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Wed Jun 6, 2012, 02:48 AM

No Religion? 7 Types of Non-Believers

Religious labels help shore up identity. So what are some of the things non-believers can call themselves?

Catholic, Born-Again, Reformed, Jew, Muslim, Shiite, Sunni, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist . . . . Religions give people labels. The downside can be tribalism, an assumption that insiders are better than outsiders, that they merit more compassion, integrity and generosity or even that violence toward “infidels” is acceptable. But the upside is that religious or spiritual labels offer a way of defining who we are. They remind adherents that our moral sense and quest for meaning are core parts of what it means to be human. They make it easier to convey a subset of our deepest values to other people, and even to ourselves.

For those who have lost their religion or never had one, finding a label can feel important. It can be part of a healing process or, alternately, a way of declaring resistance to a dominant and oppressive paradigm. Finding the right combination of words can be a challenge though. For a label to fit it needs to resonate personally and also communicate what you want to say to the world. Words have definitions, connotations and history, and how people respond to your label will be affected by all three. What does it mean? What emotions does it evoke? Who are you identifying as your intellectual and spiritual forebears and your community? The differences may be subtle but they are important.

If, one way or another, you’ve left religion behind, and if you’ve been unsure what to call yourself, you might try on one of these:

1. Atheist. The term atheist can be defined literally as lacking a humanoid god concept, but historically it means one of two things. Positive atheism asserts that a personal supreme being does not exist. Negative atheism simply asserts a lack of belief in such a deity. It is possible be a positive atheist about the Christian God, for example, while maintaining a stance of negative atheism or even uncertainty on the question of a more abstract deity like a “prime mover.” In the United States, it is important to know that atheist may be the most reviled label for a godless person. Devout believers use it as a slur and many assume an atheist has no moral core. Until recently calling oneself an atheist was an act of defiance. That appears to be changing. With the rise of the “New Atheists” and the recent atheist visibility movement, the term is losing its edge.

More: http://www.alternet.org/belief/155685/No_Religion%3F_7_Types_of_Non-Believers_/


I thought this was fascinating, hadn't ever thought about it much, had no idea that there could be so many genres of nonbelievers. I'm still not sure which one I am.


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Arrow 26 replies Author Time Post
Reply No Religion? 7 Types of Non-Believers (Original post)
Rhiannon12866 Jun 2012 OP
OriginalGeek Jun 2012 #1
amyrose2712 Jun 2012 #10
OriginalGeek Jun 2012 #12
dmallind Jun 2012 #2
laconicsax Jun 2012 #3
BiggJawn Jun 2012 #4
PassingFair Jun 2012 #8
Rhiannon12866 Jun 2012 #14
PassingFair Jun 2012 #15
ShadowLiberal Jun 2012 #16
dmallind Jun 2012 #26
lindysalsagal Jun 2012 #5
Rhiannon12866 Jun 2012 #6
PassingFair Jun 2012 #9
dmallind Jun 2012 #11
wyldwolf Jun 2012 #7
frogmarch Jun 2012 #13
lindysalsagal Jun 2012 #21
daaron Jun 2012 #17
lindysalsagal Jun 2012 #20
laconicsax Jun 2012 #22
daaron Jun 2012 #23
laconicsax Jun 2012 #25
dmallind Jun 2012 #24
urgk Jun 2012 #18
dmallind Jun 2012 #19

Response to Rhiannon12866 (Original post)

Wed Jun 6, 2012, 11:01 AM

1. I'm most of those things

Definitely an Agnostic Atheist. I can be a skeptic and anti-theist and so far I am in agreement with most Humanist philosophies I've been presented.

I'm probably not as activist as the article implies for anti-theism and skepticism. I'm not scientifically trained well enough to go out and actively debunk. I don't count my snarking on Facebook as true activism - lol - I mostly do that to pick on my little brothers and what friends from high school who have bothered to remain my FB friends. (I graduated in 1981 from a Baptist run christian school).

I guess I'm not a pantheist - that seems almost like believing in "The Force". But I'm open to being educated on how it's not. (for one thing, the Force has actual, demonstrable properties. It's a good thing for a lot of people I can't shoot electricity out my fingers. )

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Response to OriginalGeek (Reply #1)

Thu Jun 7, 2012, 12:45 PM

10. I wish I could Like this, it gave me the smile I so greatly needed today.nt

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Response to amyrose2712 (Reply #10)

Thu Jun 7, 2012, 02:11 PM

12. The software may not count it

but I do
and that gave me
a smile too.

