Six Types of Atheists?

According to the University of Tennessee, in what is, reportedly, the first-ever attempt to classify different types of atheism, researchers have identified 6 types of atheists.  If you are an atheist, what flavor are you?  Is there a category they didn’t think of?  If you are close to someone who is an atheist, do you recognize them in these types?

1. Intellectual Atheist/Agnostic–The true believer (er, non-believer) who seeks to develop his non-belief through reading and other intellectual pursuits related to atheism.

2. Activist– The evangelists.  It isn’t enough to reject God.  They need to convert others.

3. Seeker-agnostic– They embrace uncertainty.  They’re pretty sure there is no God, but they are open to the possibility.

4. Anti-Theist– Antagonistic to religion.  Equates religion with ignorance.

5. Non-Theist– Not concerned with religion at all.  Just don’t think about it.   Apathetic.

6. Ritual Atheist–Doesn’t believe in God, but thinks religious rituals serve a healthy role for personal growth and social stability.

Read the article.


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Dr. Gregory Popcak directs the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to helping Catholics find faith-filled solutions to marriage, family, and personal problems. Together with his wife, Lisa, he hosts More2Life Radio. He is the author of over a dozen books integrating psychological insights with our Catholic faith. For more info about books, tele-counseling and other resources, visit

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I dispute their “first ever” claim. I came up with the same six back in 1990, before I was on the web.

    Many anti-theists are also the abused children of fundamentalist Christians- I call them Biblical atheists, because their sum total of proof for atheism comes from “contradictions in the Word of God”, which reminds me strongly of the Babel Fish argument for atheism from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    • abb3w

      “And pretty soon my name in Dnepropetrovsk is cursed/ When he finds out I published first!”

  • abb3w

    At least four of the suggested “six types” (Intellectual, Activist, Seeker, Ritual) of atheist seem to express one of Dale Cannon’s “Six Ways of Being Religious” typology (Intellectual Inquiry, Right Action, Mystic Quest, Sacred Rite). The other two (anti-Theist and non-Theist) aren’t so clearly corresponding, but might also have some elements of Cannon’s other categories (Devotion and Shamanic Mediation) — possibly unusual expressions of those ways, or alternately representing additional ways beyond those Cannon suggests (his book notes his framework “is not intended to be exhaustive”), which might have religious counterparts.

    Cannon’s book would thus seem to imply an expectation that these may not be cleanly demarcated categories, but rather that many individuals will express more than one of these, though perhaps tending more prevalently to one or another — similar to how (EG) a sample of Catholics might consider the Mass (Sacred Rite) and Works of Mercy (Right Action) to both be key parts of their faith, but in practice differing in degree of individual personal emphasis.