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Which Sort Of Atheist Or Agnostic Are You?

Christopher Silver, a graduate student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, has published the results of a qualitative study designed to identify distinctions within the category of atheists and agnostics. The research identified six types:


Intellectual Atheist/Agnostic

The Intellectual Atheist/Agnostic is motivated by the desire to obtain information and insights about philosophical positions related to religious belief and disbelief. This type enjoys engaging in debates with both believers and non-believers.

Activist Atheist/Agnostic

Activist Atheist/Agnostics are involved in attempts to make political change, not only on issues related to nonbelief in religion, but on other issues as well.


The Seeker-Agnostic seeks to maintain a flexible position on matters of religious belief, rather than adhering to any firm philosophical principle.


The Anti-Theist is opposed to religion, regarding it as having a harmful social impact.


The Non-Theist is characterized by a combination of disbelief and disinterest in religion. Non-Theists aren’t any more interested in atheist activism or atheist ideas than they are in religion.

Ritual Atheist/Agnostic

The Ritual Atheist/Agnostic is ceremonially and socially active in religious communities, while disbelieving, or holding doubt in, the religious beliefs of those communities.


To me, this system of types of non-believers seems conceptually muddled by the inclusion of agnostics both as a separate group and as a part of other groups. Does this muddling mirror the mindset of agnostics themselves? Silver says that the Seeker-Agnostic exhibits “cognitive dissonance” but is not “confused”. What’s the difference?

One thought on “Which Sort Of Atheist Or Agnostic Are You?”

  1. Dave says:

    Theism/A-theism are two sides of the same coin, in that they are both belief systems. The non-theist seems to stand out because it is the only “type” listed above that makes this evident.

    The seeker-agnostic lives without the certainty of having come to a conclusion, but many people live happy lives without having come to a conclusion on a vast array of topics. “Wait and see” works well in many areas of life, but on something this fundamental to the human psyche it may not be best. “Confused” seems a little strong, though. Shake said it best: “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in [our] philosophy.”

    I have met folks on both sides of belief who have at some point switched sides.

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