What kind of atheist are you?

PZ Myers recently posted a piece attempting to create a “taxonomy” of atheists. I found his post fascinating – and, I think, well merited. After all, during my time as an atheist, through my experience with other atheists both online and in real life, I have found that there is a lot of variation and variety among atheists. PZ’s post is an attempt to make sense of and organize this variation (not surprising, given that he is a biologist!).

Now first of all, PZ divides “thoughtful atheists” into four categories. This is very important, because by addressing only “thoughtful” atheists, he leaves out atheists who are simply atheists because they have never given religion a thought or because it’s “cool.” I’ve found this distinction to be important in my own experience. I know a number of people who are atheists in that they do not believe in God or have any part in religion, but who have no sense of an atheist “identity.” What I mean is that for them it does not matter that they are atheists; their beliefs regarding the supernatural play no role in their lives. It’s all simply…irrelevant. I sometimes find these individuals difficult to understand because, given that religion has had such a drastic impact on my life, my atheism is most definitely a part of my identity.

After noting that he is specifically addressing “thoughtful” atheists, PZ offers four designations. Allow me to quote from this section of PZ’s post at length:

Scientific Atheists:

The New Atheist camp tends to be well-stocked with scientific atheists, because the most influential atheist of our generation, Richard Dawkins, is one, and The God Delusion is really a wonderful introduction to their philosophical position (also, a disclaimer: I consider myself one of these kinds of atheist, too). Scientific atheists have strong expectations that claims about the nature of the universe will be backed up with empirical evidence and reason; that our goal should be acquiring deeper truths about reality; and that knowledge and epistemology are paramount.

ExamplesRichard DawkinsJerry CoyneJason RosenhousePharyngula.

Strengths: They are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. It is almost certainly true that there is no god, and it is definitely true that god’s proponents have not provided reasonable evidence to support their outlandish and unnatural claims. For many of us, that is sufficient: the power of science combined with the failure of religion to ever provide cause to think their claims are true means that the Scientific Atheist will simply say “case closed” and be done with it.

Weaknesses: Smugness. It’s a well-deserved smug, though, because they are right — but it means they’re often poorly suited to political action. It also means they tend to be dismissive of the other kinds of atheism; witness the exceedingly smug put-downs of philosophy by Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss.

Common phrase: “Show me the peer-reviewed scientific evidence. Or STFU.”

Philosophical Atheists:

Give credit where it is due — philosophical atheists are the original atheists, and while they are a bit swamped by the rising numbers of scientific atheists, they’re still a major intellectual contributor to how we think. Philosophical atheists aren’t as focused on empiricism; instead they address the logic and assumptions of claims about gods. They may also have a deeper appreciation of history, and consider the causes leading to atheist conclusions.

ExamplesJohn WilkinsCamels With HammersAtheist ExperienceThe Uncredible Hallq.

StrengthsRigor. Asking hard questions. Of all the atheists, philosophical atheists are the most likely to turn on their fellow atheists and demand that they back up their assumptions. This is the team that keeps the rest of us honest, and is essential to the integrity of the movement.

Weaknesses: Long-winded, and to the rest of us, fussy and annoying. These are also probably the least charismatic of the atheists: it’s really hard to rally around a detailed discussion of modus ponens. Unless you’re a philosopher.

Common phrase: Phrase? These are philosophers. You’re more likely to get a treatise out of them.

Political Atheists:

While the scientific atheists have knowledge and forcefulness, and the philosophical atheists have reason and logic, the political atheists are the ones who get the hard work done. These are the organizers and diplomats and lobbyists, the people at the cutting edge who make it their business to work every day with (and against) the opponents of atheism. They’re willing to work for incremental gains, so they’ll often be more narrowly focused on what we can get done today, next week, next year. If you find an atheist who will cite case law at you and wants to organize a campaign to resolve a church-state separation conflict, you’ve found a political atheist.

ExamplesThis Week in Christian NationalismDispatches from the Culture Wars, all of the sites of the major atheist organizations.

Strengths: They do the work. Without these people, we’d be a bunch of stuffy academics meeting in university auditoriums to talk about ideal universes and inconsistencies in the Bible.

Weaknesses: Infuriatingly willing to compromise. Oh, wait, is that a weakness?

Common phrase: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”


Humanists are people driven by real-world concerns; they support atheism because they see religion as a source of oppression or injustice, they see secularism as a better path to fairness and equality, they want to put a human face on the abstractions of atheism. These are people motivated by ethical and social concerns. It’s fine to say we’re atheists because we believe in the truth, but it’s the humanists who give us a reason to think the truth matters.

This category represents the bulk of humanity. These are the idealists who set the grand goals, and the activists who want a better world. If we want the atheist movement to grow, we must adopt wider goals than pure science and philosophy. We must embrace humanity and culture.

ExamplesBlack SkepticsMaryam NamazieNo Country for WomenZinnia Jones

Strengths: This is the heart of an atheist movement that will endure and grow. Ignore it and we can expect atheism to fade away.

Weaknesses: Pragmatically fickle. If the atheist movement does not address human concerns, they’ll leave and follow institutions that do. Why be an atheist if an inclusive, progressive church were to do a better job? Why be an atheist if we neglect the concerns of women or minorities, or belittle civil rights?

