Apparently, I’m AAA

Christopher Silver of the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga has produced a study of religious non-believers that provides a taxonomy of the various types of non-believers. It’s pretty similar to PZ’s informal taxonomy of atheists from last year. PZ used me as an example of a “political atheist.” Silver would call me a AAA.

Activist (AAA)

The next typology relates to being socially active. These individuals are termed the Activist Atheist/Agnostic. Individuals in the AAA typology are not content with the placidity of simply holding a non-belief position; they seek to be both vocal and proactive regarding current issues in the atheist and/or agnostic socio-political sphere. This sphere can include such egalitarian issues, but is not limited to: concerns of humanism, feminism, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered (LGBT) issues, social or political concerns, human rights themes, environmental concerns, animal rights, and controversies such as the separation of church and state. Their activism can be as minimal as the education of friends or others, to much larger manifestations of social activities such as boycotting products, promoting legal action, or marching public demonstration to raise awareness. Activist Atheists/Agnostics are commonly naturalistic or humanistic minded individuals, but are not limited to these types of ethical concerns. It is not uncommon for AAA individuals to ally themselves with other movements in support of social awareness. The Activist Atheist/Agnostic’s are not idle; they effectuate their interests and beliefs.

Which of the six types are you? Or do you have your own?

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  • Reginald Selkirk


    Atheist who doesn’t see the point of putting people in boxes.

  • Anthony K


    Atheist who doesn’t see the point of putting people in boxes.

    Heretic! I’m an AWK(S)PLBAWPTIOEWDBE: an Atheist Who Knows (Some) People Love Boxes And Will Put Themselves In One Even While Denying Boxes Exist.

    Other than that, I’m pretty much an AAA, meaning [Googles triple A] I taste outstanding when cooked just a shade more than blue rare, topped with grated horseradish, and served with a side of (your choice): baked potato, grilled wild mushrooms, or seasonal vegetable.

    Man, science is weird.

  • unbound

    Along the lines of Reginald, I don’t fit well in any boxes, but am also AWDSTPOPPIB.

  • freemage

    Reginald: Sometimes, the boxes are useful, if only for the purposes of not boring someone else to tears. A Non-theist, for instance, is unlikely to really care much about a AAA’s desire for massive political reform to clear religion from the public sector.

    That said, I do think it’s better to regard this sort of survey as a Venn Diagram rather than a collection of isolated boxes. There aren’t going to be many Ritual Atheists who also identify as AAAs, but I can easily see an IAA finding common cause with one or the other of those two classifications.

    Also, I think this survey (and most of these lists) should include a spot for ‘religious secularists’–those individuals who have a good deal of faith and participate in religious life, but who advocate for a secularized society (making them natural allies of the AAA group). “Political Atheists” are some of the best allies you can have in a case involving a 10 Commandments monument or school prayer.

  • ph041985

    I think the important thing is that everyone has a way to identify themselves that they are comfortable with, if any at all.

    Me, I’m fine with just Atheist. Someone else may prefer to call themselves an Activist Atheist. That should be within their rights.

  • I’m MA. Mostly Awesome.


    Maybe I took a different quiz.

  • Sneaks around in a box O.O

  • You’re an automobile club???

  • I’m an atheist who roots for the Celtics, who prefers not to wear clothes, who doesn’t speak a word of Sichuan dialect, who likes my steaks medium rare, and who hates people who complicate simple stuff. I am angry-angry-angry that my type of atheism wasn’t mentioned.

    I don’t believe in gods. All other preferences, proclivities, and activities are unrelated.

  • The world can be divided into two kinds people: those who favor binary classifications and those who don’t.

  • baal

    I’m underwhelmed with atheist typography. I’m mostly an a-supernatural anywho.

  • Vall

    @10 aaronbaker

    Did you mean 10 kinds of people?

  • Anti-theist all the way! 😀

  • Also, I’m seeing another archetype arise. For lack of a better term, let’s call it the “The amusing atheists.”

    These are the ones who do the whole Jon Stewart type of thing of sliding facts in underneath comedy or other stuff like with Keith Lowell Jensen, Tim Minchin, and, to an extent, myself with the gaming writing.

  • khms

    OK, so let’s see which box I fit in …


    not only is the IAA typically engaged in electronic forms of intellectualism but they oftentimes belong to groups that meet face to face offline such as various skeptic, rationalist and freethinking groups for similar mentally stimulating discussions and interaction. The modus operandi for the Intellectual Atheist/Agnostic is the externalization of epistemologically oriented social stimulation.

    Nope. No groups, no philosophical debates.


    Individuals in the AAA typology are not content with the placidity of simply holding a non-belief position; they seek to be both vocal and proactive regarding current issues in the atheist and/or agnostic socio-political sphere.

    Nope. Not particularly proactive.


    the SA simply cannot be sure of the existence of God or the divine. They keep an open mind

    Nope. I am sure of the nonexistence.


