`Six Types of Atheists’ study wakes a sleeping giant

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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 theUniversity of Tennessee at Chattanooga. "We're a bit overwhelmed actually."

Silver and his project manager, Thomas Coleman, recently released a studyproposing 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.

Written By: Daniel Burke
continue to source article at religion.blogs.cnn.com

NO COMMENTS

  1. Hug an atheist?? This person just wants to jump on the latest craze, and feel special and different. Seeking some sort of special recognition for being progressive and thought provoking.
    As an Antitheist myself, never coming from or raised in a religious background. This is the same bull as religion.
    Trying to gain acceptance for their misfortunes in life. Trying to cull in the opressed thought process of minority shyte.
    The sixties are over.
    Get some bollocks and make stand people. Instead of sympathizing with 2000 yeats of rape torture and opression.
    Stand up and fight…. Power to those of us who stand alone and stand proud.

    • In reply to #1 by ApexDisorder:

      Hug an atheist?? This person just wants to jump on the latest craze, and feel special and different. Seeking some sort of special recognition for being progressive and thought provoking.
      As an Antitheist myself, never coming from or raised in a religious background. This is the same bull as religion…

      You’re joking, right? You’re the best kind of atheist? Really? Have fun with that, you Mormon/Catholic/Quaker/Baptist/Snake-handler

      • In reply to #20 by davidwilliambarker:

        In reply to #1 by ApexDisorder:

        Hug an atheist?? This person just wants to jump on the latest craze, and feel special and different. Seeking some sort of special recognition for being progressive and thought provoking.
        As an Antitheist myself, never coming from or raised in a religious background….
        Redefine your question in a manner that can be answered please. I would hope through the dialogue between us we can contribute something for people to think about, especially on what I would consider a very serious topic.
        I don’t have tolerance for abuse, or abusers’.
        Nor do I tolerate fake weak minded people who jump on bandwagons. I stand my ground.
        Power to the indivdual who stands for the people, not the people who try to be individuals by appealing to those who they would serve…….

    • In reply to #1 by ApexDisorder:

      Hug an atheist?? This person just wants to jump on the latest craze, and feel special and different. Seeking some sort of special recognition for being progressive and thought provoking.
      As an Antitheist myself, never coming from or raised in a religious background. This is the same bull as religion…

      As a never religious atheist, you may not know enough about the religious experience to state unequivocally that this is “bull.” Bull to you, fine, but bull to all? It just makes the point that there are different kinds of atheists. why not? Why would we all have to be alike?

    • In reply to #2 by reckoner:

      I certainly fall into the ‘anti-theist’ category, if I had to choose one.

      Richard, what say you?

      Anti-theist here. How come anti-theist is now suddenly synonymous with being a fundamentalist? I had a quick check just to be sure and nope, never once threatened to cut anyone’s head off, damned anyone to Hell, thrown acid in my wife’s face, denied evolution, tried to get creationism taught in science lessons, tried to pray away my kid’s illness instead of taking him to the hospital etc. etc. and unfortunately, etc.

    • Isn’t RDFRS like a group meeting of non-believers in a way. It’s an easier venue for lazy people like me – no worries about being late for church. But I see nothing wrong with meetings like the Sunday Assembly. They are providing a place for people to meet up, have a sing-song, listen to a talk, share values, help others etc. Maybe there are just not enough community centres. I expect a significant proportion of church-goers are non-believers but regularly attend church for these community values.

      Like debaser71 (#6), I tend to react to the theists of organised religion – the evangelists. Those who claim to know what’s right for everyone because they have a book of rules. Or worse, the theists who claim to have a ‘relationship’ with God and have been chosen to communicate the good news (or bad) to the rest of us. I guess it wouldn’t be so bad if they regularly updated their rule books such that their values/morals didn’t get stuck in the past.

      In reply to #4 by fishhead:

      I agree with ApexDisorder,(#1) this is silliness. Not as dumb as the story about starting a group meeting. Sounded like church for the nonbelievers. Spare me, please.

    • In reply to #4 by fishhead:

      I agree with ApexDisorder,(#1) this is silliness. Not as dumb as the story about starting a group meeting. Sounded like church for the nonbelievers. Spare me, please.

      you are spared – just don’t participate. That’s all you have to do.

  2. I find it annoying how we’re always in a hurry to categorize people, often into sets that overlap and are incomplete. Maybe it is that those of us who are loyal to an ideology that precludes theism are easy to sort into cells, and those of us who think about issues individually and come up with answers based on experience (observation) and logic, are not.

    I am incidentally atheist for being a philosophical naturalist. It would make more sense (to me, at least) to have organizations around naturalism rather than atheism. But I’m not the one who chose the rallying point.

