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. kerfluffle

    Consider this as a rhetorical comment, if you'd like. I am a self-described atheist, and generally care little about the beliefs of others, until they threaten to infringe upon my reality. I did not reach or develop my conclusions and philosophies lightly, and prefer to respect the paths of others.

    That said, I do not suffer fools gladly, and will occasionally find pleasure in griefing those outspoken sufferers of CPC–Christian Persecution Complex.

    July 19, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • Closet Atheist

      Well said, kerfluffle (i just wanted to type that)...

      I find that a lot of atheists have a very "libertarian" view of religion (not necessarily in a literal politcal sense). Don't tell me what to believe and I will not tell you what to believe. However, religious groups keep trying to push their doctrines into our lives through laws, public policies, etc.

      That's the main reason many of us get so ticked off and come across as "angry" or "negative" or "militant"....

      July 19, 2013 at 9:52 am |
  2. jeffro b kirkus

    Religion is the biggest scam in the history of humanity.

    July 19, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • Don

      Atheism is a religion

      July 19, 2013 at 8:45 am |
      • ElmerGantry

        Yeeeah, Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby. LOL

        July 19, 2013 at 8:49 am |
      • JJ

        Not collecting stamps is a hobby.

        July 19, 2013 at 8:50 am |
        • ElmerGantry

          Didn't get the analogy?
          1) Atheism is a religion (false) like 2) not collecting stamps is a hobby (false)

          July 19, 2013 at 8:54 am |
      • Daniel

        You clearly have no idea what a religion is....I suggest you do some research before spouting non-sense.

        July 19, 2013 at 8:52 am |
        • Don

          LOL.... That is very funny coming from an Atheist. You would call what I believe a religion, I would call it a relationship. But that isn't the point.

          To believe that we just happened as a result of chance is really hard to believe. Systems do not independently support the evolution of components of those systems that have no solitary contribution to be self sustaining. They would cease to exist. But if you look at life we have many examples of what would appear to be useless components that only have value in a system with other components. Why would chance support that model?

          July 19, 2013 at 9:01 am |
        • snowboarder

          @don, why would chance not support that model? also, consider that things that evolved into uselessness in the current environments, would not necessarily have been useless in historical habitats or circu mstances. your view is myopic and narrow, tailored specifically to support your religious belief.

          July 19, 2013 at 9:07 am |
        • sybaris

          Don says he has "a relationship"

          Do you gag as much as I do at hearing this pious crap?
          I've known my sister for over 6 decades. Although I live in Tampa and she lives in Boise, so we only see each other every couple of years, I can tell you:

          • how tall she is.
          • what color her eyes are.
          • what color and how curly her hair is.
          • the different kinds of prescription drugs she takes, and what for.
          • which parts of her have been operated on.
          • which colleges she attended.
          • what jobs she's held.
          • what cities she's lived in.
          • what her hobbies are.
          • the names and breeds of the various dogs and cats she's had thru the years.
          • her favorite sports teams, and which one she has season tickets for.
          • the TV programs she watches regularly.
          • that it's her on the phone just from the sound of her voice.
          • her att¡tude toward eating meat.
          • whom she voted for in the last presidential election.
          • what kind of medical care she wants in case of a terminal illness.
          • her favorite color.
          • and about 50 other things.

          Now that's a relationship. Could any of you Bible-thumpers manage even half a dozen comparable answers about your "deep, personal friend" Jesus? And, even as.suming your overwrought imagination could in fact gin up a few stabs at them, what are chances that they'd agree with any other equally deluded True Believer? OTOH, you could ask any of my sister's other good friends about the above characteristics, and they'd give you the exact same answers I would. That's because my sister, unlike your Jesus, is real — a 3-dimensional, flesh-and-blood, living, breathing, real-world human being, with a life, preferences, substance, and history.

          So, Mr. or Ms. True Believer, let's say you're walking across library mall one day, you see your good buddy Jesus in a crowd of folks ahead of you, and you holler "Hey, J, dude, wait up!". Would he?

          Let's not kid ourselves. This would never even happen because there's no way you'd be able to pick Jesus out of a crowd. Heck, you couldn't pick him out of a 1-person lineup. You wouldn't know him if he walked up to you on the street and handed you his business card.

          July 19, 2013 at 9:12 am |
        • ElmerGantry


          LOL.... That is very funny coming from an Atheist

          Missed the recent study, that showed most atheists know more about religion than most religious do, didn't you?

          July 19, 2013 at 9:13 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Irreducible Complexity is a failed hypothesis, very publically and thoroughly debunked in the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial.

          July 19, 2013 at 9:38 am |
      • skytag

        More proof religion makes people stupid. If believing there is no god is a religion then is believing there is no Santa Claus also a religion?

