And are there more types than these?  This is apparently from sociological research out of the University of Tennessee, but I'm reporting from the Salon article.  The researchers identified six categories of non-believers in the U.S., with estimates of their relative size.

1. Intellectual Atheist/Agnostic. By far, the most common kind of non-believer, at nearly 38 percent. This group enjoys intellectual discourse, and while they’re often very certain about their beliefs, they’re not belligerent about it. These types often get mistaken for dogmatic atheists, however, because they have a tendency to join skeptic’s groups or otherwise find avenues to discuss non-belief with others. However, as researchers note, these non-believers “associate with fellow intellectuals regardless of the other’s ontological position."  They like debating religion, but aren’t particularly interested in chasing down believers to give them a hard time.

2. Activist. This group also gets commonly accused of being dogmatic, but like the intellectual atheist, while they’re firm in their beliefs, they’re intellectually flexible and don’t prioritize attacking believers. Instead, they are motivated by a strong sense of humanist values to make change in the world, often making related issues—such as feminism, gay rights, or the environment—a priority over simply advocating atheism. They are the second biggest sub-category of non-believers, making up 23 percent of non-believers.

3. Seeker-Agnostic. This group, which makes up 7.6 percent of non-believers, are unlikely to be as critical of religion as most other groups. They prioritize not-knowingness. If you ever come across people saying, “I don’t know, but neither do you!” regarding religious belief, you’re dealing with a seeker-agnostic. They don’t really believe in anything, but they are uncomfortable committing to non-belief completely.

4. Anti-Theist. This group tends to get conflated with all atheists by believers, but they only constitute 15 percent of non-believers. Like the Intellectual Atheists, they like to argue about religion, but they are much more aggressive about it and actively seek out religious people in an effort to disabuse them of their beliefs. While most atheists limit themselves to supporting a more secular society, anti-theists tend to view ending religion as the real goal.

5. Non-Theist. They don’t believe in any gods, but don’t think about those who do very often. In such a religious society, simply opting out of caring much about religion one way or another is nearly impossible, which is why this group is only 4.4 percent of non-believers. “A Non-Theist simply does not concern him or herself with religion,” researchers explain. In some skeptical/atheist circles, this group is disparagingly referred to as “shruggies,” because they simply shrug when asked their opinion on religion.

6. Ritual Atheist/Agnostic. This group, making up 12.5 percent of atheists, doesn’t really believe in the supernatural, but they do believe in the community aspects of their religious tradition enough to continue participating. We’re not just talking about atheists who happen to have a Christmas tree, but who tend to align themselves with a religious tradition even while professing no belief. “Such participation may be related to an ethnic identity (e.g. Jewish),” explain researchers, “or the perceived utility of such practices in making the individual a better person.”


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lofl. It helps if the lesbian on the bottom lies back and thinks of England.

Of course there are all types of people, @Strega.  I don't think the researchers who did this work would claim otherwise.  People do tend to form groups or communities, though, and at least some work suggests that they also may have patterns of behavior within those communities. 

I agree, the same research can be (and I suspect has been) done on other groups.  Catholics, Republicans, Country Music lovers.  Any group that's large enough and of interest to somebody.

Are you a dog person? No? Why not?
Are you a Soccer fan? No? Why not?
and the list goes on if you want to catergorise something you are going to end up catergorizing it no matter what. A list  like this is as useless as math problems on toilet paper as a learning aid.

Math problems on toilet paper!   Actually, what a great idea!

Slacktivist. Skintellectual. Scanti-Theist.  Not really committed, in it very deep, or completely vested in any of these atheist styles. I dabble. : }

I don't think there is a 'type' of Atheist. No belief in god, that's it. Everything else is up for debate. I don't come across many theists generally, usually when they come to my door. They are civil, and mean well. The ones I am really sad about, are the ones that enable a religion, to behave in a corrupt and illegal way, then turn a blind eye.

Yep, Strega - Atheism is a position, not a characteristic, and that is the only thing that binds Atheists in any way.

Missionary position is really boring, like peeling potatoes :)

I guess I'd say I'm a number 6. Because I was married as a Catholic, and my wife and children still practice, I find it hard to leave the Church entirely. I go to mass, but have to 'filter' the messages that I'm given. I do enjoy the ritual of receiving the host as a testament to the interconnectedness of all living and dead things, meaning, all living things die, make their way back to the earth and become food for the next generation, so to speak; all atoms are recycled; we are stardust; that sort of thing.

I am not outspoken, really, but my wife knows about my beliefs, but my children don't. They are being raised Catholic.


I'm "highly irritable atheist".

I'm not rational because I'm atheist, I'm atheist because I'm rational. Stupid behavior highly pisses me off. Most people exhibit stupid behavior as social participation, and interaction. There's no excuse. I love to call people on it, but most are too dim to follow the argument. For those, I simply refuse to continue.

I would say I'm the activist type, with a smidgeon of antitheism in there.

I find myself aligning more with an activist atheist and slightly less so the intellectual and every so often a bit of the "seeking agnostic."

No type is going to describe anyone perfectly. The idea was to look at the forest and start picking out different species of trees. I think the University of Tennessee did a fair assessment in covering many of the different characteristics of non-believers. I'd have liked to see a larger selection of people, but that's always the case, so I can't agree with those percentages, but I think the types are fairly accurate.

I believe their sample was U.S.

Question for our international members:  Do you think the breakdowns change in other places?  One of the observations I believe was that anti-theist sentiment was strongest in the former Confederate States, possibly as a reaction to the more overt, fundamentalist, and to some extent racial politics entangled Baptist Churches of the American South.   I would think those are unique to the U.S.   Do people living elsewhere see fewer anti-theists, perhaps more associated with recent de-conversion from a very religious family than anything else?


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