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.”

See http://www.salon.com/2013/07/13/poll_six_kinds_of_non_believers_in_...

Tags: activist, anti-theist, atheist, groups, intellectual, non-theist, research, ritual, seeker-agnostic, types

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What exactly would you like us to do about them?  Summon the Inquisition?  Even in its heyday, the Inquisition only applied to Catholics.

All we can try to do is educate.

Professor Bob, is this an attempt to divide & conquer we silly atheists?

Atheist has become  yesterday's label to me. I strongly prefer Freethinker.

No attempt to divide and conquer, @Ed.  I've got no interest in "conquering" at all.  It was just an interesting article in Salon that I thought I'd share.

From an outsider's perspective looking at posts on TA, I'd say that there are probably people here who fall primarily into some of the types above.  Others I'm not sure about, which is why I was curious.

I think one can run similar studies for other groups.  Certainly people talk about "types" of Catholics, types of Republicans or Democrats, etc.  From a statistical perspective, I'd trust the research of our colleagues in the social sciences; I suspect that responses on well-designed questions do cluster numerically in manners that define "camps" or "types" within the dimensions being examined, with some people closer to the centroid for that type than others.

Fun topic Professor Robert! BTW I think it's awesome how you continue to stay here on TA and have these discussions. More power to you!!! That's how I started out...

As for a category......hmmmmmmm......let's see,.....eenie, meenie, minnie, moe....

I don't know!!!!

One thing I do know is that atheist don't like to be categorized despite sociologist's need to do so.

That made me laugh, Belle.  Still grinning now...

One thing I do know is that atheist don't like to be categorized despite sociologist's need to do so.

Apparently!  I found that response patten quite interesting, because it's somewhat unusual.  Why do you think this is the case?

Most people are interested in categories, and are happy to share everything from their Myers-Briggs personality results to whether they're "dog people" or "cat people."  I would generally be called a "traditionalist" Catholic, I think. 

If you aren't careful, you will end up categorising atheists as a "group that doesn't like being categorised".

@Bob:

Apparently!  I found that response patten quite interesting, because it's somewhat unusual.  Why do you think this is the case?

It's the principle of the thing. Religion is the very definition of following a doctrine/dogma/tradition/belief system/ideology....But the fact that it's all based on an idea that has not ever been proven to be true from an objective stand point, and the fact that so many atrocities across the globe, across history, and throughout our existence have been done with the excuse that it was "God's will/plan/providence..."....is completely maddening to an atheist of any flavor.

Long story short: We like to have the world open to all examination/experience/scrutiny/thought....instead of being told what to think. We think for ourselves. We recognize that everybody thinks a little differently, and that's why no 2 atheists are alike, but we quite frankly don't care and wouldn't have it any other way.

Sociologists by definition classify people, and it's worth doing from a sociological standpoint, but sociology as you know as evolved as a science that takes into account much more than a simple classification system approach, so we would always take a checklist approach to understanding the atheist worldview as a slight embarrassment and hedging on the verge of an insult because it doesn't even begin to explain what we think.

Interesting.  Yes, it's true, sociologists (like most sciences, actually) are interested in finding ways to describe phenomena in the aggregate.  With the exception of the high energy particle physicists, we're usually not interested in the idiosyncracies of individual atoms, but rather of descriptions of the behavior of more macro-level groups.  If the goal is to describe social groups, it's probably not fair criticism to say that it doesn't describe the exact motion of individuals.  

We like to have the world open to all examination/experience/scrutiny/thought....instead of being told what to think.

Why do some feel that research on the characteristics of groups is somehow being "told what to think?".  I don't get that.

But the fact that it's all based on an idea that has not ever been proven to be true from an objective stand point

Are any ideas ever truly proven true from an objective standpoint?  Proven false, sure, but not proven true.  My religion wouldn't make that claim, nor would my science.  We have things we're pretty darn sure of, but we can never have perfect understanding of God any more than we can ever have perfect understanding of the universe.

and the fact that so many atrocities across the globe, across history, and throughout our existence have been done with the excuse that it was "God's will/plan/providence...".

Yes, this seems to be a characteristic of the group as well.  It's mostly rubbish as a theory, with really nothing to substantiate even a claim of correlation, let alone causation.  It certainly doesn't meet your "proven to be objectively true" test.

That's why describing the behaviors/beliefs of groups is interesting to sociologists, because more often than not individuals conform to groups, even when they claim that's not the case.  Our ability to be genuinely independent and objective is more limited than we usually think it is.

@Professor Robert...

Why do some feel that research on the characteristics of groups is somehow being "told what to think?".  I don't get that.

I personally don’t have a problem with the analysis and I quite like sociology. It’s my favorite subject apart from linguistics and world languages. I understand where you’re coming from. The thing is that for anybody who has reached the capacity to admit to themselves or admit to family (especially if they grew up in a religious family,) and say the words outloud, “I am an Atheist..” They are ONLY saying that they do not believe that there is evidence to support the existence of a God of any kind, or any sort of supernatural being. What other people who are NOT atheists tend to do is right away make some sort of presumption, classification, stereotype, or criticism…many of which  that would derail them as a person, tell them they are possessed by Satan, tell them they are evil…all SORTS of ramification and consequences come from that for many people and it’s a very painful process. For some it’s a loss of identity. It’s takes them out of the social circles they are used to. It can have consequences at their job. It can mean the loss of lifetime friends. It can also mean being left completely and utterly alone. Or even rejected by their own family. So I think that any such a supposed collection of statistics that attempts to “classify” a person who simply says, “I don’t believe that there is evidence to support the existence of a God.”…. is like saying, “I’m going to classify you because you are male. If you are male you are also stupid, incompetent, misogynistic,….” It would feel sort of like that. When you are simply male. There no more complicated thing about being male than the fact that you’re male….But again…this is MY own ideas about it…I’m sure others will have their own opinion…and that’s OK.

