Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Assessing Atheist Archetypes

The Guardian recently publicized a study out of the University of Tennessee which characterized six types of atheists.

Amongst the 1,153 atheists living in southeastern states, 37% of those surveyed were said to be “intellectual atheists”.  These “intellectual atheists” are characterized as well educated people who are interested in religion but who are non-believers.  

Jacques Derrida caricature
Such intellectual atheists are comfortable in secular societies which reflects Jacques Derrida’s deconstructionist conceit which rejects an exclusive hermeneutic of truth.  This is distinct from “non-theists” who live life without regard to considering transcendental truths. 

The "anti-theists" comprised 14% of the study.  These anti-theists colloquially can be characterized as the “angry, argumentative, dogmatic type”.  This group aggressively argues for their belief or non-belief system.  

Some sympathizing with secular humanism think that the 14% was too high a figure.  But as in individual who is inclined to engage in metaphysical musings with others, it seems like a low figure.  It may be that dogmatic and narcissistic anti-theists are more vocal in evangelizing their anti-theist opinions.  

Another subcategory of atheists are “ritual atheists” who may not themselves believe but believe that society can be enhanced by ritual and tradition.  These ritual non-theists  can rationalize their assent to religious rituals  for others as a means to live life and achieve happiness rather than a route to transcendental liberation.  

A similar class of atheists are “seeker agnostics” who can best be described as “spiritual but not religious”.  Theists may jibe that “seeker agnostics” are atheists who have lost their faith.  Much of American Jewry seems to align itself as ritual atheists or seeker agnostics, but it would seem more cultural affinity rather than spiritual contemplation.

A final portion of the atheist population can be labeled “activists”, as atheists who hold strong ethical and environmental opinions which activists do not perceive are not rooted in religion.  Of course, a deeper contemplation of these mainly western values begs the question from where these ethos are derived. 

These six atheistic archetypes does not include every opinion, Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion (2008), argues that religious education should be a part of a literary education in state schools.  Dawkins contends that the King James Version translation of the Bible (1611) has inspired 129 biblical phrases that are instantly recognizable to any cultured English speaker. 

 But before one is lead to believe that Dawkins might be a “ritual atheist”, Dawkins  endorses the effort to put  King James Bibles in state schools to show that scripture is not a good guide to morality. 

h/t: The Guardian

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