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Response to Rhiannon12866 (Original post)

Wed Jun 6, 2012, 11:58 AM

2. Needless subdivision that is either false or irrelevant

From your cite.....

atheism simply asserts a lack of belief in such a deity


Agnosticism refers to knowledge not belief. Agnostics who lack belief in deities (most of them) are therefore atheists

Anti-theists who lack belief in deities are atheists.

Freethinkers who lack belief in deities are atheists.

Skeptics who lack belief in deities are atheists.

Humanists who lack belief in deities are atheists.

This is like saying there are dozens of types of non-TV watchers. Readers, the destitute, monks, high security prisoners, the blind, babies, yadda yadda yadda. Irrelevant to TV watching - we either watch TV or we don't. Just like we either have a belief in deities or we don't.

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Response to dmallind (Reply #2)

Wed Jun 6, 2012, 04:30 PM

3. +1

 

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Response to dmallind (Reply #2)

Wed Jun 6, 2012, 05:16 PM

4. You know that. I know that...

But Valerie got paid writing about it. It's all good.

So, I guess I would say that first and foremost I'm an Atheist. And then next, I'm an Anti-Theist because I believe that Religions are con games that make a relative few wealthy and the vast multitude impoverished.

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Response to dmallind (Reply #2)

Thu Jun 7, 2012, 07:15 AM

8. Yep. Crap article.

Every "type" is an atheist.

There is SUCH hatred and fear of the WORD, that I
have given it up in most instances.

I still consider MYSELF an ATHEIST, but I tell
people that I'm an AGNOSTIC.

Just got tired of explaining it.

Especially in the R/T room.

REALLY tired of it.

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Response to PassingFair (Reply #8)

Thu Jun 7, 2012, 10:02 PM

14. Well, I never go there.

I mean, what would be the point? I don't share their beliefs, but they're entitled to believe whatever they want, doesn't affect me. As for the rest of the world, my lack of religion doesn't come up in ordinary conversation. Aside from close relatives, I really don't know what most people I know believe or if they belong to a church, though I'm guessing not. Maybe some go on holidays. The only reason I posted this article was that I found it interesting to examine what I do or don't believe, since I'd really never given it much thought before, so I just passed it on in case others here were interested. My motives were no more than that.

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Response to Rhiannon12866 (Reply #14)

Fri Jun 8, 2012, 07:39 AM

15. I didn't think you had "motives"!



And the R/T room is a place for believers AND freethinkers.

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Response to dmallind (Reply #2)

Sat Jun 9, 2012, 11:55 PM

16. Well, you could say the same thing about Christians to

Christianity is very fragmented, with Methodists, Catholics, Lutherans, etc, yet they all hold pretty much identical beliefs and pretty much identical worship services. Yet Christians fought each other and killed each other over those differences for centuries, only in the last 100 or 200 or so years have they stopped killing each other over it.

The divisions listed there are somewhat different areas that atheists care more about (some being more about the intellectual reasons why god can't exist from their own reasoning, and others being more about fighting the religious power in charge as a form of protests, or fighting what they see as 'evil' acts committed in the name of religion, or by corrupt priests/etc running religions).

The differences are also somewhat different reasons why they don't believe in god, and how strongly they feel (agnostic being a weaker form of atheism, anti-theists and their lack of belief being just as much about disgust with organized religion as it is in not believing in a god).

Also, for the record, I think I think more in the anti-theist group when it comes to why I stopped calling myself a Christian and switched to atheist, it was pure disgust with the religious right and the evils they were pushing in the name of god that got me to start seriously questioning my belief, and eventually come to the conclusion that I was never really a Christian in the first place.

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Response to ShadowLiberal (Reply #16)

Thu Jun 14, 2012, 10:17 AM

26. True, but few people think Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists etc are not all Christians

....barring loonytunes folks like Jack Chick. The list included atheists as a SEPARATE group.

Christians who saw a similar list that said under "types of believers"

1. Christians
2. Methodists
3. Litherans
4. Catholics
5. Episcopalians
6. Nazerenes
7. Monks

would, and should, have a similar reaction to that article to mine to this one.

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Response to Rhiannon12866 (Original post)

Wed Jun 6, 2012, 08:27 PM

5. The need to minimize people into neat, divided catagories

is something that small people do when they are afraid of themselves and the world.

The need to divide us according to our beliefs is one of humanity's greatest failings, and results in unnecessary, unproductive suffering.