Common phrase: “Our aim is a Humanist world in which human rights are respected and everyone can live a life of dignity.”

After reading these four categories as outlined here, I had a big “oh, so that’s why” moment. You see, according to this taxonomy, I am a Humanist. And that, quite simply, is why I sometimes approach issues so very differently from many other atheists, especially Scientific Atheists. PZ had it pegged when he said that “if the atheist movement does not address human concerns, they’ll leave and follow institutions that do. Why be an atheist if an inclusive, progressive church were to do a better job?” This is why, for example, I felt so conflicted about Christopher Hitchens.

This is also, I think, why I seem to blog so often about topics that don’t directly focus on atheism. When it comes down to it, I place a much higher value on social justice than I do on atheism. What I mean is that when atheism goes hand in hand with social justice – and in the atheist circles I frequent it does – all is well and good, but if the atheist movement ceased to go hand in hand with the causes I find most important, I would part ways with it.

Now let me take a moment to clarify that! Because the reality is that I fit into more than one of the above categories. The truth is that while I am a Humanist in how I act on and view my atheism, I am an atheist not because of how religion has served as a source of oppression but rather because I see no evidence of or reason to believe in a god. Thus I am, technically speaking, a Scientific Atheist when it comes to my reasons for being an atheist. Thus even if parted ways with atheism as a movement because I found that it did not support the social justice issues I care about, I would still be an atheist.

This taxonomy has also helped me understand something more about myself as an atheist. In the atheist world – or at least the online atheist world – there is an accusation which is sometimes bandied about or directed at this atheist or that – that of being an “accomodationist.” This is the idea that some atheists are too ready to “accomodate” to religion and the religious rather than taking a harder line. I’ve long preemptively tried to guard against this label by pointing out that I really do find the entire idea of a god to be complete nonsense – a very Scientific Atheist way of thinking. But I’ve also always known that the way I approach the religious tends to differ slightly from, say, that of many other atheist bloggers. Thus even as I’ve staked a claim on a part in atheism as a movement, I’ve always felt that there was something different about me and how I see things.

And so, the above taxonomy has come as something of a relief. Because, well, it’s not just me. I’m not being a “bad atheist” (not that I would change my approach even if that’s what I was being); rather, in reality I’m simply a specific kind of atheist in how I live out my atheism, namely, a Humanist. The reality is that different kinds of atheists have different interests, focuses, and approaches – not all atheists are the same – and I’m glad that’s something we’re discussing.

And so, I’ll ask my atheist readers: What kind of atheist are you?

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://twitter.com/nicoleintrovert nicole introvert

    First and foremost I think I am a Humanist and that does (f0r me) spill into being Political. However, it is through these blogs and podcasts that I have learned more about adding in the flavors of some of the other types that PZ mentioned. It wasn’t until recently that I became a skeptic and I can thank the Scientific atheists for that. I was also afraid of the big questions, but the Philosophical atheists have made it easier for me to understand.

  • Tracy

    I think I am a bit of all four. I am scientific, with a bit of the philosophic, when it comes to the “why” I am an atheist. But I have a strong leaning to the humanist side when it comes to how I approach life, with a tiny bit of political thrown in…but not much, cause I’m more of a “talker”(hey, philosophic again) than a “doer”.

    • A Reader

      I totally agree. Scientific & philosophical atheist thought was what convinced me, but I think Humanism is hugely important too.

      • Enrico Migliorini

        I agree as well. As regards my actions, i am a Humanist: I believe that men should do their best to make life as better as possible, because no God will right things up for us, and that’s why I chose a medical career.
        But, when I am told that “the churches help people because morality comes from God”, then I turn into a philosophical debater, fueled by Kant and Nietzsche; and when people want to show me evidence of their assumption, then the scientific me bursts into life, countering everything that is possible. This is rarer, though, because I live in Italy, which, as corrupted as may be, has the strength of having few people, even amongst the most radical papists, who really believe in creationism.
        So I would say I act like a Humanist, think as a Scientific and debate like a Philosophical.

  • http://All4 ReasJack

    I could no longer believe on scientific, philosophical, and humanist grounds at first around age 7.
    Scientific – Somebody obviously just made all this up!
    Philosophical – It makes no logical sense!
    Humanist – It’s not really good, its not even that nice!
    However I have become a Political Atheist to a greater degree in late adulthood. Abrahamic Religion in particular has some really nasty bits that must be publicly acknowledged and opposed.

    For example,
    The doctrine of faith is particularly offensive. The idea that there are things that can be validated in the absence of evidence and sound epistemology, AND that you of all people have a capacity to properly sort them out away from the remainder that can ONLY be validated by the weight of empirical evidence and sound reasoning. Attributing dubious powers of any kind to ourselves does not predispose us to sensible action. Faith is little more than a wild guess about the nature of things, and a terrible way to get good answers to real questions.

    The major post-judaic versions of this sky-god religion all share the core belief that there is something simply wrong with someone who is not of their particular communion. They do not see this as simply a matter of taste and style in ones psychic wardrobe, although it is a common trope among moderate religionists that we can all just get along if we only treat it that way. It is also a common bolt-hole for more extreme religionists who fend of criticism of their beliefs as tantamount to making public mockery of their taste in clothes or physical appearance. This is simply an intellectual shell game; another way faith attempts to stop conversation.

