What Type of Atheist Am I?

A closeted one. Duh. (Spoiler alert: see Type #5.)

If you want to know more than just that, stay tuned. There are actually seventeen different types of atheists outlined in this post from Common Sense Atheism. I’m going to look at these various options for atheism and see which categories I fall into. Atheist readers, feel free to do it for yourself as well! It could also work for theists if some of the wording is shifted around.

1. Difference in Knowledge

A gnostic atheist not only believes there are no gods, he also claims to know there are no gods.

An agnostic atheist doesn’t believe in gods, but doesn’t claim to know there are no gods.

While (a)theism deals with a statement of belief, (a)gnosticism deals with a statement of knowledge. Personally, I don’t believe that anyone, atheist or theist, can know for sure whether or not there is a god. And either there is one or there isn’t so we can’t all be right. For this reason, I believe that gnostic atheists don’t even exist (even if they claim to). This leads to my obvious identification as an agnostic atheist.

2. Difference in Affirmation

A negative atheist merely lacks a belief in gods. He is also called a weak atheist or an implicit atheist.

A positive atheist not only lacks a belief in gods, but also affirms that no gods exist. He is also called a strong atheist or an explicit atheist.

Difference in Affirmation is very similar to Difference in Knowledge, except rather than dealing with what we claim to know or not know, it addresses what we believe.

In the case of this “type,” I would say that whether I am positive or negative depends on which god we are referring to. If you ask me about the god of the Bible, or Allah, or any specific God that revealed himself to some ancient group of people, then I am a positive atheist towards that god. So rather than just saying that I lack belief in the Christian god, I would say that I believe that he does not exist.

If the god in question is a deist god, some unknown deity that can’t be proven or disproven, that isn’t self-contradictory, that doesn’t come with a peculiar set of laws or a cryptic old book, then that god strikes me as more plausible. For this reason, rather than believing that there is no god, then when it comes to this deist god, I would say I am a negative atheist who merely lacks belief.

3. Difference in Scope

A broad atheist denies the existence of all gods: Zeus, Thor, Yahweh, Shiva, and so on.

A narrow atheist denies the existence of the traditional Western omni-God who is all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful.

As I said in #2, I lack belief even in the most ambiguous god, and I actively believe that these specific gods (Zeus, Thor, Yahweh, Shiva, the Triune God) do not exist. Therefore, I am a broad atheist: I don’t believe in any gods, whether they are Eastern, Western, or anywhere in between.

I find this an interesting “question,” because it can create a situation in which a theist can also be considered an atheist. It reminds me of the famous Dawkins quote: “We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.” For example, you could consider my mother a passionate atheist in regards to Allah and Baal, but a devout believer in the god of the bible. The only difference here between her and me is that I don’t believe in her god either.

4. Difference in the Assessed Rationality of Theism

An unfriendly atheist believes no one is justified in believing that gods exist.

An indifferent atheist doesn’t have a belief on whether or not others are justified in believing that gods exist.

A friendly atheist believes that some theists are justified in believing that gods exist.

In terms of the Assessed Rationality of Theism, I would say I am a friendly atheist; close to indifferent, but friendly. In my post about my grandfather’s passing and my mother’s comfort about his return to his Savior, I expressed my uneasiness about the fact that she took comfort in something that I don’t even believe to exist. In that post’s comments though, some of you pointed out that even if heaven doesn’t exist, it’s a good thing that she is comforted in its existence and her father’s presence there. If her belief brings her peace, then there’s no reason to break the news to her that I don’t believe in heaven.

This is an example of a time that I see theists being justified in their belief. It does bring comfort to many whether or not it’s rational. Others believe based on their own personal reasons that the existence of a god is only rational. Whether or not it makes sense to me, it certainly makes sense to many, many people, and just because I’m not convinced doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be.

5. Difference in Openness

A closet atheist has not yet revealed his disbelief to most people.

An open atheist has revealed his disbelief to most people.

Gee, I don’t know. Can you guess?

My real answer: while my blog and username are The Closet Atheist, I’m not as “in the closet” as I was when I started my blog. That’s actually why I chose a cracked-open closet door for my header image rather than a closed door. I’m mostly still in the closet, but I have come out to my boyfriend, my roommates, and a class at school (it was part of an assignment). I plan to come out more at school this year. More importantly, in the next few years, when it’s the right time, I hope to accomplish the liberating task of telling my family. You can read what I want to say to my mother here.

6. Difference in Action

A passive atheist doesn’t believe in god but doesn’t try to influence the world in favor of atheism.

An evangelical atheist tries to persuade others to give up theistic belief.

An active atheist labors on behalf of causes that specifically benefit atheists (but not necessarily just atheists). For example, he strives against discrimination toward atheists, or he strives in favor of separation of church and state.