    As such, the assertive Anti-Theist both proactively and aggressively asserts their views towards others when appropriate, seeking to educate the theists in the passé nature of belief and theology.

    Nope. Aggressively asserts? Nope.


    A Non-Theist simply does not concern him or herself with religion.

    Nope. It does concern me, just not enough to get aggressive about it in one way or another.


    One of the defining characteristics regarding Ritual Atheists/Agnostics is that they may find utility in the teachings of some religious traditions. They see these as more or less philosophical teachings of how to live life and achieve happiness than a path to transcendental liberation. Ritual Atheist/Agnostics find utility in tradition and ritual.

    Nope. No ritual, no spirituality or teachings.

    – what, that’s everything? Really, none of these boxes seem to fit.

    Of course, it’s likely stronger concern would lead me into one or more of them if I lived in the US, but I don’t.

    I’m as convinced of the nonexistence of the Abrahamic god (for instance) as I am of that of Santa Claus; I make no secret of my opinion if the topic comes up but I do not seek out the topic; it turns out a number of my acquaintances see things mostly the same way; in any case I spend most of my time with other topics.

  • @12:

    Wasn’t thinking of binary numbers (not a math person, by any means), but I guess that works, too.

  • Vall

    Yeah, sorry. It’s a joke I heard years ago. I’m fluent in binary, octal, hexadecimal, and binary coded decimal.

  • khms

    I’m fluent in binary, octal, hexadecimal, and binary coded decimal.

    BCD is just a subset of he with a weird interpretation.

    How about ASCII or EBCDIC?

  • khms

    Gah. s/he/&x/ obviously.

  • abb3w

    The six categories struck me as having some interesting-seeming parallel to the categories in Dale Cannon’s “Six Ways of Being Religious” — AAA paralleling “Right Action”, IAA paralleling “Intellectual Inquiry”, et cetera.

  • Michael Heath

    Reginald Selkirk writes:


    Atheist who doesn’t see the point of putting people in boxes.

    The researchers might put you in the same box as a crab. From the linked article quoting William James:

    Probably a crab would be filled with a sense of personal outrage if it could hear us class it without ado or apology as a crustacean, and thus dispose of it. “I am no such thing,” it would say; I am MYSELF, MYSELF alone.”

  • Lofty

    My atheism is part of a Venn diagram with no sharp edges.

  • Lofty, small world. My Venn Diagram is also no sharp edges. How about you and me go across the street to the Logic Diner and we can split a nice union set of “no sharp edges” and “also no sharp edges” Venn pie.

    Mmmm. Venn pie.*


    * This moment of ridiculousness provided by Pie. Pie: It’s what whipped cream goes on.

  • Vall


    The machine I worked on had a row of 16 switches that would either be on or off depending on the word displayed. And I mean computer word. Binary at it’s finest. Groups of three were octal, and groups of four were hex. There was a separate display that used ASCII, so I’m familiar, but it’s been a long time.

  • dogmeat

    I’d say I was an anti-theist except I’m not aggressive about it. Heck, where I live and work, I really have to keep my head down and put up with all the religious babble.

  • gertzedek

    I suppose I’m an SA with spatterings of RAA and IAA — I maintain that knowledge of the existence or non-existence of G-d is an impossibility, freely admit the possibility of G-d’s non-existence, and enjoy intellectually exploring & debating both sides of the existence/nonexistence debate (though I find the existence hypothesis more interesting, as long as it doesn’t contaminate other fields of thought). I actively participate in religion even though I believe G-d probably doesn’t care, largely because I find it personally helpful and intellectually stimulating. I find people who believe too strongly in either existence or nonexistence to be boring; they tend to take debates too personally. I tend to identify as a religious person, but that’s because most of my friends are atheists.

    I’m a freethinker among religious types and a religious type among atheists; there’s something for everyone to hate. 😉

  • gerryl

    Apatheist: Just don’t care.

  • Of the options, I definitely fit most comfortably into the first group, IAA, though I am loathe to self identify as an intellectual, and I don’t tend to go to local meetings or events. I’m a bit too shy for that business.

    I don’t consider my atheism an active part of my personality. It’s the logical outcome of weighing the available evidence. That is, I’m not an atheist “who proactively seek to educate themselves through intellectual association, and proactively acquire knowledge on various topics relating to ontology” instead, I’m someone who enjoys reading about ontology, science, politics, history, and whatever else and the natural outcome has been a bolstering of my atheism. Not sure if that’s a distinction that matters, but there you go.

  • zbeeblebrox

    Maybe someone will post a thesis on the epistemology of ontological horseshit that derives from overblown intellectualism.

  • Peter Butler

    Vall and khms, Years ago I worked on a mainframe that had a 12×12 array of bat handle toggle switches for its boot program. DPROM? Digitally Programmable Read Only Memory? I know this because part of a bug fix I had to write yet another “deadstart panel” setting.