    These are two of what I think of as deep problems with these faiths. I could focus on the more salient and specific problems with them; the particular fecundity for viciousness, patriarchy, implicit and explicit totalitarianism, misogyny et alia, are clear, but others have covered them well. They are in many ways every bit as offensive and perverse as the doctrine of faith or the explicit mental division of the world into the clean and the unclean by the Abrahamic faiths, but they are sufficient for me to want to be through with them.

  • Ariel

    I generally think that I am a rationalist, therefore I am an atheist, therefore I am a humanist. I’m a rationalist because science/reason is the best method available to figure out how and why the world works, and I think that you need good information in to get good action out. I’m an atheist because I’ve never seen any convincing evidence in the supernatural, and I’m a humanist because. if there’s no higher power to take care of human beings, then other human beings had better step up and do it.

    So I guess that means that “scientific atheist” covers why I am an atheist, and why I think other people should become atheists, but “humanist” covers better what I think I should do now that I am an atheist.

    (The other reason I like to call myself a “rationalist” and not an “atheist” is that it puts the focus on what I value and consider important, namely reason and the scientific method, and not on what someone else considers important, namely belief in God.)

  • kathleen

    I’m a humanist, at my core is science. I feel anger but not at something that doesn’t exist, the anger comes from religion and the destruction it’s caused. Raised as a catholic I’ve heard one thing and observed another. One of my pet peeves is the similarities between religion and global business. Got god, diamonds,insurance, prescriptions, GMO food? Well I hope I’m making my point. Great article.

  • Contrarian

    What I mean is that for them it does not matter that they are atheists; their beliefs regarding the supernatural play no role in their lives. It’s all simply…irrelevant.

    This is the ultimate goal of the atheist movement: A world where everybody has the critical thinking facilities and cultural impetus to on the same page with regard to claims about the supernatural, so that none of it matters any more.

  • Rosie

    Mostly humanist with a touch of philosophical. I am not a materialist. And I became atheist first and foremost because I perceived the teachings of religion (specifically, evangelical Christianity…and all others in so far as they embrace hierarchy and patriarchy) to be harmful to humans. Specifically, they were harmful to me.

  • machintelligence

    FYI Maryam Namazie has a post correcting PZ about her type of atheism: http://freethoughtblogs.com/maryamnamazie/2012/07/09/not-that-kind-of-atheist/
    As for myself, I probably have characteristics of all four categories (as do we all), but the strongest are scientific/philosophical. I like to describe myself as a rational materialist, meaning I don’t believe in ghosts (Holy or otherwise) since there is no evidence for the supernatural. It is a point of some pride that I came to this conclusion on my own by the time I was a teenager, more than 50 years ago.

  • http://republic-of-gilead.blogspot.com Ahab

    Hmmm. When I first lost my faith, I would have been a scientific atheist with tinges of philosophical atheist. Nowadays, I have traits of all four of those categories, so I don’t fit neatly into just one.

  • Jeremy

    Definitely a humanist, according to that taxonomy. But I’m not sure I agree with his categories — are there really people who are ONLY interested in lobbying and organizing for atheism, but not in the ideas behind it? I think the real difference is between tolerant and intolerant atheists. I’m a tolerant atheist, maybe even a celebratory atheist. I celebrate the diversity of religions — I just don’t have one.

    • machintelligence

      I think the diversity of human delusion , expressed as religion, is truly awe-inspiring. But I see no cause for celebration. Likewise, the continual (unrecognized) rediscovery of the placebo effect, which results in vast numbers of woo medical treatments, is a monument to human self-deception. In the immortal words of Richard Feynman: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”

      • Rosie

        But if a placebo *works*, why not use it? Especially given the lack of side effects typically involved. I mean, it won’t always work, but it will a significant percentage of the time (or there would be no such thing as the “placebo effect”), and except in the case of acute problems, waiting a bit to see if it does won’t make things any worse. Now one could argue that the side effects of religion are sometimes worse than the disease, but in so far as it does no harm, why not make use of it?

      • Jenora Feuer

        To Rosie:
        Because the placebo doesn’t actually ‘work’. It doesn’t do anything. It’s nothing more than a sugar pill or flavoured water. The only thing that ‘works’ is the combination of the patient actually doing something and self-delusion.

        Saying a doctor should prescribe a placebo fundamentally means the doctor should lie to the patient, and give him something known to have no real effect. That is a pretty serious violation of most doctors’ ethics to start with…

    • Froborr

      I think of it as proselytizing and non-proselytizing atheists, but since proselytizing is inherently intolerant, it amounts to much the same thing. There’s the atheists who are okay with the fact that other people are religious, and there’s the atheists who freak out at the existence of theists and desperately try to eliminate theism, just as there’s [insert any other group ever, from ethnicities to religions to fandoms] who are okay with coexisting with the outgroup, and [insert same group] who freak out at the existence of an out-group and want to eliminate, escape, or absorb them.

      • Nathaniel

        Still holding the position that wanting to persuade people is the most basic of evils?

