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Copyright © 2009-2011 by Zack Smith .
All rights reserved.
By definition, an
atheist is simply a person who rejects the idea that there are any gods.
Individual atheists can and do differ from one another in almost every other
way. However it can help to further classify atheists by examining
issues related to god-belief.
It is helpful to ask: How many kinds of atheist are there and what are they?
Differentiating between kinds of atheists
Rather than attempt to list the types of atheist as A, B, C and so on,
it is wiser to identify the key characteristics that vary.
For convenience, I will also provide letter codes to designate
the forms of each key characteristic.
- Greater Atheists (G)
These are people who were brought up without religion,
and consequently have a great potiential to be more rational,
more inclined toward science, less inclined toward
fantasy and pleasant beliefs, and less dogmatic.
We are the
- Lesser Atheists (L)
Ex-theists are not always as open-minded and rational as
those of us who were raised without any religion.
I wish this were not true, but I see it again and again.
People who are escapees from the prison called religion are
Subtype of Lesser: Transient Atheists (Lt)
Some Lesser (ex-theist) atheists call themselves atheists because they
want the social status of rejecting religion and spirituality,
but in their hearts they still long for the child-like
escapism from reality that religion offers.
They will return to theism in due course, so they are merely
Subtype of Lesser: Bitter Atheists (Lb)
Other Lesser (ex-theist) atheists are understandably angry
about how much of their lives was wasted focusing
on religion and they may have even been victimized
by morally-flexible religious practitioners.
Lesser atheists feel quite justified to have a chip on their shoulder,
and so they are the
- Mono-Atheists (M)
These are people who have fixated on rejecting
one religion. Their thinking has not yet progressed
to where they see that other religions are equally
abhorrent and deserving of rejection. Mono-Atheists tend to be
Older Mono-Atheists may hold that present-day
religions are awful but that ancient religions such as
that of the Greco-Roman gods held some benefit.
- Myopic Atheists (Y)
These are atheists who reject the main
end-products of religious reasoning,
which is to say the
fully-formed religions themselves,
but unfortunately not the tendency for religiosity
i.e. the psychology that is the cause of religion.
They wish to believe that religious thinking goes
in one box, non-religious thinking goes in a different box
and the two types of thinking never, ever overlap.
But the reality is they do overlap a lot.
This fixation on a duality
is an example of reductionist thinking i.e.
wishing that a topic is simpler than it actually is.
Thus if you tell a Myopic Atheist
that some topics such as
Communism or even Neoliberal economics
are supported by religious-like thinking,
and that these amount to pseudo-religions,
they will deny this and may even get angry about
any such notion being put forward.
They will insist again that religious thinking is limited
to a narrow part of the human experience called religion.
This behavior is usually due to
Myopic Atheists being ideologues and therefore
in a religion-like ideology such as the two mentioned above.
They may hypocritically claim to be quite rational
while being the opposite.
- Realistic Atheists (R)
Realists recognize that the human mind has many inherent
failings and that religious thinking will never be limited
purely to established religions or to "spiritual" thinking
i.e. to end-products of religious psychology.
People are just people, they make many mistakes of thinking
every day and
they are easily manipulated. Any ideology or
system of thought can be used to brainwash and "convert" people
in the same ways as do established religions.
Claims of gods are not a prerequisite.
Communism and Neoliberal economics
in particular function as pseudo-religions.
They offer surrogates to gods, clergy, faith, and
- Anarcho-Atheists (N)
These are people who, having observed how corrupt religious
authority behaves (lying, cheating, stealing, abusing)
have realized that all authority does these things
and that it would be
inconsistent, disingenuous and hypocritical
to only reject religious authority
without also rejecting similar forms of authority.
They know there are many rational and sensible reasons to
They know that power offers enticements for abuse.
- Authoritarian Atheists (A)
These are people who have selectively rejected religious
authority because religious authority is fraudulent,
intensely corrupt and spews lie after lie, and yet, the
then goes on to embrace other highly similar kinds of authority
such as a lying and corrupt government, lying and corrupt
media, lying and corrupt academics, and lying and corrupt
political parties, which even a child can see
have the same disgusting characteristics as religious authority
insofar as they are illegitimate authorities
that lie and cheat and abuse people in order to cling to power.
- Identity-Atheists (I)
This is an atheist who unfortunately
supports bogus religious authority
because he or she has embraced
"identity politics", which is a 1970's term
meaning a craven clinging to
one's ethnic group in the hope that doing so
will lead to political advances that outweigh
the many disadvantages of ethnic politics,
such as marginalization and corruption.
But for the Identity-Atheist, the identity of the ethnic group
in question is tied to a religion.
This predicament is most common among Zionist atheists.
All atheists are, in my experience, by default what I called
Consumerist Atheists. By this I mean they simply don't "buy"
religions' myths and claims. Even the least educated
person can be this type of atheist. Two types of education
raise an atheist above this level: science and logic.
If you have both, you could be called a Consummate Atheist.
- Scientific Atheists (S)
Those of us who have gotten around to studying
biology and evolution, and therefore have a grounding
in the mechanisms of life, gain an understanding of how
the emergence of life, though precious, is inevitable
due to the nature of the underlying biochemistry.
No "hand of god" is needed.
Likewise the mechanisms of evolution can be readily
observed on a daily basis and even simulated on computers,
without any divine interventions.
Every year science gains more and more ground
in explaining life and the world while religions lose ground.
- Logical Atheists (O)
Those atheists who have yet to study the underlying
mechanisms of life may take the view
that they know there are no gods
because religious argumentation always collapses
when analyzed logically.
For instance, when one considers
the idea that there must be a creator
for everything (the First Cause claim),
thinking about it one almost
immediately wonders: OK, so who created the gods?
If an exception is made for them then the First Cause claim
Thus without scientific grounding
Logical Atheist can nevertheless
be satisfied with logical analysis and other critical
analyses of religion.
- Consummate Atheists (U)
- These atheists are both grounded in science and insistent on the use of logic.
- Consumerist Atheists (C)
An atheist who is neither inclined toward logical analysis nor
as yet schooled in biology and biochemistry is
the default: a Consumerist, because
simply from the point of view of an
information consumer, religion is a hard sell
to anybody except senile old folks and wishful children.
The Consumerist responds to religiosity with lucidity:
- Religion is so obviously a scam. An invisible man in the sky? Ridiculous. Who falls for such nonsense? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. There is none.
- There is obviously no proof of any gods. Would you buy a bridge if you had no proof that it exists? Prove your wild claims or stop wasting my time. If there is a god: Let him show himself right now to settle the argument. (He never does.)
- The myths used by religion are so zany and often contradict one another. They are just as fanciful stories for kids. For instance the bible claims Abraham lived to 175. How plausible is that? Not very.
- Bigots clearly use religion to justify every form of discrimination that they want to perpetuate. Is there seriously any other practical use for religion except to justify cowardly bigotry and hate?
- Myths clearly are recycled. The Jesus life story appears to be stolen from parts of the life of Krishna. Both born of a virgin with a god for a father. Both crucified and brought back to life. Both born on December 25th. It is as though Jesus was a con man who stole his stories.
Counting the combinations
So given these four fulchrums of upbringing, scope, consistency
and education, how many types of atheist would there be?
You can choose one from each group, so the total is
simply 2 times 3 times 3 times 4, which gives us
72 types of atheist.
It helps to classify atheists for two reasons.
First, because you need to think about where they are coming from
when they claim to be more rational than other people.
Second, because some who self-identify as atheists are hardly
atheists at all because they are myopic or authoritarian.
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