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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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.

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".

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.

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.

'Real Science', 'Real Religion'?

Could you clarify these?

For myself, my first exposure to 'religion' was via about six years of catholic school(CS) as time share while in Junior High(JH) & High School(HS). Some summer school could also be added while very young, which could bring this number to nearly ten years.

I was very interested in the sciences and started to notice little details from observations in nature and my science readings. Funny thing to think that my first inroads into logic were via watching Star Trek, with Spock as a possible role model..;p).

As I listened to my CS class content, I noted the characteristics of 'god',  and realized that weird results could be generated if the these were 'true'. Could 'god' allow 2+2=5? Surely being all powerful would not disallow this. Would 'god' allow the creation of the planet, knowing full well of its demise in a few billion years? Why does 'god' seem to have such a facination with beattles? If humans are very different from the rest of the animals, then why some many shared characteristics? Why would animals not have 'souls'? After a while the whole 'god' edifice just seemed warped to the 'nutty' side. 

Sadly, much of my early science interest seemed weighted to 'questions', and few reasonable 'answers'. I remember being told to 'not think so much', but this seemed like a huge betrayal of the gift that 'god' had given me! Since my early days it has become painfully obvious that the 'not think so much' is over used. The vast web of sub-cultures, ideologies, corporate interests, and other metaphysical commitments, can demand blind conformity, premature commitment, unthinking acceptance, and even something I like to call 'dis-understanding'. The push for 'settled dogma/answers' is at times overwheming to ones independence and liveiihood. Imagine how effective a business would be if they really followed a reasonable ethical model that allowed 'their workers' to be human beings first and citizens second!

'Real Science', 'Real Religion'?  Could you clarify these?

I'm not sure I can, @James.   Perhaps it's the difference between novice and expert, or between what real scientists do and what's taught in schools. 

I've been involved with AAAS studies looking at U.S. school science texts, and they're awful, especially at elementary & middle school.  Perhaps because of the web of sub-cultures, ideologies and corporate interests that attend textbook publishing.  Feynman has a great piece on being asked to review California science texts which is well worth the read. 

All I know is that if a child were to learn science exclusively in a classroom from a textbook and a teacher who was well-meaning but not necessarily all that well versed in science him/herself, what that child would take away from that wouldn't be what I would call "science."  "Real" science is done very differently.  We may refer to texts, but not to quote them on a test.  We don't sit around copying notes from a board. 

As a theist, I think the same sort of thing happens in religion.  Most people have the experience you had.  Mostly just elementary school, taught by well-meaning people who were by no means experts, out of texts that were poor.  Sit-and-take notes, regurgitate quotes/definitions for tests.  That seems to have as little to do with "real" religion as school science class has to do with "real" science.

I think sometimes what you call "the push for settled dogma/answers" comes from those well-meaning but inexperienced teachers.  I've met with many, for example, who want a "definition" of energy to tell students, rather than embracing the really more important and correct concept of energy.

Imagine how effective a business would be if they really followed a reasonable ethical model that allowed 'their workers' to be human beings first and citizens second!

Pick up the U.S. Catholic Bishop's letter on the Economy (1983).  It's an interesting commentary on just that - the obligation for businesses and economic systems to treat their workers as human beings first.  They got a lot of flak from conservative quarters for that.

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."

What they were doing was trying to figure out if there are certain characteristics among non-believers in regards to how they communicate with the religious and how they feel about religion.

I am an Atheist. That's it

There is no such things as "types of Atheists"

There are all types of people that are theists, and there are all types of people that are atheists.  Your categories above are categories of characteristics of people, not of atheism.  You could pretty much have a mirror post substituting atheist with theist vocabulary. 

Atheism is a position, not a characteristic.

I don't know.  What does a lesbian missionary position look like?  I'm always up for learning new stuff, grins


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