With any group of like-minded people, there are different approaches that individuals take towards the chosen topic or belief. All of us are unique and bring our particular brand of thoughts, assumptions, and conclusions to the table. Atheism is no different. There are many different types of Atheists. There are many different types of religious people, too. Let’s take Christians for example. Some are passive. Some go to church only at Easter and Christmas. Some go to church every Sunday for the social aspects, or even to network within their communities. Some go to church every Sunday with a genuine devotion to their religion. You get the idea.
Unfortunately, it is usually the extreme elements that get all of the attention. A self-righteous senator pushing his religious agenda. A televangelist falling from grace by soliciting a prostitute. The pastor of a “mega church” bilking followers out of millions of dollars. The wackos at the Westboro Baptist Church that picket the funerals of fallen soldiers. The latest would be the Muslim terrorists wreaking havoc all over the world. You generally do not hear much about the Christian or Muslim that quietly goes to church or mosque and practices their religion in a private way.
There are a few outspoken or otherwise noted Atheists that show up in the news fairly frequently. Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, and Stephen Fry come to mind. Occasionally, but not always, they tend to talk down or ridicule those of faith. Unfortunately, that is usually what makes the news. This is just the way of things for most groups. For example, celebrity scandal gets more attention than some of the charitable work that they may do. It’s what sells papers or gets clicks on websites. What about those that approach Atheism in their own unique way?
I humbly submit to you the 10 types of Atheists. This list is certainly not all-inclusive. You may even disagree with my list. Some get more attention than others, but I think it is important to draw the distinction between them. Here we go!
Atheist #1: The Militant Atheist
This is the Atheist who is hostile towards religion. They differ from other Atheists because they have the desire to propagate atheism and also hold religion to be harmful. Militant Atheists are in your face and will tell you in a heartbeat that all religion does is cause violence and harm. Religion is silly, and those that follow it are sheep. This is the Atheist that has something to prove. They view Atheism as a progressive movement that is at war with religion. Their tactics include undermining spiritual ideals and are convinced that the world would be a better place if all of humanity embraced Atheism and left religion altogether.
Atheist #2: The Protest Atheist
Protest Atheism is the belief that there is no God combined with the refusal to recognize or submit to or honor or worship God should it turn out that God does, in fact, exist. Atheists in this category run the range from vocally anti-religious activists to nonbelievers who still observe some religious traditions.
Atheist #3: The Intellectual Atheist
This type of Atheist seeks information and intellectual stimulation about Atheism. They like debating and arguing, and tend to use online forums to express their viewpoints. They tend to be well versed in books and articles about religion and Atheism, supporting their beliefs by quoting these sources.
Atheist #4: The Activist Atheist
This kind of Atheist is 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. The Activist Atheist shares similarities with the Militant Atheist. However, the Activist Atheist tends to have an activist’s tendencies and personality that lends itself to passion about most things that they believe in or champion.
Atheist #5: The Seeker Atheist
This Atheist is unsure about the existence of a God, but keeps an open mind and recognizes the limits of human knowledge and experience. The Seeker regularly questions his/her own beliefs and does not hold onto a firm ideological position. They embrace uncertainty. Some may label this type of Atheist as an Agnostic.
Atheist #6: The Anti-theist
This type of Atheist regularly speaks out against religion and religious beliefs, usually by positioning themselves as diametrically opposed to religious ideology. Anti-theists view religion as ignorance and see any individual or institution associated with it as backward and socially detrimental. 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 can be confrontational about their disbelief.
Atheist #7: The Non-theist
The Non-theist simply does not involve himself/herself with either religion or anti-religion.
In many cases, this comes across as apathy or disinterest. A Non-theist simply does not concern himself/herself with religion. They simply do not believe, and in the same right, their absence of faith means the absence of anything religious in any form from their mental space.
Atheist #8: The Ritual Atheist
This type of Atheist does not believe in God, does not associate with religion, and they tend to believe there is no afterlife. However, the Ritual Atheist 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. They may participate in specific rituals, ceremonies, meditation, yoga, or holiday traditions. Some of this may be an extension of their upbringing.
Atheist #9: The Scientific Atheist
This type of Atheist bases their beliefs/non-beliefs squarely on scientific fact. The Scientific Atheist is not so concerned with a specific doctrine, but is quicker to point out that the myths that most religions provide as a foundation have no logical, scientific proof to back them up.
Atheist #10: The Angry Atheist
The Angry Atheist is mad at God for something that happened in their life. It could be the loss of a loved one or some other event in which they feel God wronged them in some way. They reject God because of this belief. I find this type of Atheist the most intriguing because they acknowledge God, but refuse to follow or worship him, so they call themselves Atheists.
So which type do you think is most closely related to your approach to Atheism? I believe that all of us who call ourselves Atheists have a little bit of all 10. Life experiences, age, emotional intelligence, knowledge, and many other factors lead us to approach our beliefs in our own way.
I think the common thread woven through all types of Atheists is a desire for acceptance. I personally do not have the need to prove anyone wrong. Any devout Christian will tell you as an Atheist that you are going to hell and need to believe in the bible. That is not going to change; they are hard-wired to have that reaction to non-believers. I, for one, would just like to be able to express my views in an intelligent and heart-felt way without fear of reprisals, shunned, or otherwise being looked at as an abomination just because I do not believe in God.
Ask yourself: what do you hope to contribute to the Atheist community? Do you want to contribute anything at all? Do you want to remain in the shadows or anonymous since we are living in a society that generally bases morality on a belief in a higher power? Do you want to try to present an argument that articulates your point of view? Do you want to make those of faith feel “silly” and “stupid” for believing in what you think is a fairy tale? History tells us that acceptance is difficult to come by, especially when it comes to a belief system that differs from the majority. What will history say about the current state of Atheism? Is acceptance of Atheism even possible? I suppose if I were to pick one, I have more in common with the Ritual Atheist. What type of Atheist are you? I know, I know…lots of questions. But isn’t that what really brought us all to Atheism in the first place?