        July 19, 2013 at 8:56 am |
        • Don

          Religion definition

          a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

          July 19, 2013 at 9:06 am |
        • Truth Prevails :-)

          All Atheism defines is a lack of belief in a god or gods. It does not define anything more.
          "The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, in its article on Religion, lists some characteristics of religions. The more markers that are present in a belief system, the more "religious like" it is. Because it allows for broader grey areas in the concept of religion, I prefer this over more simplistic definitions we can find in basic dictionaries. Read the list and see how atheism fares :

          Belief in supernatural beings (gods).
          A distinction between sacred and profane objects.
          Ritual acts focused on sacred objects.
          A moral code believed to be sanctioned by the gods.
          Characteristically religious feelings (awe, sense of mystery, sense of guilt, adoration), which tend to be aroused in the presence of sacred objects and during the practice of ritual, and which are connected in idea with the gods.
          Prayer and other forms of communication with gods.
          A world view, or a general picture of the world as a whole and the place of the individual therein. This picture contains some specification of an over-all purpose or point of the world and an indication of how the individual fits into it.
          A more or less total organization of one's life based on the world view.
          A social group bound together by the above.

          To try and claim that atheism is a religion requires, it should be pretty obvious from the above, a radical ad hoc redefinition in what it is that "being a religion" is supposed to mean, resulting in a radically equivocal use of the new term– if atheism is a religion, then just what isn't a religion?

          In addition, it should be noted that theism itself does not qualify as a religion based upon the above – and for most of the same reasons that atheism does not qualify. When you stop to think about it, theism – the mere belief in god(s) – does not automatically entail almost any of the beliefs or practices listed in either the above letter or the above definition. In order to have a religion, you need quite a bit more than either simple belief or disbelief. This fact is clearly reflected in the real world, because we find theism which exists outside of religion and religion which exists without theism. " (http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/ath/blathm_rel_religion.htm)

          July 19, 2013 at 9:16 am |
        • skytag

          Don, by your definition atheism isn't a religion. Atheism isn't a "system of beliefs" anymore than believing Santa Claus isn't a system of beliefs, and it requires no more faith that believing Santa Claus doesn't exist.

          July 19, 2013 at 9:16 am |
        • ElmerGantry


          Faith definition
          Faith: Believing in something without any evidentiary support.

          July 19, 2013 at 9:19 am |
        • ElmerGantry

          @Truth Prevails 🙂

          Well stated, Thanks

          July 19, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Informed

      Amen to that.

      July 19, 2013 at 8:52 am |
  3. fred

    you forgot narcissistic Dbag.

    July 19, 2013 at 8:27 am |
  4. Rhaj - Haja Raza

    Sharing some statistics

    ... freethoughtpedia.com/wiki/Percentage_of_atheists#Among_scientists

    Only ~7 to 8% believers in 1998 among scientists.
    I would like to know the figures in 2013.
    The "giant" better wakes up.

    July 19, 2013 at 8:19 am |
    • Don

      I guess these guys who did believe in God don't count? Bacon, Kepler, Pascal, Newton,Boyle, Faraday, Mendel, Plank.....Atheism is a religion in its own right with fewer proof points then Christianity.

      If you were to walk in the forest and stumble upon a Rolex watch you wouldn't assume it was the product of chance. You would assume design. Life is far more complex then a Rolex, why would you assume it was the product of chance.

      July 19, 2013 at 8:29 am |
      • JJ

        Lol...I see you have all the talking points down and have read all the material you are supposed to. You should venture out and listen to someone other than just your pastor.

        July 19, 2013 at 8:34 am |
        • Don

          Interesting that you chose not to answer the question. Like I said, I don't have enough faith to be an atheist. My position is far more rational and logical then what I assume you believe.

          July 19, 2013 at 8:41 am |
        • mbman7

          Wow, is that all you have for a response. Your words did not add to the discussion, only attacked and made assumptions about the poster. Is that helpful or constructive?

          July 19, 2013 at 8:46 am |
        • snowboarder

          @don, it takes exactly no "faith" to be an atheist. i don't believe in any of the common religions because their doctrines are absurd.

          July 19, 2013 at 8:50 am |
        • stacy

          JJ, the same could be said of you....

          July 19, 2013 at 8:50 am |
        • Erlo

          Bahaha. You can try all you want ... but you cannot fix ignorance dude. Let them believe in their magic man in the sky if that's what helps them sleep at night, or justifies their wars, or justifies their touching of children, etc etc etc.

          July 19, 2013 at 8:51 am |
        • stacy

          Man did those things....not God. Have you heard of "free will" God gives you the rope, you hang yourself....or not.

          July 19, 2013 at 9:09 am |
        • Damocles


          The free will argument is a cop-out, a feeble way to try and explain how a supposedly loving deity allows bad things to happen. 'Oooooo it's so powerful that it can't save an innocent person from mayhem'. Wait, that doesn't sound good does it? Let's try 'ooooo it gave us free will and still can't protect an innocent'.

          You'd think that at some point it would choose to step in and save someone from something at sometime. Being all powerful must really suck.

