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.”
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.
Hmmm, well, maybe there is a 7th catagory - Ritual Atheist/Anti-Theist. I like the traditions that religion offers and I think it is these traditions that has bound together society and it is the one thing atheism lacks that is a barrier to wider acceptance. That is why we get the accusation "You don't believe in anything.
I admit I actively seek out believers in an effort to point out the downside of religious belief and am known by many as being a dogmatic atheist but at the same time that I dissuade belief in a god I partake in the activities of religious belief like Christmas, Easter, passover, Hanukkah (I have a diverse religious background) As much as I partake in Thanksgiving, Valentines day,& Mothers and Fathers day. These are traditions that help to bind family and community and don't require religious belief.
I believe the world would be a better place without the belief in a god or any other supernatural being but I also believe it would be a duller and lonelier place with non of the trappings that religion brings to the table.
What we really need are some more pseudo atheist holidays like Thanksgiving, something built on actual beliefs rather than fantasy. Remember, Christmas started out as the celebration of the winter solstice, not the birth of Zombie Jesus. And for me Easter IS Zombie Jesus Day, and you should see the looks I get when I wish people "Happy Zombie Jesus Day".
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?
The website for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga had a break down of the different regions, and yes there were far more anti-theists from the south, but the number from the south are heavily skewed when compared to other regions. 592 people were considered from the "south," yet only 132 were considered to be from the "northeast." The second largest number from the "west" was 250 (the midwest was 147 if you were wondering). The south region might be a statistically significant sample size to make a determination, although one with a likely large percentage of error, but the other three regions are definitely not large enough to make any credible assertions about a makeup for that region. To say that based on the data collected that there are more anti-theists in the south when compared to other regions, I think infers too much from too little information.
That being said I do agree that the conditions to make a person an anti-theist are more prevalent in the southern states so I wouldn't be surprised to hear if it was true. Anecdoteally, I can say that the people who post on this forum from countries where religion is less important seem to be more ambivalent about religion over all.
For those of you who are saying something to the effect of "they aren't describing me." They address this issue. My emphasis added.
As we finish writing this brief synopsis, Coleman is actually sitting across the table from a good friend (who we will call Bob which is not his real name but allows a reference point for this conversation) who self identifies as an “Anti-Theist” however, he says he does not consider what he, labels himself as, to be a reflection of our very specific research description of a typology we call “Antitheist”. To the readers’ credit, no doubt many of “you” might also share our friend’s sentiments as they speak directly to any social scientific construction of every typology.
As social scientists we are forced to label, yet at the same time, we recognize qualitatively the limits inherent in any label. Certainly this was a research challenge for the project, one that almost derailed our process. Many of the participants disagreed about common use of terms of nonbelief but there was common agreement related to definitions of nonbelief. With this said Bob is not alone. Many of the participants were concerned with issues of social agendas and the separation of church and state. Furthermore, individuals like Bob were in many respects critical of the religious institutions and their agendas. The differences here in typology relate to the mode and value each participant places on how they engage issues of ontology. In other words, what is their preference for debating and considering the place religion and secularity play in our society? For many participants they question such social structures and are critical (antitheist) but their mode of behavior and belief may be different from the group we label antitheist. These labels were chosen by the research team to be reflective of the emotional, personality, and cognitive structures of value these people place on their worldviews (types).
Probably a crab would be filled with a sense of personal outrage if it could hear us class it without ado or apology as a crustacean, and thus dispose of it. “I am no such thing,” it would say; I am MYSELF, MYSELF alone.” –William James
We only include this as a chance to recognize the limitations inherent in any positivist empirical approach that seeks to quantify the identificational acts and beliefs of any group of people. Moreover, beholding to these ideals we will always, in a very real sense, be unable to fully capture ones experience in general, and in this case the non-belief experience in particular. We recognize that this study was not perfect in any sense. Certainly there were spelling errors and grammatical mistakes in some aspects of our study. We also recognize that some participants found the items of the scale problematic in one section or another. For some parts of this study, those issues could not be helped, as they were quantitatively accepted scales. To change their wording, syntax, or spelling would pose empirical problems later. We appreciate our participants being patient with us and still continuing their participation.
We hope our modest attempt at an honest reflection here will show that no research is perfect and certainly, researchers are growing and learning much like the general population. We humbly hope that your data and this study will lead to a continued exploration of nonbelief. We welcome ideas, suggestions, and critiques. We also hope others will research non-belief and we tip our hat to the small but growing number of scholars who currently do. The team at Atheismresearch.com would like to thank the vast and diverse non-belief community for sharing with us their particular time and moment in today’s society as we hope to have provided an honest reflection of the varieties of non-belief.
Under this framework, I would say that I am mostly a #1, but I have some #2 and #4 in me.
I'm not going to go out of my way to belittle theists, but I will make my anti-theistic views clear when the subject comes up. I like to think of myself as having some decent humanist values and I actively support gay rights, environmental protection, and other stuff like that.
I guess I have a tiny bit of seeker in me; I mean there is only so much certainty I can have in what seems to me to be unknowable. I don't prioritize that aspect. I think there are perfectly rational, though highly immoral reasons why religions were invented.
I can't shrug off the horrible things religion has done and continues to do, so #5 definitely isn't for me. I also do not participate in their weird rituals, though occasionally I'll do Thanksgiving. I have a little Jewish identity in me, I like how they generally come up with legitimate historical reasons why the authors came up with all the silly rules.
This is an interesting examination, I was curious about how other freethinkers use that freedom. I am not surprised that atheist communities would have some resistance to accepting classification. I think I get the spirit in which it is intended and am actually pretty impressed with the results.