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:
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/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.
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?