What kind of atheist are you?

What kind of atheist are you?

by Mike Flood

At Milton Keynes Humanists’ monthly meetings, we are always pleased to welcome new people, and many come with questions about atheism — “What exactly is an atheist?” “How does atheism differ from agnosticism?” and “How do you define humanism?” So we thought it might be useful to prepare a note to explain these and a host of other terms that one can come across in the media or rationalist, freethinker, skeptic or secular literature.1 We do this with some trepidation because there is as yet no consensus about many of the terms in use and no agreed definitions, indeed many terms incorporate or encompass others.

Basically, an atheist is someone who does not believe in a supreme being or other immaterial things.2 The term appears to have been first used in the 18th Century. A humanist is someone who has a positive approach to life and a strong concern for human welfare, values and dignity (ie “an atheist who cares”).3 Agnosticism is different: it is a statement about knowledge rather than belief — the view that the truth of metaphysical claims regarding theology, an afterlife, or the existence of god is unknown or inherently unknowable. When asked “Do you believe in god?” an agnostic or ‘ignostic’ (see below) would say “I don’t understand the question. How do you define god?”

But there are many different kinds of atheists, and this can be confusing: we find frequent reference in the media to ‘militant atheists’, ‘fundamentalist atheists’ and ‘anti-theists’ — terms sometimes lumped together as ‘new atheists’.4 These labels are invariably scornful and uncomplimentary and are regularly attached to people like Richard Dawkins who actively campaign against religion or religious influence in public life.5 But this is only the tip of the lexicological iceberg: in this paper we’ve explored a number of other (less pejorative) terms.

We start with ‘implicit’ and ‘explicit’ atheism, terms coined in the late 1970s by George Smith. Smith defined ‘implicit atheism’ as “the absence of theistic beliefwithout a conscious rejection of it”, and ‘explicit atheism’ as “the absence of theistic belief due to a conscious rejection of it” — it should be said that many non-believers would not recognize ‘implicit atheism’ as atheism at all, preferring to use terms such as ‘skeptic’ or ‘agnostic’.

Then we have the idea of a ‘passionate atheist’ — “someone who considers God to be their personal enemy”, as distinct from ‘ordinary atheists’ “who do not believe in God” (the distinction was floated by Freeman Dyson in 2006); and Christopher Silver and Thomas Coleman have proposed a different classification after carrying out a survey of non-believers:

  • ‘intellectualatheists/agnostics’ — people who “seek information and intellectual stimulation about atheism” who “like debating and arguing, particularly on popular Internet sites” and are “well-versed in books and articles about religion and atheism, and prone to citing those works frequently”;
  • ‘activists’ — not content with just disbelieving in God, this kind of atheist / agnostic wants to “tell others why they reject religion and why society would be better off if we all did likewise”; they also “tend to be vocal about political causes like gay rights, feminism, the environment and the care of animals”;
  • ‘seeker-agnostics’ — “people who are unsure about the existence of a God but keep an open mind and recognize the limits of human knowledge and experience”;
  • ‘non-theists’ — “people who do not involve themselves with either religion or anti-religion”; and
  • ‘ritual atheists’ — people who don’t believe in God, do not associate with religion, and do not believe in an afterlife, but still “find useful the teachings of some religious traditions.”

Silver and Coleman’s full list also contains ‘anti-theists’, which we have already encountered — people who “regularly speak out against religion and religious beliefs” who “view religion as ignorance and see any individual or institution associated with it as backward and socially detrimental.” The late Christopher Hitchens described himself as ‘anti-theist’ rather than atheist.

Yet another classification was proposed by Rabbi Sherwin Wine in his essay ‘Reflections’:6

  • ‘ontological’ atheism — “a firm denial that there is any creator or manager of the universe” (ontology is the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being);
  • ‘ethical atheism’ — “a firm conviction that, even if there is a creator/manager of the world, he does not run things in accordance with the human moral agenda, rewarding the good and punishing the wicked”;7
  • ‘existential atheism’ — “a nervy assertion that even if there is a God, he has no authority to be the boss of my life”;
  • ‘agnostic atheism’ — “a cautious denial which claims that God’s existence can be neither proven nor disproven, but which ends up with behaviour no different from that of the ontological atheist”;
  • ‘ignostic atheism’ — “another cautious denial, which claims that the word ‘God’ is so confusing that it is meaningless and which translates into the same behaviour as the ontological atheist”;
  • ‘pragmatic atheism’ — “which regards God as irrelevant to ethical and successful living, and which views all discussions about God as a waste of time.” (Pragmatic atheism is also known as ‘practical atheism’ of ‘apatheism’).