        Still waiting for you to realize that makes every time you post like this one evil little man.

      • Froborr

        Equivocation, strawman, and the Paradox of Tolerance, all in one comment, Nathaniel? How very efficient of you.

        Well, except for the part where you’re still making the exact same failed attempt at an argument you did months ago on a different blog (assuming you’re the same person; apologies if you’re not). That’s not particularly efficient.

      • Nathaniel

        Help, I’m being oppressed by the persuasive violence inherent in the commenting system! I’m being oppressed by the persuasive violence inherent in the commenting system! Help, I’m being oppressed!

  • Adele

    I call myself agnostic now, but I was raised atheist. I think I would fit mostly into the scientific and philosophical atheist camps. Mostly, though, the intellectual part of me loves the categorization and I think the descriptions are really well thought-out and written. The emotional part me however, just wants to tell members of the atheist movement to get over themselves! Being an atheist does not make you special, it does not make you a rebel, and it certainly does not make you an oppressed minority. I’m sure I would feel very differently if I had been raised religious and had to rebel against my upbringing to become an atheist. As it is, posts like these and people like Richard Dawkins are a big part of why I stopped identifying as an atheist. These people make a religion out of atheism – instead of just believing what makes the most sense based on the evidence, it is a movement – a cause – a community. They describe themselves as “absolutely right” which does not sound to me very different from the millions of religious people who are so sure they know THE TRUTH. Anyone who disagrees with them on the slightness detail is an idiot. The fact that there is even a concept of being a “bad atheist” floors me. If you even consider the possibility that there might be something in the universe that science cannot and never will fully describe and define you could be drummed out of the atheist club just like some conservative religions tolerate no questioning whatsoever.

    The atheists I admire are ones whose whole identity is not defined by atheism. I love Dale McGowan’s writing (The Meming of Life / Parenting Beyond Belief) because he presents himself as a father and writer first with a free-thinking focus – not as an atheist who happens to have kids.

    • MrRoivas
      • Adele

        The fact that the majority of voters who responded to a poll would be “somewhat uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” with an atheist as president does not show that atheists are an oppressed minority. I have no doubt that most people in this country would prefer not to have a Harvard graduate as president. If asked whether they would feel comfortable with a member of MENSA as president, I think a lot of people would say no. Smart, well-educated people are a minority, sure, but not an oppressed minority. The fact that some (not all) atheists love to highlight studies such as these as a way to help them maintain their view of themselves as self-righteous victims of oppression (and I am not saying that is why The Friendly Atheist posted this), does however provide a good example of why I prefer to distance myself from any atheist movement or community.

      • MrRoivas

        So are you actually going to give me a real answer, or can I safely assume you have none?

      • MrRoivas

        So, do you have a real answer to give me, or can I safely assume you have none to offer?

    • MrRoivas

      So, what would be an disfavored minority to you? Do people have to be beaten or killed to satisfy your definition?

      • Adele

        No, but it helps. ;-)

      • Adele

        If by “safely” assume you mean you won’t be beaten or killed if you assume that, then yes you can “safely” assume that. If you mean “Is this assumption valid and correct.” then no, of course not, as I am sure you are well aware. My reading of your responses is that you don’t really want to have a discussion, you want to self-validate your own view of yourself as an oppressed minority. I could talk about power structures and how in order to be oppressed the opressors have to have some form of power over the opressed group. Or I could talk about the difference between being honest and open about my beliefs when it comes up, but not letting it rule my life and people who metaphorically walk around wearing a sign saying, “I am an ATHEIST and I think everyone who isn’t is stupid.” and then act as if they are being victimized when nobody likes them. But really, what’s the point? If you want to believe you are a member of an oppressed minority, then by all means do so. You can even consider me to be one of your oppressors if you want. I was just trying to exit the discussion on a light note, and I probably should have just left it there, but I guess you caught me in a talkative mood. I’m sorry you didn’t find my response amusing. That was how I intended it.

      • MrRoivas

        Then I guess I can still safely assume that you haven’t talked to a lot of atheists. Ones that don’t reveal their beliefs to anyone because they are afraid of losing their job. Or getting kicked out of their homes and being thrust onto the street. Or losing custody of their children. Or losing their political office.

        I can find sources for each and every one of these types of people, so don’t tell me they don’t exist. Or that its all in their head.

        And its precisely these kinds of people that make me find your ignorantly flippant comment unamusing. But hey, maybe I just don’t get the joke. Try explaining it to me.

        As for my personal situation, its pretty good. I live in one of the richest and least religious sections of the country outside of New England. Similarly, a gay person living in New York city has it pretty good right now. Does that gay person’s situation erase the fact that in some parts of the country gay people can still lose their jobs or even get killed? Similarly, how is my situation supposed to comfort an atheist who lost their job in Alabama?

        But I’m sure this all pales in comparison to the problem of Dawkins being too shrill for your taste. He and others like him should learn to simmer down and ask nicely for their rights. It worked out so well for every other single minority groups asking for their rights to be respected after all.

      • Paula G V aka Yukimi

        Very well said Mr Roivas *thumbs up*

      • Froborr

        Very well said indeed, MrRoivas! (Do I detect an Eternal Darkness reference there? I hope so! Excellent game, needs more love.)