A militant atheist uses violence to promote atheism or destroy religion. (Often, the term “militant atheist” is misapplied to non-violent evangelical atheists like Richard Dawkins. But to preserve the parallel with the “militant Christian” who bombs abortion clinics or the “militant Muslim” suicide bomber, I prefer the definition of “militant atheist” that assumes acts of violence.)

Since there are so many options for Difference in Action, I decided that I’m two out of the four. I would say I’m both a passive and active atheist. This may sound contradictory, but according to these definitions, they don’t seem mutually exclusive. By being passive, I’m not trying to change anyone’s minds and deconvert them. Of course, I use my blog and my Twitter to share my thoughts, opinions, and the occasional criticism of religion, but I never have the goal of persuading others to give up their belief.

I consider myself an active atheist because of how I try to present myself on my blog. I see a lot of angry atheists on Twitter, YouTube, and occasionally here on WordPress, and I know that atheists in general have a bad reputation. That’s why I try to show patience, acceptance, and kindness to all who do and don’t agree with me. This is how I try to do what I can to recover the public view of atheism. We’re not all hateful and mean, I promise. This post goes into more detail of how I try to generate and promote positivity.

7. Difference in Religiosity

A religious atheist practices religion but does not believe in gods.

A non-religious atheist does not practice religion.

I guess that for Type #7 that I am technically a religious atheist. I go to church with my mother and sister, but it’s not by choice. It’s just what we do. I’m expected to go with them, so I go. When I’m at school, I don’t attend church (although I joke that my school itself feels like a church anyways), so during the school year, I could say I’m a non-religious atheist.

So there you go! I’m an agnostic, negative, broad, friendly, closeted, passive/active, sometimes religious atheist. What type are you?

12 Replies to “What Type of Atheist Am I?”

  1. This is a very interesting post. I’m curious, are you male or female, I’ve looked around this blog and I don’t see any indication. Also, a first name would be good. If you are interested in conversation, it would be helpful to have a name to address you by. I’m Jason by the way. 🙂 Nice to meet you.

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    1. Hi Jason! Thanks for stopping by.

      I’m a girl, but unfortunately I’m not going to tell you my name. That way, no one can trace this blog or my Closet Atheist entity back to my personal social media accounts or back to me in any way, hence they wouldn’t find out I’m an atheist. If that doesn’t make sense, you can take a look at my “About Me” page on here for more info on why.

      If it seems impersonal, think of it this way: there are tons of people in my life (family, friends, classmates, coworkers) that know my name, what I look like, where I live and go to school, etc. In that sense, they know me better than you do. But this whole huge atheist side of me only comes out online, mostly on this blog. So while you don’t know my name, you and my other followers know a heck of a lot about me that not even my close friends and family do.

      Hope this helps! 🙂

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  2. Definitely don’t believe in god/s but admit to thinking Zeus, is in the same category as Batman or Deadpool, just older with a beard and a different costume. The Tao is cool, no gods, rules, worshiping, imaginary beings, no buildings, donations, meetings, or lies. Just you and whatever. Great post.

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  3. Great blog! You have definitely done your homework. It took me sixty years and a disastrous relationship with a fundamentalist Christian to figure out that I am not a Christian. I don’t hate Christians, My family members are totally immersed in their religious beliefs. I don’t discuss religion with them. I don’t have to.

    I am of the mind that one’s belief is intensely personal and therefore is not something that needs to be scrutinized by the public at large. Now, if someone asks me directly, I’ll tell them I’ve left the Christian faith and am studying to be a Buddhist. The look I get is priceless. 🙂

    Thank you for showing interest in my blog. I’m glad to have met you!

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  4. The idea that gnostic atheists can’t exist because you can’t know for sure that there isn’t a god depends upon a technicality. Theoretically we can’t know anything for sure. We can’t be absolutely certain that the universe wasn’t sneezed out of the nose of a giant space goat (ref: Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy). In theory, it’s impossible to be sure of anything (even our own existence) but in practice we use the measure of reasonable doubt as being the closest we can ever get to being sure about something. As an atheist, I would assert that it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that there are no gods. Therefore I put myself forward as a bona fide ‘gnostic’ atheist.

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  5. Great post, I’d say I’m friendly, open and agnostic. Like you, I have loved ones who find solace in god and I don’t try to change their mind so I’d be active and passive. Glad your trying to change the perception of atheists. Most people I’ve met think atheists are immoral and dangerous.

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  6. I enjoy reading your blog as a polytheistic pagan. It is great to see the world through different veiws and I like your take through church based on your perspective. In these terms, I’m a gnostic, positive, broad, indifferent, open, active, religious polytheistic pagan 😉

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  7. wow…I am; agnostic, negative, broad, indifferent, open, passive, non-religious (although I just recently quit a 13 year Zen Buddhism practice, which is a religion, but nothing to do with whether a god exists) On another note, I’m not sure ‘I’ exist!! But that’s another topic.

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