And we conclude with ‘positive atheism’, which to some will sound like an oxymoron. Positive atheism — also called ‘strong atheism’ or ‘hard atheism’ — asserts that no deities exist. It contrasts with ‘negative atheism’ (‘weak atheism’ / ‘soft atheism’) which covers all other types of atheism wherein persons “do not believe in the existence of a creator but do not explicitly assert there to be none”.

Some may consider ‘brights’ in the United States as ‘positive atheists’, although technically they represent a rather broader church — the Brights Movement was founded in 2003 to promote “civic understanding and acknowledgment of the naturalistic worldview, which is free of supernatural and mystical elements”.8 But the term has not been widely adopted, not least because many think it suggests that people who profess a ‘naturalistic worldview’ are more intelligent (ie ‘brighter’) than non-naturalists, and this does little to promote tolerance and religious multiculturalism…

Positive atheism appeals to many Humanists because it helps dispel the cold, negative or false image of atheism that is often promulgated by senior clerics or fundamentalist Christians / Muslims. Perhaps the greatest proponent was Goparaju Rao, affectionately known as ‘Gora’. “Atheism is positive”, said Gora, “because the moment faith in god is banished, man’s gaze turns from god to man and he becomes socially conscious.”

Gora propounded the positive atheist position at the inauguration of the First World Atheist Conference which he co-founded in December 1972.9 “The essence of atheism,” he said, “is the freedom of the individual (and) freedom releases the immense potentialities of human imagination, initiative and effort that lay suppressed under theistic faith. The mood of supplication and complaint, inherent in prayers to god and petitions to government, has no place in the atheistic way of life … Atheism liberates humans from all kinds of bondage and restores the lost dignity to the individual to stand on his feet as a free and responsible person.”

Inevitably many (most?) non-believers are uncomfortable with the label ‘atheist’ and would like to do away with the term altogether — as Sam Harris puts it: “We don’t need a word for someone who rejects astrology. We simply do not call people ‘non-astrologers’. All we need are words like ‘reason’ and ‘evidence’ and ‘common sense’ and ‘bullshit’ to put astrologers in their place”. “And so,” he concludes, “it could be with religion”





Please join and contribute to the Humanist association at the link bellow.

Think for themselves about what is right and wrong, based on reason and respect for others.

Find meaning, beauty and joy in the one life we have, without the need for an afterlife.

Look to science instead of religion as the best way to discover and understand the world.

Believe people can use empathy and compassion to make the world a better place for everyone.