        There’s no point in playing privilege olympics–certainly there are groups more marginalized and oppressed than atheists, but that is irrelevant to the question of whether atheists are marginalized and oppressed–but in the U.S., atheists are indeed discriminated against fairly frequently.

      • Adele

        Mr.Roivas, you have no “right” to be respected. I find your desperate need to be recognized as a victim kind of sad. I hope providing you with an opportunity to rant on this blog and having several people applaud you for being the hero standing up in defense of all the poor downtrodden atheists everywhere has helped your self-esteem and made you feel vindicated and self-righteous. Maybe someday you will be able to move beyond being an ATHEIST and see that the vast majority of people really could not care less what you believe.

      • MrRoivas

        So you don’t deny that there are atheists that can lose their jobs for their beliefs? Or custody of their children? Or kicked out of their homes?

        Cause if you don’t, it makes your assertion that people don’t care about my beliefs rather silly.

      • Froborr

        So, just to be clear on what you’re saying here, Adele: as long as you’re not actively a target of physical violence, people can discriminate against you as much as they wish, and that’s not a form of oppression? So, for example, if anti-gay violence ended, but gay marriage remained illegal and you could fire someone for being gay, you’d say that gay people are no longer an oppressed minority?

        I’m asking because I can’t find any other way to read what you’re saying, but that’s such a completely ridiculous statement I can’t believe it’s really what you intended to say.

    • ScottInOH

      posts like these and people like Richard Dawkins are a big part of why I stopped identifying as an atheist

      I don’t get this at all. Dawkins, from what I understand, is (quite a) bit of a jerk, but I don’t see why that would make you start to believe there might be a god. And I have no idea what “posts like these” you could be referring to–Libby Anne’s? How can that upset you?

      Also, being “a movement — a cause — a community” is not the same as being a religion.

      • Adele

        Dawkins is a jerk but he certainly did not make me start believing in god. My beliefs have not changed all that much since I called myself an atheist, they have just become better defined. However, what people hear when they hear the word “atheist” now has been greatly influenced by people such as Dawkins and by posts like the one Libby Anne referenced (not her own post) that try to define what it means to be an atheist. Given the prevalent perceptions of what it means to be an atheist and the definitions I have read from self-proclaimed atheists (such as the referenced post) I no longer feel the label accurately represents me and my beliefs, so I no longer call myself that. At the moment I choose to label myself as an agnostic Unitarian Universalist and that label is pretty much universally misinterpreted as well, but at least I’m not associating myself with a vocal group of people that I don’t consider myself to be a part of.

      • http://riliansrlog.blogspot.com Rilian

        I’ve met dawkins, and he was nice. I was amazed at how nice he was.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    I’ve been an atheist since I was little because I saw no proof or logic behind the claim of supernatural beings of any kind (when I was almost 6 my mother asked me if I wanted to go to religion class I said that I wanted because they had nice crafts but that I wouldn’t because I didn’t believe in god and it would be dishonest to go then) and these ideas crystallised and matured with time in full-fledged scepticism and agnostic atheism so I also think critical thinking and scientific atheism are why I am an atheist.

    On the other hand, like many people, the main issue for me now is humanism and social justice, feminism, … and the damage some religious doctrines are doing to the world (like the Pope saying condoms are non-effective in the prevention of AIDS and the nasty effect it has had in Africa). these things are what really matters to me now, not getting one up to a religious person and I think working together in the areas in which we agree it’s important, no matter what I personally think about religion.

    Curiously I was pretty apathetic in the political/activism part of the atheist movemnet until about 2 years ago. You see, being an atheist in Spain past school (were it was a big deal since only 3 kids in my class didn’t go to Religion class was a big deal) didn’t cause me any trouble. I wasn’t personally discriminated (although the Catholic Church receives money from us all and stuff like that but I saw that as a inevitable evil) and there were plenty of other atheists around living normal lives without anyone thinking they were evil or morally bankrupt. It was when I saw how it was to be an atheist in other countries and specially in the US who is a western nation like mine that I “snapped” out of my apathetic attitude. I couldn’t believe it when I read about atheist parents losing custody because the other parent was going to take the kid more to church, about many reactionary laws being passed, about creationism being taught in schools and about tons of other ludicrous stuff people believe atheist are. It’s a lesser part of my being compared to the other two but I’m now a Political Atheist too.

    Until very recently I haven’t really looked my life, moral, … under the microscope of Philosophy so not really a Philosophical Atheist at all yet.

    I agreed with Contrarian in the past but right now I just want a world where everybody can be religious or not without bothering anyone else and without causing damage (the problem with this is that I consider too many religious doctrines hurtful…). It’s pretty utopic anyways.

