Atheists come in all different flavors. A reader asked me if my wife was an atheist. Yes, my wife is an atheist, but our atheisms are significantly different. One spectrum of difference is the ease with which we reach out and discuss our beliefs — our “Spectrum of Outreach”. My wife is more reserved in discussing her thoughts on religion than I am. She is “hesitant” but I am “eager & excited” (sometimes annoyingly evangelical). I threw these categories together on the fly, so if you have better ones, let me know.
Outreach policies aside, my wife and I have even bigger differences in our atheisms. Below, while incorporating the outreach spectrum, I illustrate two more important classifications spectrums which can be helpful in understanding atheists:
1. Previous Adult Theism: Were you a theist when you were an adult? If so, how fervent were you? My wife was raised Catholic and never bought into any of it at any point. I was raised Lutheran, became an atheistat 14 years-old and then re-converted to become a born-again Jesus Freak at 17-years-old.
Note: I will let the reader decide when they felt they were intellectually an adult.
2. Systematic Positioning: How “systematized” is your atheism? How carefully have you thought about Atheism? Have you read wide variety of other opinions, tried to organize and challenge your thoughts? How intellectual is your atheism? How staked-out are your positions? There are lots of ways to say what I am getting at. None are accurate, but maybe you get the idea. Before meeting me, my wife hated religion and didn’t even want to think about it. My story: well, you got this blog.
Question to readers: Where do you fall on this graph? (how about your significant others?)
Sabio, for instance, is “an eager G-8” (an orange dot) while my wife is “a hesitant B-1” (a yellow dot). Now you know more than if I had just said, “Yes, my wife is also an atheist.”
I also experimented by throwing a few famous atheists on the chart but I need more. Are there well-known atheists you can graph for me? Here are the ones commenters have give data sets for (remember the outreach spectrum):
- “Avalos” = Hector Avalos : biblical scholar
- “Barker” = Dan Barker : freedom from religion foundation
- “Dawkins” = Richard Dawkins : biologist, writer
- “Hitchens” = Christopher Hitchens : Journalist
- “Luke M” = Luke Muehlhauser budding philosopher at Common-Sense-Atheism
- “Russell” = Bertrand Russell: philosopher
- “Sagan” = Carl Sagan: astronomer
Here are readers who have contributed already – I linked their website if they have one. If their number is in black, it is because they have not yet told me where they lie on the spectrum of outreach.
- # 1 NFQ: eager-evangelical J-1
- # 2 Gordon Comstock: I-4
- # 3 Brandon: willing-but-waiting G-1
- # 4 1minionsopinion: I-1
- # 5 Petteri Sulonen: J-1
- # 6 Graham: F-2
- # 7 Moriahbethany H-1-2
- # 8 Shantivadin E-1
- # 9 atimetorend B-8 hesitant
Please try to just play along. Don’t get hung up on precision — the method and categories are all grossly inaccurate and its only real value is to illustrate concepts. But I think the chart illustrates some interesting points. Paft II will hopefully clarify my objectives in the post. Please offer your insights.
My Related Posts on “Taxonomy”:
- “Taxonomy” — what the heck does that word mean? Their pros and cons.
- Atheist Taxonomy: Parent’s Faith & Marriage stability — another taxonomy
- Aggressive and Indignant Atheists: yet another fumbling taxonomy
- Ex-Christians Atheists: are they more tolerant of theists than “natural” atheists?
- Atheism: An Epiphenomenon — An optical illusion illustrating how classifying someone as a atheist can be a misunderstanding.