Seven Atheist Archetypes


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #35

@nwrickert what type of atheist are you?

(Neil Rickert) #36

I’m not sure any of the choices fits. But I suppose #6 (conscientious objector) is closest. And “apatheist” or “agnostic” fit better than “atheist”.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #37

@AlanFox it has been good to see you here. What is your archetype? What is your profession or field?

What do you want your title here to be?

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #38

@NLENTS, are you an atheist? What type are you?

(Nathan H. Lents) #39

Although DI has referred to me as an atheist, I have never made a public statement about my religious beliefs or lack thereof and I don’t intend to. (Though that could certainly change.) On a personal level, I see nothing gained by doing so and some potential harm to me and my future as a public intellectual. I know that sounds like cowardice but I also simply have no dog in that hunt. While I agree with most of the common atheist critiques of organized religion, most thoughtful religious people do, too. You don’t have to be an atheist to see that many preachers are charlatans and many Catholic bishops care more about power than children. I don’t, however, agree with the atheist trope that religious people are stupid or mentally ill, that religion is inherently evil, and that everything would be instantly better without religion. As far as engaging the public, even in relatively closed forums like this, I stick to science. My private beliefs, like my private life in general, is not something I talk about in public.

(Blogging Graduate Student) #40

My 2 cents: I fit into category 1. Growing up my only first-hand experience of religion was the maybe 3-4 times a year I’d go to church with my school for Christmas/Easter/Harvest/Rememberance services. I think it was a Catholic church most of the time. My home was nonreligious, although a bit of spiritual “woo-woo” was ever present from my mother (angelic reiki, tantra, crystals etc), so maybe you could say I had something to be skeptical about when I started critically thinking about these things as a young teenager. Other than that, I don’t think I ever even talked to my parents about religion or god, it’s just never come up.

Without a foundation in any religion, I felt no need to seek one out or seriously consider them, and didn’t give religion any thought until I became interested in evolution and creationism reared its ugly head. Since then (about 5 years ago now) I’ve at least been hearing a lot more about religion in that context, but it still just doesn’t particularly interest me, outside of a bit of interesting history and human sociology.

Now as a young scientist that likes to read about the natural world in general, from biology through to astrophysics, I just don’t see any need to invoke anything resembling the personal gods of most religions. The natural universe is interesting enough for me. Of course I occasionally think how nice it would be if my loved ones and I could live forever in a blissful afterlife, but I recognise that that’s not enough to make it true. Everything I know about human history and human nature points to all the religions around me in the world being made-up, with varying degrees of thought being put into weaving each one. At best, maybe I could believe in some kind of deistic version of a god, but I really can’t see myself being convinced by any of the organised religions around today, they just seem too far-fetched.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #41

Full disclosure, this is not a closed forum. It is totally public, accessible on google, and monitored by people with far larger reaches than I.

(John Harshman) #42

Not that into labels, so I disclaim all the 7 types. I abandoned religion as a teenager because it didn’t conform with observation. No big deal.

(Nathan H. Lents) #43

I just meant like a thread with limited reach, but point taken that it can be found or stumbled upon by anyone. My point is that unless we’re close enough friends that you’ve been to my house a few times, you won’t know much about my private life. :slight_smile:

(Neil Rickert) #44

I’ve been fairly open here about my religious views. However, that is because I am retired. While I was still a university professor, very few of my colleagues knew anything about my views. I kept it pretty private.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #45

I understand where you both (@NLENTS and @nwrickert) are coming. I would call you “secular” in a positive sense. You will get no argument from me from taking the that approach.

Except in one way. One of the opportunities we have as professors is to work with students, and also society, to engage the grand questions. These questions are the subject of science, but also of religion. It is important for students and society to see confessing scientists too, that are open about how they pull it all together. I mean that to include atheists too, who can be whole people, serving a common good, in a fractured world.

Perhaps this is not the path for all of us. I hope it is the path for more of us.

(Nathan H. Lents) #46

Well said and no argument from me. Ftr, my focus on privacy shouldn’t be construed as thinking others should approach it as I do. I am certainly supportive of others approaching it more publicly for all the reasons you say. It’s just not my bag. But I definitely strongly identify as secular when it comes to all public policy, public school curricula, all of that.

(Alan Fox) #47

@AlanFox it has been good to see you here.

Thanks Joshua. You seem to be acquiring an eclectic group of characters here. So far, I’ve enjoyed reading the exchanges.

What is your archetype?

I don’t recognise myself in any of the descriptions. Perhaps an amalgam of 1 and 2. But I was raised in England in the bosom of the Anglican Church, an organisation generally considered quasi-atheist! :slight_smile: I’m certainly not a rabid atheist. I am a rabid secularist.

What is your profession or field?

My education was science based and I went to Birmingham University (as did Alice Roberts, I see) to study biochemistry. I didn’t do well enough to go into academic research and wasn’t interested in a career in food or brewing and have done many different things in my life such setting up and running restaurants, construction and building supplies, property development. I’m now retired living in southern France (not the South of France - that’s the posh end)

What do you want your title here to be?

English eccentric? English emigré? I’d like something that’s alliterative.

(Alan Fox) #48

Not to be picky but English secularist doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. How about English Epicurean?

(Alan Fox) #49

Secularist Englishman? Nooooooh!

Do I have to have a label? I dislike “Englishman” intensely as a label. And I’ve spent the last nearly twenty years living in France.

I really am an Epicurean. What about “European Epicurean”? If I can’t have that I’d rather have a blank label.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #50

Calling you an epicurian will make you a target. I’m looking out for you!

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #51

I want to be an Epicurean too. A New Jersey Epicurean.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #52

Do even know what epicurian is? @jongarvey!

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #53

For that matter what do you mean by epicurian?

(Jon Garvey) #54

I thought it may be a potato variety, but research shows it just gets up your nose.