Are any ideas ever truly proven true from an objective standpoint?  Proven false, sure, but not proven true.  My religion wouldn't make that claim, nor would my science.  We have things we're pretty darn sure of, but we can never have perfect understanding of God any more than we can ever have perfect understanding of the universe.

I also understand where you’re coming from here…I could write a master’s thesis on this…but to be brief: Lots of things are proven objectively. Some things simply require common sense. When you decide to take a step back from the worldview, facts, statistics, ideas, practices, and social norms from any religion for any length of time and see it through a different perspective…I mean REALLY examine it…you’ll find that what you thought was good solid evidence….that is to say objective evidence….is all bias and not actually true. It’s very hard to do this because you always will not want to believe it at first and say it’s the devil trying to whisk you away from your faith…It’s very hard…but then when you get beyond the initial gut reaction that tells you you’re being tempted to fall away, you start to see the things in this world that DO make sense and ARE REALLY objective. Then when you try to go back and re-examine the claims of your faith it all seems very shallow and THEN you are really forced to make a choice. Once the objective reality sets in as being completely counterintuitive to any faith claim you’ve ever been taught you are FORCED to make a choice…But it’s not really a choice because you will know deep down that your common sense will tell you, “This is not true…” You won’t have a choice other than to be honest with yourself.

Yes, this seems to be a characteristic of the group as well.  It's mostly rubbish as a theory, with really nothing to substantiate even a claim of correlation, let alone causation.  It certainly doesn't meet your "proven to be objectively true" test.

It sort of depends. There are many things that happen that appear to have nothing to do with religion. But when you examine further it all circles back to history or culture, sociological phenomenon really that is ultimately traced back to traditions that have been founded on religious principles. I do think that some people over exaggerate this point, but it’s a valid point and something to be aware of.

That's why describing the behaviors/beliefs of groups is interesting to sociologists, because more often than not individuals conform to groups, even when they claim that's not the case.  Our ability to be genuinely independent and objective is more limited than we usually think it is.

I totally agree with you.

What other people who are NOT atheists tend to do is right away make some sort of presumption, classification, stereotype, or criticism…many of which  that would derail them as a person

Ah, I see.  Thank you.  That's quite understandable and cogent.

When you decide to take a step back from the worldview, facts, statistics, ideas, practices, and social norms from any religion for any length of time and see it through a different perspective…I mean REALLY examine it…you’ll find that what you thought was good solid evidence….that is to say objective evidence….is all bias and not actually true.

I'll agree with this as well.   I think that for many people, at least, the way that they learned religion is the way that many people learn science in school - by rote.  They memorize words, they perform actions as directed, they get tested and evaluated on how well they can regurgitate stuff.  A lot of the people doing that teaching really aren't scientists or particularly knowedgeable; they're going through the motions by rote as well, using texts that are often simply awful.

When you take a step back from that, all it's social norms and practices and whatnot, you realize it's nonsense.  It causes most people to hate science and go pursue majors in English Literature. 

If you've been brought up with that sort of rote learning of science, or religion, as a rational person at some point you need to reject that.  You have to realize that's not real science, it's not real religion.  You have to break away, and think clearly for yourself.

Of course there is what I'd consider real science, but it takes time and effort to learn and understand and do well.  Some people grew up in families that taught them real science, despite the rote-learning of literal definitions out of a book that goes on in school.  Others came to real science later, after they de-programmed themselves from school.

All I would argue is that the same is true of religion, and probably other areas of human thought as well.

@Professor Robert

I'll agree with this as well.   I think that for many people, at least, the way that they learned religion is the way that many people learn science in school - by rote.

Yes - Now this is just my opinion here for what it's worth. I believe that most people believe what they are taught to believe as a child or teenager. I also think that people continue those beliefs in order to continue to fit in with their social circle, family or friends. I think everyone goes through a phase of questioning, no matter what they were taught growing up. But the level of rigor they use to ask and seek answers to their questions is what sets apart the average "joe" from a truly inquisitive mind. The inquisitive mind will also be a very passionate individual. I think that sometimes what you might initially think or feel from some members of this forum as anger or contempt is simply the passion that comes from being among some of the most intellectually curious minds there are. I admire your posts and perspective and I hope you stick around even though a lot of people give you grief :)

When you take a step back from that, all it's social norms and practices and whatnot, you realize it's nonsense.

I think that for any social norm it's good to challenge it's validity whether or not it has any roots in religion or not. Social norms aren't always a good thing. They can be, but their purpose is simply social control. They have to be challenged when they go against human rights. Many social norms in this world do.

If you've been brought up with that sort of rote learning of science, or religion, as a rational person at some point you need to reject that.  You have to realize that's not real science, it's not real religion.  You have to break away, and think clearly for yourself.

Exactly.

Of course there is what I'd consider real science, but it takes time and effort to learn and understand and do well.  Some people grew up in families that taught them real science, despite the rote-learning of literal definitions out of a book that goes on in school.  Others came to real science later, after they de-programmed themselves from school.

I grew up knowing neither real science or real religion. I learned "real" religion on my own...now I'm learning real science. It's daunting!!!!...but very exciting.

All I would argue is that the same is true of religion, and probably other areas of human thought as well.

It takes a lifetime to become and expert, and even then...are any of us really experts? LOL!

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