What percentage of atheists are antitheists

Aggressive atheists and those who marry in church

A US study undertakes the typology of a misunderstood mindset

Atheists differ from one another - what seems like a matter of course is in a different light when prejudices and official categorizations provide the measure. Stereotypically, atheists in their dogmatics and aggressiveness, which they are generally imputed to, form a homogeneous unit, if not a separate and unified church that shares a major theme with the confessional, God. And in passport and other official documents, atheists are all lumped into a category under "non-denominational" without any further distinction. A scientific paper from the psychology faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) looked for differentiations.

In the presentation of the study, spiced with self-deprecating undertones, the authors set up six categories that add up to a strong, absolute "no" to the prejudices that all atheists are belligerent, aggressive and dogmatic, but in detail they are not eternal Understand truths. The study was based on qualitative interviews with 59 people, followed by a quantitative survey of 1,000 non-believers from all parts of the USA who agreed to an Internet interview with 300 questions.


According to the work of Christopher F. Silver and his colleagues, the closest thing to the prejudice "aggressive and dogmatic" is the non-believer of the "anti-theist" type, who is subsumed under the fourth category and is the third largest group with 14.8 percent. The characteristic is that the anti-theist is diametrically opposed to religious ideology and expresses his views "proactively and aggressively" towards others as soon as he deems it appropriate, for educational reasons. In the eyes of the anti-theists, religion is a sign of ignorance, anyone who is connected with it in any way is considered backward and socially harmful to them:

The anti-theists have a clear - and in their eyes superior - understanding of the limitations and dangers of religion.

Some of them feel obliged, because of the logical gaps in religion and its anti-modern worldviews, to teach the followers of the religion wrong and in fields that offer themselves to fight against religion in its various manifestations and institutions, while others stand up be content with an individual discussion, for example in a one-on-one or table discussion. Despite all the aggressiveness that can come into play, the reaction of antitheists to religious followers is often based on social and psychological maturity.

The US researchers have given the most widespread form (37 percent) of atheism, which is also named as the first category, the label "Intellectual Atheist / Agnostic (IAA)". You would be distinguished by the pursuit of intellectual education, the search for knowledge. These atheists are usually very well read and well informed about scriptures on belief and disbelief, which they then proudly quote in discussions and debates, both of which they greatly appreciate.

The intellectual atheists / agnostics, activists and seeking agnostics

Discussions in which epistemological positions on the question of the existence of God come into play are particularly valued by this type, who, in addition to intellectual books, also reads a lot on the Internet and from "blogs, YouTube, podcasts, etc." collects extensive information and knowledge, which he also likes to discuss online and learn in the process.

The modus operandi for the Intellectual Atheist / Agnostic is the externalization of epistemologically oriented social stimulation.

The type that accentuates social interference is classified under the third category as "atheist / agnostic activist". At 23 percent, this is the second largest group of atheists. They are more concerned than the others with not only maintaining a position of the type "I am a believer" or "I am not a believer", but also opposing certain political issues - such as equality for same-sex couples, secularism, animal rights engage in ecclesiastical or religious positions. As the name suggests, the activist is not idle, he puts his convictions and interests into practice, according to the definition of the scientists.

This is followed by a type that is fascinated by uncertainty, perhaps even the absurd in the sense of Camus: the seeking agnostic ("Seeker-Agnostic"). 7.6 percent of the total respondents were categorized in this way. For them the existence of God or something similar to God is uncertain, but in the complexity of the questions that are connected with it, it is fascinating and the human capacity for knowledge is limited. While they are attracted to science and education, the doubt with which they face assertions of the existence of God extends to scientific assertions of truth as well. They can even switch fronts at times, they say.

Seeker agnostics should in no way be considered "confused." For the seeker agnostic, uncertainty is embraced.


The fifth group is the "non-theists". The researchers describe the characteristics of this category via a detour. Because only very few would call themselves that, but in most cases it was others who typologized some atheists on the basis of their experiences. The non-theists make up the smallest proportion with 4 percent.

They are characterized by indifference to everything religious. Religion plays a role neither in their consciousness nor in their worldview; politically, they are also not interested in strengthening a "secular agenda". They don't care about religion. Just don't believe in it.

Their absence of faith means the absence of anything religion in any form from their mental space.

The last category is the real surprise of the study and a nice example of the fact that typologies actually reveal something.

Atheists on a ritual visit

The sixth category is actually about hidden atheists that one normally does not think of when the term "atheist" comes up. There are likely to be many of them: You can see them at baptisms, in churches, while meditating, at confirmations, as a married couple at church weddings, at Jewish festivals and very probably also at Muslim festivals, and often at ceremonies that are quite religious to be designated are - the atheists / agnostics who like such rituals, but who completely lack faith in God. "Ritual Atheist / Agnostic (RAA)" is what scientists call this category. Their share in the total amount is 12.5 percent.

Participation in religious rituals may be based on ethnicity, with belonging to a certain group, through traditions, customs, but certainly with a desire for them, or because one finds it useful and possibly thinks that such rituals, such as yoga, improve anything that, the study authors say, could lead to the misconception that the RAAs might be spiritual persons. But if they are not: When asked about this, this type would directly emphasize that one is either an atheist or an agnostic - "With respect for symbolism in religious rituals, beliefs and ceremonies." (Thomas Pany)

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