          July 19, 2013 at 9:16 am |
      • snowboarder

        they lived during a time where religion dominated society and was a requirement for social standing. saying they were christian is hardly more notable than suggesting that they ate, slept or defecated.

        July 19, 2013 at 8:35 am |
        • stacy

          Untrue, These scientist had no trouble "bucking" the system.

          July 19, 2013 at 8:52 am |
        • snowboarder

          @stacy, that is an outright lie. ever heard of galileo? coperinicus? how many others have we never heard of because they were persecuted or murdered for blasphemous ideas?

          July 19, 2013 at 8:55 am |
        • stacy

          Sorry, not a lie and you know it..... Of course, we could go back and forth on this one all day. Simply put, atheist think it takes no faith, belief, or conviction, to be an atheists. BUT to go through life thinking that all this came about by two atoms going bump in the night....takes way more faith, belief, and convictions than believing in God. Have a great day!

          July 19, 2013 at 9:07 am |
        • snowboarder

          sorry stacy, but that is just plain nonsense. we have a world of evidence that suggests that the teachings of every religion are simply myths. it takes no "faith" to examine that evidence and come to a reasoned conclusion.

          on the other hand, it takes tremendous faith to believe in a christian doctrine that is plainly absurd and based on a collection of ancient writings of supersti tious men.

          many people go though life happily never having their religious convictions challenged. the reason the majority of scientists are not believers is simply because there is no possibility of shoehorning religious doctrines to fit into the realities of this world.

          July 19, 2013 at 9:12 am |
        • Closet Atheist

          @ stacey

          "BUT to go through life thinking that all this came about by two atoms going bump in the night....takes way more faith, belief, and convictions than believing in God."

          Most of us acknowledge that there are limits to what science can currently prove. BUT we don't feel the need to fill in the blanks with something imaginary to neatly fill in the knowledge gaps.

          July 19, 2013 at 10:02 am |
      • Dumb

        A rolex is natural. It's a tool built by humans who are natural beings. Is a beaver dam unnatural?

        July 19, 2013 at 8:40 am |
        • Erlo

          Don't get me started on beaver dams ...

          July 19, 2013 at 9:02 am |
      • snowboarder

        hilarious. what proof points would be necessary for atheism to make? it is a fact that man has invented innumerable deities, religions and doctrines over the course of history. it is no coincidence that the vast majority of religions were invented during times of profound ignorance of the natural world and superst ition. the doctrine of the abrahamic religions is plainly absurd and the myths associated with the bible are exactly that. myths.

        July 19, 2013 at 8:41 am |
      • coby7016

        "A life form is far more complex than a watch " proved that the evolution is more creditable than ID. Only thru evolution, simple one cell life form can evolve into human. Frankly, if you believe in ID, you are a closet antichrist. If you believe in God, you are just a blind atheist who doesn't see science is your creator.

        July 19, 2013 at 8:49 am |
      • Informed

        This is a silly counterpoint and easily dismissed. For example, if the chances of winning the lottery is 1 in 14 million, you would think owning the winning ticket pretty unlikely. Suppose 7 Billion people each purchased one ticket. Now you have one 'winner' every few minutes. There's no mystery about the Rolex watch, just like there is no mystery about why there are so many winners. No intelligent design to be seen anywhere.

        July 19, 2013 at 8:55 am |
      • Viceofreason

        One word: Evolution. It happened, there's lots of scientific proof.

        July 19, 2013 at 8:58 am |
      • bmurdoc

        Ok Don,

        So who designed your creator, who designed the creator's creator? Who designed the creator's creator's creators? See the problem with your circular logic yet?

        July 19, 2013 at 8:58 am |
      • Damocles


        Yes, these people made contributions to science. I am unaware of any work they did that pointed to proof of a deity.

        You make a lot of as-sumptions. You merely as-sume that if some cosmic being really did make everything it is, happily enough, this being you believe in. You make no leeway towards any other possible thing, enti-ty, being, having made something. Once you say that some supernatural, unknown, unseeable thing created something, you must open the door to any and all supernatural possibilities. Worse still, you proudly say that this thing made everything, yet pawn off everything you don't like to something else.

        July 19, 2013 at 8:59 am |
      • Patches

        We know the Rolex was designed by humans because we have observed the process in which a Rolex is created.

        We know that life arises by natural processes because we have observed the process by which life comes to be.

        "Complexity" is a shoddy criterion for determining whether something is man-made or natural. Corn flakes are simple and irregular, however they are man-made. Crystal growths are complex and geometric, however they arise naturally. You can start with an assumption of "man-made" vs "natural" regarding an unknown object, however one train of thought will perform experiments and observations to validate or discredit their assumption, while another will simply declare their assumption true without any further inquest.

        Saying "God did it" is a way of immediately declaring a question answered without having to put forth any work. Throughout history, things previously attributed to the supernatural have consistently been found to have natural causes, however the reverse has never been true. Discovering the natural causes of things eventually leads them to being controllable, or at the very least predictable. Saying "God did it" effectively closes all other lines of inquest and leaves you cowering in fear of the unknown, betting your livelihood on satisfying the capricious whims of an invisible force, rather than standing up and taking control of your life.

