Six kinds of atheist

Where do you fit in if at all? I find myself falling more towards the seeking agnostic on a quest. That's basically what I've been most my life, and only since getting on the internet have I become strongly anti-religionist. Is it possible to be open about spiritual possibilities while wholeheartedly rejecting religion? But I don't really. I embrace many aspects of Buddhism/Taoism/paganism. I find I live under the premise that life is directed and meaning-filled. Is that my God? The unknown but experientially manifested transcendent order guiding reality behind the scenes?

(CNN) – How many ways are there to disbelieve in God?

At least six, according to a new study.

Two researchers at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga found that atheists and agnostics run the range from vocally anti-religious activists to nonbelievers who still observe some religious traditions.

“The main observation is that nonbelief is an ontologically diverse community,” write doctoral student Christopher Silver and undergraduate student Thomas Coleman.

“These categories are a first stab at this," Silver told the website Raw Story. "In 30 years, we may be looking at a typology of 32 types.”

Silver and Coleman derived their six types of nonbelievers from 59 interviews. We're pretty sure we've spotted all six in our comments section.

1) Intellectual atheist/agnostic

This type of nonbeliever seeks information and intellectual stimulation about atheism.

They like debating and arguing, particularly on popular Internet sites.


They're also well-versed in books and articles about religion and atheism, and prone to citing those works frequently.

2) Activist

These kinds of atheists and agnostics are not content with just disbelieving in God; they want to tell others why they reject religion and why society would be better off if we all did likewise.

They tend to be vocal about political causes like gay rights, feminism, the environment and the care of animals.

3) Seeker-agnostic

This group is made up of people who are unsure about the existence of a God but keep an open mind and recognize the limits of human knowledge and experience.

Silver and Coleman describe this group as people who regularly question their own beliefs and “do not hold a firm ideological position.”

That doesn't mean this group is confused, the researchers say. They just embrace uncertainty.

4) Anti-theist

This group regularly speaks out against religion and religious beliefs, usually by positioning themselves as “diametrically opposed to religious ideology,” Silver and Coleman wrote.

“Anti-theists view religion as ignorance and see any individual or institution associated with it as backward and socially detrimental,” the researchers wrote. “The Anti-Theist has a clear and – in their view, superior – understanding of the limitations and danger of religions.”

Anti-theists are outspoken, devoted and – at times – confrontational about their disbelief. They believe that "obvious fallacies in religion and belief should be aggressively addressed in some form or another.”

5) Non-theist

The smallest group among the six are the non-theists, people who do not involve themselves with either religion or anti-religion.

In many cases, this comes across as apathy or disinterest.

“A Non-Theist simply does not concern him or herself with religion,” Silver and Coleman wrote. “Religion plays no role or issue in one’s consciousness or worldview; nor does a Non- Theist have concern for the atheist or agnostic movement.”

They continue: “They simply do not believe, and in the same right, their absence of faith means the absence of anything religion in any form from their mental space.”

6) Ritual atheist

They don't believe in God, they don’t associate with religion, and they tend to believe there is no afterlife, but the sixth type of nonbeliever still finds useful the teachings of some religious traditions.

“They see these as more or less philosophical teachings of how to live life and achieve happiness than a path to transcendental liberation,” Silver and Coleman wrote. “For example, these individuals may participate in specific rituals, ceremonies, musical opportunities, meditation, yoga classes, or holiday traditions.”

For many of these nonbelievers, their adherence to ritual may stem from family traditions. For others, its a personal connection to, or respect for, the "profound symbolism" inherent within religious rituals, beliefs and ceremonies, according the researchers."=====

I guess I could be a hybrid of two of the distinctions: a ritual "seeker agnostic". I participate in all kinds of traditions and ceremonies (even bowing my head during public prayers at events, etc).

To echo / paraphrase how Jerry Garcia once responded when asked why he was still a Catholic: It's difficult to escape your cultural background when most of your family, friends, neighbors are such and such. You still find yourself going through the formal motions because you're interactively engaging with them, you respect those people that augment your life. Whether that structure of sacredness is Abrahamic, Euro-pagan, East Asian, Native American, etc.

Also, one might yet be strongly embedded in some of the ethics of the applicable belief system. Like Thomas Jefferson asserting that he was Christian in a philosophical sense (having edited out the supernatural and disagreeable elements from his own version of the New Testament).
(Jan 10, 2015 07:45 PM)Magical Realist Wrote: Where do you fit in if at all?

I'm a classic #1 'intellectual atheist/agnostic'. I'm definitely motivated to discuss this stuff on internet discussion boards (here I am!) and my attraction to it is largely intellectual, philosophical and epistemological. I see the question of the existence of divine realities as kind of an intellectual puzzle, not as an existential need of mine that I hope to fill. I'm not really seeking something divine or transcendent to believe in.

I don't understand the author's distinction between #2 'activist' and #4 'anti-theist'. In my experience, most activist atheists are also anti-theist, that's what they are most typically activist about.

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