Study of the religiously unaffiliated shows they are just like everyone else

A new study released by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga about those in America that consider themselves nonbelievers, and the researches involved in the study are saying that atheists and the nonreligious are just like everyone else, in that they are just as varied in personality types and differing ideologies as the religious.

“Congratulations, non-believers. You’re essentially normal,” said Thomas Coleman III, one of the researchers involved in the study.

Along with Christopher Silver, the two researchers looked at the personalities of nonreligious Americans, as well as their differing outlooks on god(s), spirituality, and religion.

The results showed that atheists are just as diverse in their personality as any other group of people. Coleman called it a “normal distribution of personality types.”

Silver and Coleman’s study also focused on the different types of nonbelievers. The reports overview read:

Previous research and studies focusing on the diverse landscape of belief in America have continually placed those who profess no belief in a God or gods into one unified category infamously known as the “religious nones.” This catch-all category presented anyone who identified as having “no religion” as a homogenous group in America today, lumping people who may believe in God with the many who don’t.

The basic gist is that those who are unaffiliated with a religion, the so-called “nones,” are not some monolith. They are, in fact, very different. Not all of them are atheists or agnostics, and not all of the atheists and agnostics are the same “type” of atheist or agnostic.

According to the Raw Story:

The study identified six types of non-believers: Intellectual Atheist/Agnostics (IAA), Activist Atheist/Agnostics (AAA), Seeker Agnostics (SA), Antitheists, Non-theists and Ritual Atheist/Agnostics (RAA).

Silver said that these categories were a “first stab” at trying to classify the different types of nonbelievers. “In 30 years, we may be looking at a typology of 32 types,” he said.

Intellectual Atheist/Agnostics (IAA) are the “individuals who proactively seek to educate themselves through intellectual association, and proactively acquire knowledge on various topics relating to ontology (the search for Truth) and non-belief.”

Activist Atheist/Agnostics (AAA) are those “not content with the placidity of simply holding a non-belief position; they seek to be both vocal and proactive regarding current issues in the atheist and/or agnostic socio-political sphere. This sphere can include such egalitarian issues, but is not limited to: concerns of humanism, feminism, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered (LGBT) issues, social or political concerns, human rights themes, environmental concerns, animal rights, and controversies such as the separation of church and state.”

Then there are the Seeker Agnostics (SA), which consist “of individuals attuned to the metaphysical possibilities precluding metaphysical existence, or at least recognizes the philosophical difficulties and complexities in making personal affirmations regarding ideological beliefs.” Basically what we would generally consider someone who identifies as agnostic.

Antitheists “may be considered atheist or in some cases labeled as ‘new atheists,’ the Anti-Theist is diametrically opposed to religious ideology. As such, the assertive Anti-Theist both proactively and aggressively asserts their views towards others when appropriate, seeking to educate the theists in the passé nature of belief and theology.”

Non-theists was not easily summed up in a sentence or two in the study, so here is my best interpretation of it: someone who does not take an “epistemological position,” whether religious or irreligious, and is apathetic and/or disinterested in intellectual discussions of god(s) and the atheist movement.

Last but not least are the Ritual Atheists/Agnostics (RAA), who are in fact atheists but still “may participate in specific rituals, ceremonies, musical opportunities, meditation, yoga classes, or holiday traditions. Such participation may be related to an ethnic identity (e.g. Jewish) or the perceived utility of such practices in making the individual a better person.” The RAA should not be confused with someone who says they are “spiritual but not religious.”

Silver and Coleman both noted that many Jews in the US are best described as Ritual Atheists/Agnostics.

I think I personally would fit into the IAA and AAA categories, which Silver and Coleman say make up the majority of nonbelievers, but antitheist also does describe me at many times, and that’s what Dave Muscato of American Atheists says his organization’s position take. They say that religion “is dangerous” and religious traditions and rituals are just “superstitious and there’s no purpose to them and that we have better things to do.”

I like this study more than the one recently released by the University of North Texas, where I go to school, which claimed that atheists are just this monolith of privileged old, white men that are defiant to religion, because it gets in the way of their privilege.

About Daniel Moran

Daniel Moran is an openly atheist candidate for the Texas legislature. Currently earning his degree in Political Science at the University of North Texas, he plans to continue his education in law school. Daniel is also on the UNT Moot Court Team and Vice-President of the UNT Secular Student Alliance.

Posted on July 3, 2013, in Religion/Atheism, Science and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Yes, they are both the same.

    There are currently two fields of incompleteness. One is called science, and the other is called religion. Their incompleteness allows both of them to exist at the same time.

    In the world of religion, it is said that there are two sides to reality.

    One side is the material side, and the other side is the spirit world.

    One side is different from the other. An apple has inside and an outside. So does reality. The laws of physics on the outside are different than the laws of physics on the inside.

    Currently in the land of physics, only the laws of physics on the inside are being examined. Thus only the laws of physics on the inside are accepted.

    An event can be governed either from the outside or from the inside. Since the laws of physics on the outside are different from the laws of physics on the inside, the outcome of an event governed from the outside will be different than the outcome of the event if it was governed from the inside.

    This in turn produces strange phenomena such as particle-wave duality. Current ignorance of the laws of physics on the outside also limits ones vision, and thus in turn produces what seems to be strange phenomena such as action at a distance, quantum entanglement, and quantum delayed choice, etc.

    But again, the physicists do not include the other side because it has already been classified as being the “Spirit world” under the context of religion. Thus the science world has banned the use of the road that leads to complete truth.

    The religious folk stick to their beliefs like glue, and so they remain with the belief and thus in turn have refused to venture toward the truth of which their belief speaks of. Thus they too have banned the use of the road that leads to complete truth.

    Therefore, if the complete truth is presented to either of them, both of them reject it in an instant, because both will only accept less than complete truth.

    Thus any true proof of God’s existence, such as that which is found hidden within the Bible, has been completely ignored by both sides for years on end.

    Go to and click on the flashing words “Watch / Listen”.

    This takes you on a web page tour of such proof of God’s existence, and does so via automatic web page scrolling along with complete audio coverage.

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