        July 19, 2013 at 9:04 am |
      • TeamNicaea

        Don, the burden of proof is on you. Not on the people you’re trying to convince that these fairy tales are real.
        Is Santa Clause currently working on toys for you Don? If the only way you can understand this world is by thinking it’s being micro managed by some inefficient omnipresent some time do-gooder, then all power to you. But please don’t use these sad copy paste stories of yours to try and convince us.

        July 19, 2013 at 9:10 am |
      • Rhaj - Haja Raza

        The statistics in 1914 (for Planck) is at ~28% believers.
        I think a 92% non-believers make them a "giant" nowadays.

        I am afraid one will say that the work of these non-believers (scientists) are the work of ... evil, but still enjoy the products of these works.

        July 19, 2013 at 9:19 am |
      • skytag

        Life has had millions of years to begin and evolve to become what we see today. It is organic. All life even today grows out of something too small for the human eye to see. A Rolex is made of non-organic material that doesn't exist naturally in that form, can't grow, move, and has no capacity to reproduce itself. It was clearly manufactured. From a logic standpoint these kinds of arguments are really dumb.

        July 19, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  5. Don

    I don't have enough faith to be an atheist.

    July 19, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • JJ

      *groan*...Naturally, since it doesn't require faith to lack a belief in something.

      July 19, 2013 at 8:25 am |
      • mbman7

        Saying that not believing doesn't require faith does not make it true. Everything requires it, it is just a matter of perspective.

        July 19, 2013 at 8:49 am |
        • ElmerGantry

          Faith: Believing in something without evidentiary support.

          July 19, 2013 at 9:05 am |
        • Damocles

          That's not really true. I mean, you can waste your time having faith in gravity, but it's pointless. You can have faith that a science experiment is going to work, but it comes down to it either will, or it won't. Having faith is irrelevant.

          July 19, 2013 at 9:11 am |
      • stacy

        Not true. To have faith in nothing, to believe in nothing..... I feel badly for people that live their life with no hope. CNN just had a article about the difference in people's tweets (those people who are christian v non christian)...Christian's were happier people. There is a reason for that! Come on over to our side, once you get over here....you'll never go back.

        July 19, 2013 at 8:57 am |
        • Viceofreason

          Almost every atheist in America started "on your side". Not believing in a magic sky dragon is not the same as having no faith, and not having faith is not the same as having no hope, you're reaching there (surprise the religious are trying to put words in our mouths). I choose to put my faith in my fellow man and believe that people will do the right thing because it's the right thing for their society and not because they are afraid of an imaginary place.

          July 19, 2013 at 9:04 am |
        • Damocles

          Ahhhh c'mon. I have lots of hope. I have hope that tomorrow is going to be a better day, that I will learn something that adds a new wrinkle to my brain. I have hope that my children will have a great day hanging with friends or relaxing with a good book.

          Hope is great, but it is empty unless you actively seek out that new wrinkle, that better day, that great time with friends.

          July 19, 2013 at 9:05 am |
        • skytag

          The "no hope" nonsense is just stupid. The only hope you have that I don't is in imaginary things that aren't real. I understand the appeal, but all that hope you have that I don't is based on fairytales unsupported by any evidence whatsoever. Your hope is no better than the hope of the Egyptian pharaohs who thought they'd be traveling to the afterlife with food and servants. They had their myths and you have yours.

          July 19, 2013 at 9:46 am |
        • just me.

          My dear Uncle Frank is happy when he buys his weekly lottery ticket,having faith that this week he will win.He is less happy when he realizes that his faith was unfounded.Sometimes reality bites.Stacy,perhaps you could enlighten us as to what you actually believe and why we would be better off believing as you do.Now,try not to make the reasons too outlandish.While you are at it,please explain why you do NOT believe in the thousands of other religions that claim to be the real truth.Just a guess,but perhaps you think those other faiths are silly and nonsensical?

          July 19, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • Informed

      Being an atheist requires that you stop outsourcing your thinking to a third party.

      July 19, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • skytag

      Yet more proof religion makes people stupid. It takes no faith to believe something doesn't exist if there is no evidence of any kind it exists. Does it take faith to believe leprechauns don't exist?

      Do you believe Zeus exists? How about Odin and Thor? If you believe any god of any religion wasn't real then you're just one god away from being an atheist. Do you have enough faith to believe Odin isn't real?

      July 19, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Michael

      Therein lies your problem. If you could put aside your faith, you'd see the truth of atheism.

      July 19, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
  6. Ismail

    What about the famous that do believe in God

    July 19, 2013 at 8:10 am |
    • abaddon

      they're lying.

      July 19, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • just me.

      Good idea.Lets see an article where famous people profess their belief and include a quote explaining their reasoning.Critical thought will not be necessary.They could just go with the GUT-FEELING JUST BECAUSE reasoning.