  • http://riliansrlog.blogspot.com Rilian

    I’m the kind of atheist who was raised as such. I feel that there is no god, I believe it, I know it, just as strongly as I’m sure theists feel/believe/know there is one.
    I wondered about xtianity when I was 14, so I looked it up online and found a bunch of stupid stuff. Then I tried to read the bible, and that proved to me that xtianity is just a stupid boring faerietale. Whenever I go to a hotel, I get the gideon bible and open it to a random verse and read it. It’s ALWAYS something ridiculous, because there’s not a single thing in the xtian bible that makes sense. A few weeks ago, I read some of it, and it suddenly occured to me that people TRANSLATED THIS. There are people who know exactly what kind of weirdness is in this book and they continue to worship it. O_o

  • Rebecca M

    Thanks for this. Ever since I made the conversion to atheism, I have felt like I had no place. I absolutely do not believe in a god or gods, but for me it was a personal journey toward reason. Now I find theism ridiculous, but religious decisions to me are so personal that I don’t want to spend all my time bashing theists. I’m more interested in how I live from day to day… so I am not “atheist enough” and on the other hand theists think I am akin to their “devil.” And it turns out that is because I am a Humanist first who happens to not believe in dieties for philosophical and scientific reasons.

    I hope that this cements for others that we are not a uniform “religion” with everyone believing the same things for the same reasons.

  • http://puddinsilovemylife.blogspot.com/ Tonya Richard

    I am a humanist, but it is the science that convinced me that I am an atheist. When I started to leave the church I was in, I really thought I would end up a progressive, liberal Christian. It was the scientific facts that made me an atheist. I never planned to be an atheist. I always thought I would believe in God in some shape or form LOL Oh, and I am very much a closet atheist. The people closest to me know, but my younger children still think I believe in God, albeit a much more tolerant and understanding God than they grew up with. I just don’t think my older teenage daughters could deal with the fact that I didn’t believe in God at all anymore. I am not exactly sure when or if I will ever tell them the whole truth. I am taking this day by day.

    • ScottInOH

      Wow, there’s a lot of me in there. I know you didn’t write it for me, but thanks.

  • AnyBeth

    I’m a humanistic and scientific atheist. None of that is why I’m an atheist, though; it’s just a matter of what remained after my religious beliefs were stripped away.

  • mickey

    I am ‘a theist’ and i think it’s wonderful to see how the many different atheists are adopting for instance christian teaching, just without the religiousness and in this way living out the gospel. The Yeast is doing it’s job. I think the truest atheist is the indifferent one. Many atheists seem to be just being ‘opposites’ of their believing brothers, which is fair enough but not very creative. It’s a bit like christians creating christian versions of popular bands and books. i wonder whether you have actually read any of the books/replies to thedawkin’s books? I have and find them very reasonable. Dear atheists have faith :-) peace and love m

    • Azel

      I am curious to know of which “christian teachings” are you talking…In my experience, the chistian teachings usually held as useful by secular people can also be construed as muslim teachings or hindu teachings. That is, they are general principles that every successful society (for a given value of “successful”) have discovered, so something independant of a god, if any deity could be proven to exist.
      And if I recall correctly, atheism is only a position on what you don’t believe, so it’s expected that regarding their atheism people will only seem the opposite of the faithfuls: atheism do not imply anything else. However, atheists are also something else (e.g. ehis blog host is a feminist), and that inform on what they do believe.
      Two last things…one have faith in what, in addition of what we, individually, believe per our other beliefs ? Two, what in the blazes is The Yeast ? A mind-control device ?

    • AnyBeth

      “I think it’s great how many Christians are adopting Bahá’í teaching like egalitarianism, working to end prejudice, and even believing in the golden rule! Exposure to one of the manifestations of God (who, of course, has never been put to human form) has done them well, even if they’ve rejected other ones like Buddha and Mohammad. It’s wonderful.”
      A little offensive, maybe? If you use “Christian” as shorthand for “not horrible”, then you’d call many atheists (as well as people from many different religions) Christian, but you’d be thinking them well in a way that nevertheless promotes prejudice against them by clinging to a sense of Christian superiority.
      I used to be a Christian. I became an atheist as I slept one night. I mean that literally. I became an atheist because of brain damage. Nothing I did made me an atheist. I never “rejected God”; evidently, if the Christian God exists, said deity rejected me. My morals didn’t change, as I’d come to almost fit Humanism while I was a Christian, I didn’t change but in the religious aspect, but I was suddenly in hiding, fearing my parents might cut me off and that I would be hated by the wider community. How I act doesn’t make me Christian any more than how a Christian acts makes them anything else, like Bahá’í, for instance.
      You’d find more apatheists (people who simply don’t care about religion) in a world where people did not use religion to bully people. I find many things various religions are doing to be as disgusting as I find the religions themselves likely to be factually wrong. Why would you expect atheists not to care when atheist kids are bullied even to the point of death threats or are kicked out by their own parents? Why would you expect them not to care when every ad they put up, even for their own clubs or that only says “Atheists.” is judged as “offensive” or “controversial” (and often denied being put up because of those reasons) while ads for churches don’t get said treatment? Why would you expect atheists not to care while they are vilified as devils to people in the pews of the churches in their own community? Why must the truest atheist not care?
      Azel’s right, each atheist is also something else that informs their ethics and the way they act. Of course, so are Christians. Compare egalitarian and complementarian Christians. Or the implications of prosperity theology with the Methodist commitment to social justice. There isn’t much that unites Christians, really. Atheism isn’t at all exceptional in these respects.