    • In reply to #5 by Uriel-238:

      I find it annoying how we’re always in a hurry to categorize people, often into sets that overlap and are incomplete. …

      These are university-affiliated researchers trying to understand people using academic research methodology. And it’s hardly “in a hurry” — atheism has been around probably as long as religion.

  3. We do know that the Antitheist category has much in common with religious fundamentalism.

    Such as?

    the Intellectual atheism/Agnosticism type has a lot in common with intellectual theology, although they are clearly not the same.

    Yes; one uses fallacies literally all the time.

  4. There is at least one other type of atheist: The Parasitic Opportunist, this type exploits religious believers by pretending to be one of them.

    Usually in the position of a leader, the Opportunist lives off the thing he holds in deep contempt and violates most principles of the religion he pretends to follow.

    Ray Comfort is one of these.

  5. I usually dont re read and repost.
    For me theism is the most conceited and thoughtless mindset I have been exposed to in my years.
    I have been taught to respect and honor the different life on this planet and beyond to the Cosmos.
    “The bible says god created man in his own image”.
    It was man who created god in his image.
    Selfish self centered, angry, jealous, and vengeful.
    I will not back down from ignorance till I die.
    To defend theism in any form, is a disgrace to the beauty of life.
    Atheism is a rejection of ones claim in their god”s”
    Antitheisim is a rejection of this bullshyte of mental domination and manifest destiny. Everthing that destroys our humanity. “We are all made of stars”….props if you know where that final quote came from you should.

  6. A rather silly study. Like pop-psychology. The implication is that there are ‘good atheists’ who are warm and fuzzy, and ‘bad atheists’ who are out for your blood. And whenever I come across a comparison of religious fundamentalism and atheism, I know I’m reading crap.

  7. I didn’t recognise myself in any of the six categories, but I see myself as a mainstream atheist. I enjoy reading about atheism, and occasionally contribute myself, but I’m not an intellectual. I take an interest in political issues, but I’m not an activist. I try not to be dogmatic in my atheism, but I’m not a seeker-agnostic. I am strongly opposed to some aspects of religion, but I’m not an anti-theist. I’m neither apathetic nor disinterested, so I’m not a non-theist. I admire religious groups like the Jains and Quakers, but I’m not a ritual atheist. Surely I’m not the only atheist with these kinds of views?

  8. The religious mind exists in a world of easy to understand pigeon-holes. You are christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish etc, and then there are subgroups. It’s like windows files.
    Atheists don’t have a pigeon-hole as we are all different, united only in unbelief. This attempt to construct pigeonholes is silly, BUT I think it is stil a good thing because it gets the ideas of atheism into the media and public consciousness. It is seen to be more widespread and “normal” and this is a good thing. The more people who see these ideas, the more likely the undecided are to come out and admit that they don’t really believe.

    Silly but useful, is my opinion on this whole idea

  9. From my POV, all gods are equally ludicrous, and yes, I don’t believe in any of them. I don’t know what category of non-belief this study would put me in, but I do know that I regard all religion as organised superstition, and all religions as barriers to human knowledge and to progress.

    Why believe in bollocks when there is a real world to deal with ?

  10.                                Talk about herding cats!
    

    BRIAN (in The Life of Brian), addressing the crowd: You’re all different!
    CROWD IN UNISON: Yes! We’re all different!
    LONE VOICE FROM CROWD: I’m not!
    BRIAN: Except him.

  11. Sometimes I wonder if CNN knows there is a world outside the USA. What happened to people who get on with their lives with no interest in gods or atheism. Pretty common in Australia and I expect likewise in Canada, UK and the rest of Europe. Possibly you can categorise them as apatheists but basically them are what the everybody will be like when religion has withered to a few eccentrics. No-one is going to be any kind of atheist except the “holds no beliefs in gods” type.

    • And I wonder if non-Americans understand that the US is not a mono-culture.

      In reply to #29 by mmurray:

      Sometimes I wonder if CNN knows there is a world outside the USA. What happened to people who get on with their lives with no interest in gods or atheism. Pretty common in Australia and I expect likewise in Canada, UK and the rest of Europe. Possibly you can categorise them as apatheists but ba…

  12. I’m not sure how significant this is.The difference between two atheists of the same category can be much greater than between two from different categories. I realized that talking to an “Objectivist” fan of Ayn Rand. Politics trumped religion.

  13. I remember reading one of R.D Books he had a scale from 1 to 7, with one being a person who is personally convinced of the existence of a god who has no doubt, 7 is a person who has no belief in any god, Dawkins gave himself a 6 because while he doesn’t believe in any god he can’t disprove gods existence.

  14. I’d just as soon keep it simple, either you believe in god or you don’t. I don’t see the benefits in splitting hairs. No, I didn’t check the survey out because frankly I don’t care. Not to mention that stupid photo was a total turn-off. But whatever turns your crank, man!!!

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