University Researchers Say There Are Six Typologies of Non-Believers. Which One Are You?

Are you an Intellectual Atheist/Agnostic, or an Activist Atheist/Agnostic?

Do you identify as a Seeker Agnostic, or are you more of a Ritual Atheist/Agnostic?

Are you an Anti-theist or a Non-theist?

Researchers at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga have identified those typologies in an effort to create “a modest crack in the monolithic ‘religious none’ category,” as they put it.

What bothered Christopher Silver (who is active in the Chattanooga Freethought Association) and his research partner Thomas Coleman III, was that

…[p]revious research and studies focusing on the diverse landscape of belief in America have continually placed those who profess no belief in a God or gods into one unified category infamously known as the “religious nones”. This catch-all category presented anyone who identified as having “no religion” as a homogenous group in America today, lumping people who may believe in God with the many who don’t.

Hence, the six typologies. You can read here about how the researchers describe each group; based on the definitions, you should be able to figure out which typology fits you.

Christopher Silver

Personally, I’m, um, agnostic on how useful and how widely applicable these academic efforts are, but I suppose it can’t hurt that Silver and Coleman found that irate, argumentative atheists (the researchers call them Anti-theists) only make up about 15% of the U.S. non-believer population. Interestingly, 45% of this subgroup lives in the South, a region that I can only imagine is so steeped in faith that it drives non-believers batty with slow-building rage.

Silver and Coleman note that

[Non-believers] may have had to dispel with stereotypical assumptions from friends, family and acquaintances ranging from “all atheists are angry and argumentative” to “all you heathens are just as dogmatic as religious people.”… [O]ne of the many questions our empirical research was able to address was “Are all atheists angry, argumentative and dogmatic”? Our results lead us to answer that question with a resounding “Absolutely not!” If any subset of our non-belief sample fit the “angry, argumentative, dogmatic” stereotype, it is the Anti-Theists. This group scored the highest amongst our other typologies on empirical psychometric measures of anger, autonomy, agreeableness, narcissism, and dogmatism while scoring lowest on measures of positive relations with others.

“You’re essentially normal,” is how Coleman summarized his findings to Raw Story.

[A]theists range across “a normal distribution of personality types,” and… the aggressive, confrontational stereotype of atheism only applies to a sliver of the people who identify as non-believers… “Most of the non-believers we researched, they’re looking to affect the world, to make the world better. They do care, and they care about everyone.”

Keep in mind this wasn’t a random sampling of atheists, but it does offer some insight into the almost-paradoxical diversity of beliefs among non-believers.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder of Moral Compass, a now dormant site that poked fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards. He joined Friendly Atheist in 2013.