    • Minnie

      Mickey if you were not so condescending I would not post this.

      What the bible says about cannibalism.

      Christian bible god is pro-people eating their children.

      Leviticus 26:29
      “You shall eat the flesh of your sons and of your daughters.”

      Jeremiah 19:3
      “And say, Hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the Lord of hosts, The God of Israel: Behold, I am going to bring such evil upon this place that the ears of whoever hears of it will tingle.”

      Jeremiah 19:9
      “And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters, and they shall eat each one the flesh of his neighbor and friend in the siege and in the distress with which their enemies and those who seek their lives distress them.”

      What the bible says about little girl rape.

      Christian bible god saves man, Lot, who offers, NO begs, that a gang of rapist men take his two virgin daughters and gang-rapes them.

      Genesis 19:8
      “Look now, I have two daughters who are virgins; let me, I beg of you, bring them out to you, and you can do as you please with them. But only do nothing to these men, for they have came under the protection of my roof.”

      31:17 “Now therefore, KILL every male among the little ones, and Kill every woman who is not a virgin.

      31:18 “But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves.”

      Christian bible god telling soldiers to rape twelve and thirteen year old virgin girls, I had been raped by the time I was twelve so I would have been killed with the other none virgin girls and women.

      Zechariah 14:2
      “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses rifled and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city.”

      Deuteronomy 22: 28-29
      “If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her and they are found, Then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her; he may not divorce her all his days.”

      Peter one of Jesus Christ chosen twelve calls Lot, a man who offered up two virgin girls to be gang-raped, righteous. Did Jesus Christ know Peters character before choosing him? Yes he did, and he chose a man, Peter, who called pro-gang-rape of virgin girls “Lot” righteous. Jesus Christ did not pick any sexually abused women as apostles, only rape is irrelevant men.

      2 Peter 2:7
      “And He rescued righteous Lot, greatly worn out distressed by the wanton ways of the ungodly and lawless.”

      Obviously gang rape of virgin girls is very Christian-bible-god, godly.

      The Pro-Rape bible consistently condemns none virgin women and girls. But it does not consistently condemn the men who rape them.

      The Ten Commandments does not say, Do not Rape. Jesus Christ never said, Do not Rape.

      The bible is Pro-Rape from start to finish.

      Christian bible god is a happy-go-lucky self proclaimed baby killer.

      Isaiah 13:16
      “Their infants also will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered and their wives ravished.”

      Ezekiel 9:6
      “Slay outright the elderly, the young man and the virgin, the infant and the woman; but do not touch or go near anyone whom is the mark. Begin at My sanctuary. So they began with the old men who were in front of the temple [who did not have the Lord's mark on their foreheads].”

      2 Kings 2:23-24
      “He went up from Jericho to Bethel. On the way, young [maturing and accountable] boys came out of the city and mocked him and said to him, Go up [in a whirlwind], you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!

      And he turned around and looked at them and called a curse down on them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and ripped up forty-two of the boys.”

      2 Kings 15:16
      “Then Menahem smote Tiphsah and all who were in it and its territory from tirzah on; he attacked it because they did not open to him. And all the women there who were with child we ripped up.”

      Hosea 13:16
      “Samaria shall bear her guilt and become desolate, for she rebelled against her God; they shall fall by the sword, their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women shall be ripped up.”

      1 Samuel 15:3
      “Now go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy all they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

      PSALM 137:9
      “Happy and blessed shall he be who takes and dashes your little ones against the rock!”

      Christian bible god making sure women and little girls know they are shit in his eyes.

      Exodus 21:7
      “If a man sells his daughter to be a maidservant or a bondwoman, she shall not go out [in six years] as menservants do.” Christian bible god pro-female slavery.

      Leviticus 12:1
      “And the Lord said to Moses, Say to the Israelites, if a woman conceives and bears a male child, she shall be unclean seven days, unclean as during her monthly discomfort.”

      Leviticus 12:5 “But if the child she bears is a girl, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her periodic impurity, and she shall remain separated sixty-six days to be purified [from her loss] of blood.” Baby girls make their mothers extra dirty.

      Leviticus 27:1-7
      “And The Lord said to Moses,

      2: Say to the Israelites, when a man shall make a special vow of persons to the Lord at your valuation,
      3: Then your valuation of a male from twenty years old to sixty years old shall be fifty shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary.
      4: And if the person is female, your valuation shall be thirty shekels.
      5: And if the person is from five years old up to twenty years old, then your valuation shall be for the male twenty shekels and for the female ten shekels.
      6: And if a child is from a month up to five years old, then your valuation shall be for the male five shekels of silver and for the female three shekels.”

      Christian bible god makes sure women and little girls know they are worth less then men and boys. People who teach this extremely hurtful, hateful crap to their little girls are evil.

      It is perfectly clear Christians promote the bible verses that benefit their agendas and flatter their egos, but the bibles verses that make their cult look like the vile evil sewage it is they sweep under the rug.

      And Christians actually think they are special for promoting and condoning this sick crap.

      • Kindoalkun

        Wow epic overreaction Minnie…some might say “Old Testament” wrath kinda vitriol! Good job biting the hand off that tried to meet you halfway. Next time, whilst on your critical analysis of the Old Testament pepper in some FUN FACTS(tm) about the Jacobins of the French Revolution or the Bolshevik League of Militant Godless.