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Response to lindysalsagal (Reply #5)

Wed Jun 6, 2012, 10:42 PM

6. Well, I thought it was pretty interesting, since I've never examined the nature of my beliefs

(Or lack of them) before. It never dawned on me that there were philosophical differences in nonbelievers, or that Unitarians (and I have known several) were considered nonbelievers. I saw myself in many of the descriptions, so I found this thought provoking. I'm pretty tolerant, tend to accept people as they are as long as they aren't proselytizing, so I found this to be an exercise in self-examination. I hardly found this to be insulting or disturbing, just made me think, is all.

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Response to Rhiannon12866 (Reply #6)

Thu Jun 7, 2012, 07:20 AM

9. This article is just silly. For instance, Unitarians run the gamut of beliefs.

They are not all atheists, by a long shot.

They do welcome atheists though, as equals.

If you are an atheist, you saw yourself in ALL of those descriptions.

You either have a god belief or you don't.

The only exception would be the agnostic who doesn't have
faith in a "god", but WANTS to, so they pretend that they do.

Even they are actually secret atheists.

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Response to Rhiannon12866 (Reply #6)

Thu Jun 7, 2012, 01:26 PM

11. Insulting or disturbing? Not really.

The main issue I, and it seems some others, have with this kind of article is that it perpetuates the idea that atheism means anything else other than lack of god belief, and that you can lack god belief but somehow avoid being an atheist.

You can't (that and the following are generic "you"'s not personally directed). You can call youself a skeptic or a freethinker all you want. You can use agnostic to answer questions about belief and maybe one person in ten at best will know you haven't answered the question at all. These are all perfectly valid and honorable labels to use personally. I don't "see myself" in the above definitions. I AM all of them. Just like I'm fat, and bearded, with a pale complexion and short hair and just like none of those speak to my gender (bearded women exist!).

When the question is gender, I am male. The fat and bearded yadda yadda just tells you what kind of male I am.

When the question is god belief, I am an atheist. The anti-theist, agnostic, skeptic, Humanist etc would just tell you what kind of atheist I am.

The believing majority have done such a good job, partly intentional but assisted by the ignorance caused by poor education in the US in both philosophy and religion, of boxing in the word atheist so that many atheists, and most non-atheists, have been persuaded that atheism is limited to strong atheism, also called positive or explicit atheism, and that agnosticism is a (not possible) middle and separate alternative to either believing or not believing. Furthermore they have demonized the term as one with meanings of amorality, communism, treachery and anti-Americanism so that few have the gumption to use it and remind people it means nothing at all in these areas. Articles like this grate because they are both the result of and ways to reinforce this intentional deceit about what atheism really is.

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Response to Rhiannon12866 (Original post)

Thu Jun 7, 2012, 06:10 AM

7. A little bit of all... I guess mostly weenie-agnostic-humanist-skeptic.

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Response to Rhiannon12866 (Original post)

Thu Jun 7, 2012, 05:18 PM

13. I’m an atheist. I have

no belief in any deities, Christian or otherwise. I can’t prove no deities exist, but I know of no evidence that any do.

Anyway, I don’t understand why believing in a deity means that believers have to get all weirded out and worship it. What is it with that?

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Response to frogmarch (Reply #13)

Tue Jun 12, 2012, 09:14 PM

21. God is imaginary.

Studying the details of our superstitions reveals alot about us, especially our fears.

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Response to Rhiannon12866 (Original post)

Mon Jun 11, 2012, 09:23 AM

17. Self-identification suffers from lack of verifiability.

 

Making the study of ideas a particularly tricky corner of social psych. There be where poli-sci majors in tailored shirts dwell.

The article itself is inoffensive in that it merely attempts to delineate some of the self-identification making the rounds with non-believers of various stripes. I think the attempt to coin 'positive' and 'negative' atheism was over-zealous labeling, however. Atheists self-identify as 'strong' and 'weak' atheists, not in polar, dualistic terms like + VS -. If one is allowing self-identification to comprise an underlying model for classification, as the author attempts to do, one ought to grant the same allowance to each self-identified group. I for one have never heard atheists debate positive or negative atheism. Atheism VS anti-theism, yes. Strong VS weak approaches to public expression of atheism, yes. Atheism VS agnosticism as a false dichotomy, yes. But positive VS negative? Nope.