      July 19, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  7. Reality

    Only for those who continue to believe in "pretty wingy thingies":


    Joe Smith had his Moroni. (As does M. Romney)

    "Latter-day Saints like M. Romney also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

    Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

    Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

    Jesus and his family had/has Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day demon of the demented. (As do BO and his family)(As do Biden and Ryan)

    The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

    Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie/horn-blowing thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.

    July 19, 2013 at 7:51 am |
  8. faith



    July 19, 2013 at 7:05 am |
  9. cm

    and yet all 6 still suck.

    July 19, 2013 at 6:57 am |
    • Informed

      Ah yes, the voice of the compassionate thinker speaks once again. Pathetic.

      July 19, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  10. andrew lim

    Madaline Ohare died. How? Add 3 more words perhaps. KILLED BY SON. What do we believe now?

    July 19, 2013 at 6:41 am |
    • jungleboo

      That she annoyed him. Perhaps it was her table manners that sent him over the edge.

      July 19, 2013 at 6:44 am |
    • Faithless Forrest

      Killed by her son? Can you provide a reference?

      July 19, 2013 at 7:10 am |
    • UncleBenny

      We believe she's dead.

      July 19, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • Data Girl

      She and her son and grand daughter were murdered by an employee of the American Atheists organization that had been stealing from the organization and had been caught. He murdered them as revenge. He originally tried to frame the son for it (as all three went missing at once) until all three were found dead.

      July 19, 2013 at 8:43 am |
  11. DerpyHooves

    Atheists are the master race gg plebs

    July 19, 2013 at 6:30 am |
  12. skytag

    Rather think of it as "different kinds of atheists" I prefer to think of atheists as people who possess a wide variety of personality traits related to their atheism. I suspect most atheists don't fit neatly into any of the categories, though they may feel one category comes closer to describing them than the others.

    It's kind of like categorizing people as liberal or conservative. Most people do not fit neatly into these categories either. Some people are socially liberal but fiscally conservative. Some people are generally liberal but may have a more conservative stance on one particular issue, or vice versa.

    Human beings seem to be obsessed with simplifying things. If we see atheists as being one of six kinds it allows us to stereotype them and gives us an excuse not to expend any effort into understanding what any given individual atheist believes. Once we have six categories we can quickly assign any given atheist to one of the six and voilá, we know everything about him without further analysis, or so we think.

    July 19, 2013 at 5:40 am |
    • jungleboo

      Excellent response. I posted a similar line of thought a few days ago. Categorizing human beings based on thought processes is a dubious enterprise, valuable only to the research team that wants publicity. Perhaps another research team could classify the types of research teams that do research. We would learn that there are X types, motivated by the pursuit of money/fame/dates on Saturday night. What else is new?

      July 19, 2013 at 6:42 am |
    • stacy

      Really? It took a study to figure out that there are different type of Atheists? Just another reason I'm glad I finished by degree at another university. How about a study on why so many people are running to God and the local church. Our church as over 20,000 people that spend time each week praising and serving God.....more join every week. How about some research on that UTC....remember when you were the MOCs...

      July 19, 2013 at 8:13 am |
      • *Sigh*

        We've had those messages too. Go read any other of the columns here in the Belief section. Discussing one group of people does not mean another group of people are never discussed.

        July 19, 2013 at 8:25 am |
      • What

        Churchs are a place where people gethering for socializing, gossip, and bad mouth other people. I am going to the church for fun, meet new people, looking for new friends, NOT GOD SH IT

        July 19, 2013 at 8:27 am |
        • stacy

          Your not going to church.

          July 19, 2013 at 8:59 am |
      • stacy

        Sorry, I meant to write......You're not going to a church.

        July 19, 2013 at 9:00 am |
      • Informed

        20,000 people? Wow what a huge waste. And all of them outsourcing their thinking to a 3rd party.

        July 19, 2013 at 9:02 am |
      • skytag

        The reasons people choose to believe in God and associate themselves with churches are well known, and don't require God to be real. Every religion is a narrative its followers embrace because they like it better than the alternatives. The reasons they like it vary, but evidence what they believe is true is never one of the reasons.

        July 19, 2013 at 9:52 am |
  13. Susan StoHelit

    Discussing the differing philosophies and perspectives of atheists sounds good to me – more understanding is a good thing. Bigotry thrives on silence and ignorance, so the more exposure, the better.

    And there are different sorts of atheists.

    July 19, 2013 at 4:35 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      There are different types of atheists. Some like heroin, others like sobriety. Some like steak, others are vegetarians. Some Listen to Anton Webern, others listen to Rihanna.

      Fundamentally though, there is only one atheism.

      July 19, 2013 at 4:42 am |
      • jungleboo

        You get the T-shirt design of the decade: "THERE IS ONLY ONE ATHEISM". Thank you!

        July 19, 2013 at 6:46 am |
      • ElmerGantry

        No true Scotsman fallacy.

