconvenient in Washington.......so many backroom deals, self serving deals..

        July 18, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

          I imagine there are many atheists lying in Congress.

          July 18, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
        • R.M. Goodswell

          Yes...they re called Christians... sorry couldn't resist.

          I was unclear..sorry...

          meant : If you are an atheist, the establishment has to wait for you to gain office to see your true nature. And there are no atheists in congress..at least that are open about it...

          July 18, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
        • R.M. Goodswell

          there are 6 unspecified at the current time.... there is a reason for that....

          July 18, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

          That's what I meant by atheists lying in Congress. I imagine there could be anywhere up to 100 Congressmen/women who claim belief in a deity just to get elected.

          July 18, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
        • R.M. Goodswell

          Agreed......I view politicians in the same light as clergy.....lies and deception are their stock and trade.

          July 18, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
      • Vic

        The reason jazzguitarman is what atheists seem to ignore, which I believe is the human factor. Most people find atheism and ssm unnatural regardless of religious convictions or lack thereof. Societies can find ways to accommodate for them but that does not necessarily mean personal acceptance.

        July 18, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
        • sam stone

          vic: you are free to accept or reject whom you wish. it is your right. what is NOT your right is denying others equal rights because they do what you feel is yucky

          July 18, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • eric

      It been happening for a while, the love of the greater number is cooling. God is taking note, the sheep and the goats are being separated and the line has been drawn. Make your choice, you have free will. But I urge you to seek the truth, don't seek your own liking and understanding...the truth is out there if you truly want to find it, your heart has to bbe ripe. Pray to god, pray for the truth to knock....and then do NOT ignore it.

      July 18, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
      • jazzguitarman

        Eric; What I see from your post is someone that is full of self-delusion. I don’t need to know this so called ‘truth’. i.e. I’m ok waiting until I die to find out if there is something beyond this life or not. I happy living this life, loving my fellow man and doing what I can to help others.

        July 18, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

        If god created you knowing exactly what you would do in life, there's no free will. That's the ultimate determinism.

        July 18, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
        • Vic

          Not exactly. God knows exactly what you will do in life because He is omniscient but He does not predestine you to what you will do, so free will is well preserved!

          July 18, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

          That literally makes no sense. If I build a robot and program it to kill humans, should it be held accountable for killing humans or should I?

          July 18, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
        • Gnope

          Nope, Vic. Omniscience as you describe it precisely does eliminate free will, particularly in regard to having a choice of actions that might please or displease a deity. Do try again, though. Deeper thinking might stop you from being such a botherer here and from making such a stupid ass of yourself.

          July 18, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
        • sam stone

          sorry logic is so hard on you vic. if god is omniscient, it means what you do IS predetermined.

          July 18, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
        • Maani

          I'm sorry Dave, Gnope and Sam:

          Actually, both philosophically and theologically, Vic is correct. This is because my "doing" something and God "knowing" I'm going to do it are ontologically different things. My ACTIONS are not "predetermined" simply because a second party knows in advance that I will do them. The second party is not "making" me take those actions, they are merely AWARE that the actions will be taken. In the case of God, this is even more so. Let's say I am holding an apple. Among my choices are to drop it or eat it. I – and only I – make the "choice" of which to do. The fact that God "knows" which choice I am going to make does not DETERMINE my choice.

          You may want to bone up on your ontology here.

          July 18, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Regardless of if the individual choses or he simply followed the path he always was going to follow, the future is predetermined if god knows what will occur.

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

          Vic you can only have free will if you can make a choice that god was unaware of. What you have described is the illusion of free will.

          July 19, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
        • Johnny

          Also what of these verses from the bible which seem to suggest that we don't have free will?

          Rom 8:21-30 " For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified."

          Rom 9:15-16 " For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”[a] 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy."

          Rom 9:21 "Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?"

          Rom 9:11-13 "(for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her,“The older shall serve the younger.”[a] 13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”

          July 19, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
        • Maani

          Capt. and Johnny:

          You continue to make the same error. If there is a God, then THE ENTIRE CREATION, FROM BEGINNING TO END could be said to be "predetermined," since He is omniscient. But it would ONLY be "predetermined" to HIM; it would still be "free will" to US. In fact, though, it is not technically "predetermined" at all, because God knows not only what choice we will make in a given moment, but also EVERY POSSIBLE CHOICE we COULD make in that moment. Thus, He is not "predetermining" a given choice, but is simply aware of every possible choice in every possible situation; WE decide WHICH choice to make.


          July 20, 2013 at 12:39 am |
    • lol??

      just another false prophet.

      July 18, 2013 at 9:49 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.