That said, there is a subtle point in there. The author notes I think correctly that some atheists make the positive assertion that there are no gods, while other atheists make no assertion, but eschew belief, altogether, along with anything that requires an underlying belief (the Tinkerbell Effect, if you will). The latter's not a negative assertion. Here, "positive" means "there exists an assertion". It's a verbal flourish, not a description of the state of a logical proposition - at least, not if we're talking about the usual Boolean logic. So it's a mistake to extend this flourish to the proposition which it decorates; it turns the resulting +/- model into an erroneous mess. 'Strong' and 'weak' are more descriptive, and already in wide use. I suggest we stick with them. If 'weak' is offensive to some atheists, they should say so. Perhaps 'Positive' and 'Neutral', but 'Negative'? No way.

ETA: Proudly a 'weak atheist' since about a week ago.

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Response to daaron (Reply #17)

Tue Jun 12, 2012, 09:11 PM

20. Welcome to awake.

You are probably even taking responsibility for your own words and actions! Feels good to join the grown ups and reclaim your own power. It's our only hope for the survival of our democracy, our species and our planet.

Congratulations!

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Response to daaron (Reply #17)

Wed Jun 13, 2012, 12:12 AM

22. Minor point:

 

Not all atheists identify as "strong" or "weak" as the concept depends on a concrete god concept.

If you define "God" as the petty tyrant as described in the Bible, a convincing argument can be made to the end that its non-existence is definite.

If you define "God" as something less definite, the ability to be certain about its existence decreases.

Personally, I reject the "strong atheism" vs "weak atheism" concepts for this reason. They are dependent on an ill-defined god.

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Response to laconicsax (Reply #22)

Wed Jun 13, 2012, 08:39 AM

23. Hm. My understanding was -->

 

that 'strong' VS 'weak' was dependent on the presence or absence of a positive assertion regarding the non-existence of a supernatural deity, rather than any one particular god concept.

Just shows to go ya that even these more common terms aren't globally accepted by atheists... so I guess it's 'good luck' to the article's author getting atheists to go along with 'positive' and 'negative'.

How about 'angry' VS 'appeasing' atheists? Heheh. Surely there's a wedge laying around here somewhere!

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Response to daaron (Reply #23)

Wed Jun 13, 2012, 02:19 PM

25. That wedge has been tried already.

 

There is a bit of a divide between accomodationists/faitheists and non-accomodationists, but it doesn't amount to much.

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Response to laconicsax (Reply #22)

Wed Jun 13, 2012, 10:32 AM

24. but strong and weak atheism are broader definitions IMO

You can certainly discard inconsistent god ideas as impossible - a married bachelor god for example - while retaining weak atheism as a philosophical stance. I do so for one.

Weak and strong atheism apply to the generic idea of god belief.

A strong atheist says: "I believe no gods exist, anywhere at any time. Period."

A weak atheist says "I don't believe in any gods".

The distinction is important. I'm a weak atheist, even though I can categorically state that married bachelor gods and triple-omni gods are impossible. I don't believe in any gods but I don't take it on faith that none at all could exist. To me gods and sentient ammonia-based cloud beings are identical logical constructs. I have no evidence or reason to believe either exist, but I'm not going to say that it's a belief of mine that no sentient ammonia-based cloud beings exist anywhere in the universes of M-Theory.

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Response to Rhiannon12866 (Original post)

Tue Jun 12, 2012, 11:29 AM

18. All of those religions listed are atheistic too...

...Catholic, Born-Again, Reformed, Jew, Muslim, Shiite, Sunni, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist . . . .

But they're just atheistic to one fewer god (their own) than those of us who believe there are no gods at all.

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Response to urgk (Reply #18)

Tue Jun 12, 2012, 12:57 PM

19. I understand the appeal of this thinking, echoed in the article, but I disagree with it

I can't with intellectual honesty insist on a precise usage of the term atheism to make a point and then condone incorrect usage to make another point, however tempting or valid that latter point is.

'a' as a prefix from Greek roots means without or lacking. Without one or without a million is no difference because without means you have none at all. I'm not without shirts just because I don't own yours, as long as I have one or more of my own. A person with belief in any god cannot be an atheist properly defined. They can and usually do lack belief in all or almost all other gods than their own, but that does not make them without god belief, as long as they believe in one or more.

The key point is true. Whatever reasons theists have to find other god-claims but their own unconvincing are indeed the same reasons we find all of them unconvincing, including theirs (although the majority of them generally have one other reason we lack - the claim of ontological monotheism in their own faith) BUT that simply means they approach the claims of, say Scientologists the same way atheists do, not that they are atheists.

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