        July 19, 2013 at 8:21 am |
  14. A christian

    3.14 gazillion hits? That's not a number. Haa, I'm getting sick of CNN using under-qualified journalists to write articles. I remember in one article that they referred to mitochondria as a cell!? Idiots...

    July 19, 2013 at 4:19 am |
    • Hear This

      Have you ever heard of the literary device (figure of speech) called hyperbole?
      - "It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally." –http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperbole

      (I can't comment on the mitochondria one, since I haven't seen it.)

      July 19, 2013 at 4:26 am |
      • faith

        4 corners of the earth

        July 19, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • RickintheCity

      jealous much? so the article got lots of attention. grow up and get over it, Christian.

      July 19, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • NonDoD Fedup

      Google endosymbiotic theory ...

      July 19, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  15. KIRK

    thanks for the honor of ridicule crom may christ be glorified again my thanks for the honor

    July 19, 2013 at 4:10 am |
    • KIRK

      again crom honors me for christ sake i am humbled to be insulted for my belief in christ PRAISE GOD

      July 19, 2013 at 4:12 am |
      • CROM

        There is no god, no magic, nothing. You praise an imaginary Santa Claus who has never done anything in front of witnesses because he doesn't exist, you nimrod.

        July 19, 2013 at 4:29 am |
        • laurab68

          Most people who are deeply religious seem to almost have a biological or at least psychological need to believe that there is a God, Heaven etc., I don't think I'll ever have that need. The part that makes me chuckle to myself is simply the reason most people believe in God, Jesus and everything else written in the bible is because they were taught since they were old enough to understand that what's written in the Bible is true. They are taught this by their parents, place of worship and others just as their parents were taught. Now hypothetically speaking here, if lets say Santa Claus, The Eater Bunny, The Toothfairy and Jack Frost were also written into the Bible and you were taught that they were true since you were old enough to understand by your parents, your place of worship and others, you would theoretically believe wholeheartedly they they were true as well.

          July 19, 2013 at 7:51 am |
        • t-bird

          to laurab68: I'm glad I've never met the Eater Bunny!

          July 19, 2013 at 8:11 am |
        • herbert jones

          Next time you take a breath, count the seconds between the last breath: that's how fragile your life is. You only breathe because God allows you too breathe. You have no control over your existence, you may think you have, but not so. God created you and have a plan and purpose for your life. And that is to be an example, whether it is good or bad, God will use your life as he sees fit. I counsel you to consider acknowledging Him for who He is, and what He is, in relation to your existence here on earth. You only get to do it while there is still breath in your body.

          July 19, 2013 at 8:43 am |
        • Michael

          @herbert – Sorry, Mate ... I accepted total and complete responsibility for every single thing that happens to me decades ago. I'm in an accident. Is that my fault? No but it IS my reponsibility: decisions I made put me at that physical location at that moment in time. You refuse to accept responsibility for yourself. That's sad. And scary ... "God made me do it" is an excuse used throughout and is the ultimate cop-out. Grow some bolts, boy. All life is fragile. Tough. Deal with it ...

          July 19, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • sam stone

      PRAISE GOD (or he'll torture you forever)

      July 19, 2013 at 6:33 am |
      • t-bird

        Exactly. No greater egotist has ever existed (or not).

        July 19, 2013 at 8:13 am |
  16. I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

    Could everybody just stop responding to Kirk? It's only feeding his ravenous ego.

    July 19, 2013 at 4:02 am |
    • KIRK

      PEACE DAVE have a great night

      July 19, 2013 at 4:07 am |
    • CROM

      Well, I gotta go anyway. Have a good weekend, IsDIclydt. You, too, Kirk / Chad / etc

      July 19, 2013 at 4:39 am |
  17. KIRK

    i confess with my mouth to ALL the WORLD
    i believe in JESUS CHRIST who was crucified and GOD RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD he now lives sitting on the right hand of the father I AWAIT HIS RETURN

    July 19, 2013 at 3:31 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      I didn't so much like the latter part of the Bible 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 19, 2013 at 3:32 am |
      • KIRK

        ahh ignorance at its best
        yes the old testament is full of vile thing that god hated but i doubt your iq is capable if understanding

        July 19, 2013 at 3:35 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

          No, but I am aware of the correct use of punctuation and capitalization.

          July 19, 2013 at 3:38 am |
        • KIRK

          lol no insults JUST TRUTH your words betray you for the world to see
          well im out have fun say what you will you are to be ignored
          and your own words will testify against you
          take care all

          July 19, 2013 at 3:59 am |
        • UncleBenny

          Ah yes, filled with vile things that God hated, like when God commanded the Israelites to slaughter everyone who stood in the way of their takeover of Canaan. I bet God really hated when he did that.