      • Terry

        exactly. the ‘moderate’ religous types ignore the bad verses saying thats not religion.

      • Christine

        Actually we just tend to read them in context. Unless you read the Bible the way that the evangelicals (and a large portion of anti-religious crowd) do, it’s not really ignoring the verses.

  • Siobhan

    I am a humanist atheist, but I am a member of a religion – Unitarian Universalism, which is the ONLY religion that I know that openly accepts and welcomes atheists. Now, some people I know have an issue with UU because it also openly accepts theists, deists, pagans, Christians, etc. etc. (UU is non-creedal).

    I make this point because I believe religion can be a tremendous force for good – but there are consequences to our beliefs. I want to harness the power of religion for social justice, and I feel my atheism is a core element to my religious convictions. We only have one life, justice is what we make it, and we get no second chances. So I am definitely a humanist atheist.

    • Paula G V aka Yukimi

      There are plenty buddhist atheists and it’s probably not the only religion without a god but I know what you really meant by what you were saying. Just saying that it’s different being an atheist than having no religion or being a sceptic.

      I always thought that most atheists that joined a UU Church, joined a community, not a religion but I have only learnt about UUs from the internet so I really have no idea. Living where I live I have never felt any attraction to joining a religious community, no matter their beliefs and I find community through many other different ways so I don’t completely understand the situation for former church atendees, …

      I think religion can be a force for good but there are plenty of ways to contribute and charity isn’t an exclusive of religions for example like many people seem to think and in a way UU Churches, who are composed by atheists and agnostics too, serve to prove that and that people from different faiths or none can work together. I find very commendable that you want to harness the power of religion for social justice. I’m also sure than UUs spend most of their money in outreach programs unlike other churches .

      One reason I would never go to a UU even if they existed here is that I feel that supernatural beliefs in general aren’t very good for developing critical thinking but I know that in UU Churches they study tons of different beliefs…. still, I think dedicating one morning to religion every week is just more time than it deserves. The idea that someone is going to preach to me doesn’t sound very welcoming either, it must be because I’ve never being churched.

    • Adele

      Hey Siobhan! Did you use to post on mothering.com? Or maybe still do – I’m the one who drifted away from that site. I was Adele_Mommy and kept a UU thread going in the spirituality forum for a long time. I was always impressed with your thoughtful, well-written posts (if you are the same person).


  • Karen

    I’m a humanist atheist, and also a scientist (just got my M.S. geology!). I was raised Catholic, and while I’ve grown past the theology, the then-teachings on social justice (1970s) stuck with me. If nothing else, they’ve been reinvigorated by the latest recession. (The nuns who taught me are either shaking their elderly heads at the Vatican or turning in their graves, as that evil body speaks out against nuns who advocate for social justice.) The Catholicism of my youth was wrong on so many levels, but it did teach the notion of thoughtful action informed by compassion. The Catholicism of today is just wrong.

  • Kindoalkun

    ***WARNING: If you do not understand sarcasm and the use of overgeneralizations and/or analogies to illustrate ideas quickly and concisely STOP READING***

    This post reminds of some conversations I used to have with some UK Atheists on AnswerBag. One time I offhandedly commented— in the aftermath of some longwinded posts from some guy about the “spectrum of Atheism gnostic to agnostic, theist to atheist— or rather, I joked about how there seemed to be about as many denominations of Atheism as Christianity. Wow, you’d have thought I said, “Let’s go lynch Richard Dawkins and THEN give him a Christian burial!” Basically, I was flamed by dozens stating “there are NO DENOMINATIONS of Atheisim…it is simply lack of belief BLAH-BLAH.” One particularly longwinded…oh, what’s the word? ahhhh…[WORD CENSORED] stated—in a voice that had to sound like the nerdy science guy on the Simpsons…”Actually, there are 33,023 denominations in Christianity, of which sufficient permutations do not exist within the Atheist subset of core beliefs to even come close to BLAH BLAH BLAH”

    But ya know what? There ARE subgroups in Atheism (even though most are still white men). And as proof that not all Atheists are of the same “denomination”, how many would agree with this…and I have heard/read this IDEA more than once as an explanation of Atheist demographics:
    materialist • 8 months ago
    White males are genetically more predisposed to critical thinking; women in general are more religious then men, and worldwide, white men are less spiritual than any other men. That secularism,rationality, are purely European phenomenons is not a coincidence. There are no equivalants to those in any African,Asian, or Native American culture at all, That is all there is to it.
    This idea of the subgroups is spot on, helps to self-identify. What’s more, the idea is LOGICAL.

    Of course…
    Give the Atheist movement a more years, and the subgroups will be fighting with each other just as much as the Catholics vs. Protestants or the Jews vs. Muslims. Know why? Atheists are HUMAN, of course…just as prone to factionalism, violence, and discrimination as everyone else. I just hope the Eugenics-Atheists don’t win out, at least until I’m dead.

    That’s right….HUMANS are the blessing and curse for this Earth…not Gods or Godlessness. Surprising more Atheists don’t embrace this logical notion.