By Zack Smith
© All rights reserved.
IntroductionBy 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 atheistsRather 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 shall 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 Greater Atheists.
- 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 Lesser Atheists.
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 Transient Atheists.
Subtype of Lesser: Bitter Atheists (Lb)Other Lesser (ex-theist) atheists are understandably angry about how much of their lives were utterly wasted by focusing on religion and they may have even been victimized by morally-flexible religious practitioners. These lesser atheists feel quite justified to have a chip on their shoulder, and so they are the Bitter Atheists.
- 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 adolescents. 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 is binary thinking meaning a fixation on a yes/no, us/them separation. It is an example of reductionist thinking i.e. wishing that a topic is simpler than it actually is.
Thus if you propose to a Myopic Atheist that some ideologies or worldviews such as Communism, capitalism, or even Neoliberal economics are pseudo-religions made possible by thinking that is remarkably like how religion people think, they will vehemently deny this and may even get angry about any such notion being put forward. They will insist again and again that religious thinking is limited to a narrow part of the human experience called religion.
This behavior is often due to Myopic Atheists having shifted their need for religious-like thinking from religion to a particular ideology. They are ideologues and therefore emotionally invested in a religion-like ideology such as those mentioned above. They may hypocritically claim to be quite rational while being the opposite and shallow in their thinking.
- 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, Neoliberal economics, and even capitalism can function as pseudo-religions. They simply offer surrogates to gods, clergy, faith, and unquestionable beliefs.
- 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 to some extent and that it would be inconsistent, disingenuous and hypocritical to only reject religious authority without also rejecting similarly awful examples of authority. They know there are many rational and sensible reasons to question authority. 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 Authoritarian Atheist then goes on to embrace other highly similar kinds of authority, and often the worst instances of them. 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 do not raise a red flag for the Authoritarian Atheists. They are illegitimate authorities that lie and cheat and abuse people while using power and clinging to power, but that is OK because they don't use religion to do it.
- Identity-Atheists (I)
- This is an atheist who unfortunately supports bogus religious authority because that authority is tied to their ethnic group. This condition is most common among Zionist atheists. 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 and not to the usual marginalization and corruption.
By educationAll 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 whose intellectual capacity is working well.
The Consumerist Atheist 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 combinationsSo given these four fulchrums of upbringing, scope, consistency and education, how many types of atheist would there be?
ConclusionIt 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.