          July 19, 2013 at 7:51 am |
      • KIRK

        thanks for insult i am honored to be insulted for his name sake
        esp by low iq grammar trolls that cant understand or argue a point without insults
        do your best all can see whats inside you

        July 19, 2013 at 3:44 am |
        • CROM

          So you want to be insulted because then you can pat yourself on the back, is that it? Knock yourself out, sweetie.

          July 19, 2013 at 3:48 am |
        • Hear This

          You started the insults, Kirk.

          " i doubt your iq is capable if understanding"
          July 19, 2013 at 3:35 am

          July 19, 2013 at 3:54 am |
        • Paul223

          A real Christian is not argumentative.

          July 19, 2013 at 6:47 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        @I'm Sorry Dave
        Thanks for making things all nice and sparkling clear.
        Shall we adjourn to the Korova Milkbar to make up our razoodoks what to do with the evening?
        Perhaps a few laughs and lashings of the old ultra-violence....

        July 19, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • KIRK

      if you insult or ridicule me for my belief you only add to my favor with god
      so i thank you in advance

      July 19, 2013 at 3:33 am |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

        I'm not being insulting, I'm just pointing to the fact that the OT had a far more interesting narrative than the NT.

        July 19, 2013 at 3:36 am |
        • KIRK

          yes it has many things that god points out that christ him self said that they where hypocrites thats why he came
          he was the word of god made flesh dwelt among us was murdered by us and god raised him from the dead

          July 19, 2013 at 3:39 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

          I won't bow and this is a republic, there are no lords.

          July 19, 2013 at 3:41 am |
        • KIRK

          ahh but you WILL BOW AND TREMBLE and all nations are as chaff and stubble to god

          July 19, 2013 at 3:46 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

          You are clearly either a troll or mentally disturbed. Either way, I see no benefit in responding to you.

          July 19, 2013 at 3:48 am |
        • CROM

          When my legs get over-tired they tremble, and if I bend over it won't be to take your BS up the ass, that's for sure.

          July 19, 2013 at 3:50 am |
        • KIRK

          thanks dave and crom have a great night and i reported the vulgar response of crom again thanks for the honor

          July 19, 2013 at 3:53 am |
        • CROM

          Reports away! Wheeee!
          Considering how tame I was today, you sound like the lamest, weakest, most worthless troll I have yet encountered today.
          But the day is young. You are a special person, yes indeedy. Yes you are very special. We just love you, too. Shut up.

          July 19, 2013 at 4:03 am |
      • Hear This


        Will your god "favor you" a whole bunch for running people off in droves because you sound like a raving lunatic and tyrannical house master.

        (if you are a Poe... gee, you are in high gear!)

        July 19, 2013 at 3:59 am |
        • KIRK


          July 19, 2013 at 4:01 am |
        • KIRK

          let those who can hear hear the word is a seed fi it falls on good ground it will grow but some will reject it to eternal damnation
          that is not for me to say that is between a person and god for only he can look into the heart that why we cannot judge
          im to busy working out my own salvation with fear and trembling for if the righteous barely be saved WHAT THEN FOR THE UNBELIEVER but i am not allowed for try and force anyone to follow i only point to christ YOU MUST CHOOSE FREELY ON YOUR OWN

          July 19, 2013 at 4:05 am |
        • Mirosal

          if your "god" is omniscient, as your doc'trine claims it is, then choosing freely .. a.k.a. "free will" is a moot point, as both cannot exist at once.

          July 19, 2013 at 6:31 am |
      • UncleBenny

        You, know, KIRK, you think you're doing people a service by quoting scripture and threatening them with divine punishment if they don't repent and turn their lives over to God or Jesus or whatever. But it's people like you who turned me off to religion a long time ago, and I suspect a great many people feel the same way.

        July 19, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • GodFreeNow

      Is this Kirk Cameron?

      July 19, 2013 at 3:37 am |
      • KIRK

        NOPE just a sinner probably worse than all of you put together
        saved by grace and faith in christ alone

        July 19, 2013 at 3:41 am |
      • CROM

        translation: "Yes, this is Kirk Cameron and my brain is still damaged."

        July 19, 2013 at 3:51 am |
        • KIRK

          why would you lie um m well after that last vulgar response i understand its all you can do
          i do not know camaroon guy but its does not matter what you think
          only christ matters again thanks for the honor of the ridicule for christ

          July 19, 2013 at 3:55 am |
        • CROM

          Yes, you are the sort to tell yourself that any negative reactions to your disgusting and insulting behavior is really some sort of meaningless abuse that will garner you special rewards after you die.....
          and it will never occur to you that the abuse you receive is due to your own bad behavior towards others. Nope.
          Right over your head. Whooosh! Like talking to a derp dog. Oh, that's what you really are. Sorry.

          July 19, 2013 at 4:08 am |
        • KIRK

          PRAISE GOD its an honor to be abused for the LORD JESUS CHRIST

          July 19, 2013 at 4:15 am |
        • KIRK

          PEACE CROM have a great night
          the lord says bells those that curse you and be glad when they abuse you for they did the same to him YOU HONOR ME

          July 19, 2013 at 4:17 am |
        • KIRK

          OOPS BLESS NOT BELLS lol
          but again thanks and take care

          July 19, 2013 at 4:18 am |
    • skytag

      I confess to all the world that there isn't a shred of evidence to support anything you believe.

      July 19, 2013 at 5:42 am |
      • UncleM

        Have you noticed that the religiously deluded always talk about 'truth' but immediately spout lies. When challenged they then write in UPPER CASE like that will make it less of a lie.

        July 19, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • Bob Sommers

      Pray kind sir, where is it written that Jesus believes in using ALL CAPS?

      July 19, 2013 at 9:06 am |
  18. You Look Stoopid.

    I hope you made a study of people who don't believe in invisible pink unicorns, too, because the question has equal validity.

    People cannot be defined by a LACK of something...for instance, tell me what people are like who are NOT gun-owners...Too general? EXACTLY.

    Stop trying to say abscence of a belief is a belief. It makes you look stupid.

    July 19, 2013 at 3:18 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that


      July 19, 2013 at 3:20 am |
    • Martin

      Oh please, get over the fact that like any other "group" of people, atheists can be sociologically categorised and studied.

      And no, atheism is not /just/ a "lack" of belief in God. It is the affirmation that there is no God. And don't try and bring up some tired, trivial linguistic point about we should understand a-theist like we do a-moral, as a lack. Whatever roots the word atheist has doesn't affect its current, standard usage. And even if we did want to use the word "atheist" just to stand for a person who lacks belief, we would still need a word describe someone who goes further than that and affirms that God does not exist. There are two separate phenomenon here that need two separate labels. Plenty of persons and things lack theistic belief. An agnostic lacks theistic belief. A tree lacks theistic belief (or any other sort of belief). But this is /obviously/ different from holding the belief that, in fact, God does not exist. It is different, obviously, because it is non-identical to the property of lacking theistic belief, as evidenced by the fact that trees cannot hold the belief that there is no God.

      So if you want to reserve the label "atheist" for a lack of theistic belief, go ahead, you can stipulatively define it as such. But you need to give us a label for people who go further than that and actually believe that God does not exist. And once we have that label, we'll want to know "well, which do you come under?"

      July 19, 2013 at 5:03 am |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

        There is a label for that, it's called strong/positive atheism.

        July 19, 2013 at 5:16 am |
        • Martin

          So I tried to type up a response but it didn't seem to appear when I pressed post. In short, strong vs weak atheism tend to be used to distinguish epistemological reasons as why a person believes there is no God, rather than to make a distinction between lack of belief in God and belief that there is no God.

          Secondly it's hard to see what I'm supposed to challenge what I'm asserting in your claim that "atheism isn't a lack of belief in a deity, it's a disbelief in the existence of deities." I /agree/ with this. That's exactly what I'm arguing. I've just described disbelief in God differently, as the belief that God does not exist. But they are logically equivalent. That shouldn't be controversial.

          Consider the proposition "There exists a God". If that proposition is false it entails the truth of this proposition: "There does not exist a God." So, then, if you think the first proposition is false, you logically ought to assent to the truth of the proposition "There does not exist a God." But to assent to a proposition just is to believe it. Atheism, then, involves believe. But I'm not using the word "belief" in here in any special religious sense. When I use it, I'm not using it with the connotation that the view held is epistemologically shaky. I'm not saying "aha! the atheist is committing some blind leap of faith after all" I'm using the term "belief" in the standard, basic, philosophical sense. The same sense that is used when we say "I believe that the sky is blue". "Belief" in this sense, could be maximally warranted or justified. Or it could not. I'm not intending any such comment on the matter.

          July 19, 2013 at 6:56 am |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

        Also, atheism isn't a lack of belief in a deity, it's a disbelief in the existence of deities. What you describe would be best described as non-theism.

        July 19, 2013 at 5:19 am |
    • Bob Sommers

      The study does not refer to people that share the "absence of a belief". Most of the categories in this study apply to
      people that affirm a belief that there is no god. As we know, there is a population of people the believe that god exists.
      We should also know that there is a population of people that believe that god does not exist. Interestingly, both groups are
      correct. If you believe in god, god exists for you. I do not believe in god. God does not exist for me. For those that
      have difficulty accepting all of that, my suggestion is this... get over it.

      July 19, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  19. Bootyfunk

    i'm #7
    S.E.X.Y atheist.

    cheers, mates.

    July 19, 2013 at 3:12 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      Keira Knightley could go on that list.

      July 19, 2013 at 3:15 am |
  20. Clint

    Oh, and for the record, I didn't click "the belief blog" to read this story, a link to it was on the front CNN page. I never know if I'm coming here or not until I click a story to read it......

    July 19, 2013 at 2:53 am |
    • CROM

      Dewhooley Noah-ted thahankyoohoo *waves*

      July 19, 2013 at 3:47 am |
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About this blog

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