Many god’s

Many god’s

2 October 2013 at 20:33

Koios – also spelled Coeus. God of intelligence, heavenly prophecy and the axis.Kreios – also spelled Crius. God of leadership, domesticated animals and the constellations.Kronos – also spelled Cronus. God of time. King of the Titans. Roman name Saturn.Hyperion – God of light.Iapetos – God of mortal lifespan.Mnemosyne – Goddess of memory, the inventiveness of words and language.Oceanus – God of salt water.Phoebe – Goddess of the Oracle of Delphi and intellect.Rhea – Goddess of fertility, the female body, and later, nature. Mother of Zeus, Hera, Hestia, Hades, Poseidon and Demeter.Tethys – Goddess of Subterranean forces of fresh water and patron goddess of nursing mothers and the young.Theia – Goddess of sight, gold, silver, and gems.Themis – Goddess of divine law and order.Other Titans:Atlas – God of astronomy. Holds the sky from the earth as his punishment.Epimetheus – God of afterthought and excuses.Menoitios – God of violent anger, rash reactions and human morality.Prometheus – God of forethought and crafty counsel. Gave humanity the gift of Fire.Asteria – mother of HecatePerses – father of HecateAsterious – father of the AnemoiDione – goddess of the oracle DodonnaEos – Goddess of dawn and sister of Selene and HeliosHelios – God of the sun and brother of Selene and EosSelene – Goddess of the moon and sister of Helios and EosAriadne – goddess of passion and mazes (was a mortal princess engaged to Theseus but was abandoned and married to the god Dionysus and made Immortal.)Aeolus – god of winds (at birth was mortal made Immortal)Asclepius – god of medicine.Bia – Goddess of force.Cratos – God of strength and power.Deimos – Personification of terror; brother of Phobos.Eris – Goddess of discord.Eros – God of lovePsyche goddess of compassionGeras – God of old age.Ganymede cupbearer of the Olympians.Harmonia – Goddess of harmony.Hebe – Goddess of youth.Hecate – Goddess of magic, witchcraft, necromancy and crossroads.Hestia – Goddess of the hearth, fireside, family, and home, was one of the Olympians until she gave up her throne on for Dionysus, occupies fire on Olympus.Hypnos – God of sleep.Janus – God of doors, gates and new beginnings.Chione – Goddess of snow (her father is one of the gods of the winds).Leto – mother of Artemis and Apollo.Metis – mother of AthenaEnyo – goddesses of war and peacekeepingEileithyia – goddesses of childbirthMomus- God of blame.Moros – God of Doom.Nemesis – Goddess of consequences and revenge.Nike – Goddess of victory.Persephone – Goddess of spring and flowers and wife of Hades, hence queen of the Underworld.Phobos – God of Phobias and fear in general; brother of Deimos.Thanatos- God of peaceful death.The Erinyes – Otherwise known as The Furies. Goddesses of revenge.The Horae – Actually two groups of separate goddesses worshiped in different periods: the first three were goddesses of the seasons, the second generation were goddesses of law, justice and order.Tyche – Goddess of luck, destiny and fortune.Zelus – God of dedication.The Moirae: Klotho, Lachesis and Atropos – Controllers of life and destiny.The Muses – Representatives of the arts, sciences and songs.The Oneiroi: Morpheus, Phobetor and Phantasos – Personifications of dreams and sons of Hypnos.Pan – God of the Wild.Iris (goddess) – Goddess of the rainbow.Triton – god of ships, prince of AtlantisPaean – doctor of the gods.The Keres goddesses of violent Death.The Charites – goddesses of charm, beauty, human creativity, and fertility.Pallas – god of warfareMelinoe – goddess of ghosts.More herehttp://www.lowchensaustralia.com/names/gods.htm



African mythology[edit]Agwu, Igbo god of health and divination!Xu, sky god of the Bushmen of southern Africa who is invoked in illnessAztec mythology[edit]Ixtlilton, god of medicine.Patecatl, god of Pulque and healing.Celtic mythology[edit]Airmed, Irish goddess associated with healing and resurrectionAlaunus, Gaulish god of the sun, healing and prophecy associated with Greek god Helios-ApolloAtepomarus, Gaulish healing god associated with the Greek god ApolloBorvo, Celto-Lusitanian healing god associated with bubbling spring waterBrigid, Irish goddess associated with healingDian Cecht, Irish god of healingGlanis, Gaulish god associated with a healing spring at the town of GlanumGrannus, Gaulish god associated with spas, healing thermal and mineral springs, and the sunHooded Spirits, hooded deities associated with health and fertilityIanuaria, goddess associated with healingIovantucarus, Gaulish healer-god and protector of youth associated with Lenus MarsLenus, Gaulish healing god associated with the Greek god AresMaponos, god of youth, associated with the Greek god ApolloMullo, Gaulish deity associated with the Greek god Ares and said to heal afflictions of the eyeNodens, Gallo-Roman and Roman British god associated with healing, the sea, hunting and dogsSirona, Gallo-Roman and Celto-Germanic goddess associated with healingChinese mythology[edit]Elder Zhang Guo, one of the Eight Immortals, whose wine was considered to have healing propertiesImmortal Woman He, one of the Eight Immortals, whose lotus flower improves one’s health, mental and physicalIron-Crutch Li, one of the Eight Immortals, who alleviates the suffering of the poor, sick and needy with special medicine from his gourdWong Tai Sin, god with the power of healingShennong, mythical emperor who spread knowledge of herbs and medicine.Egyptian mythology[edit]Heka, deification of magic, through which Egyptians believed they could gain protection, healing and supportSekhmet, goddess of medicineSerket, goddess of healing stings and bitesTa-Bitjet, a scorpion goddess whose blood is a panacea for all poisonsEtruscan mythology[edit]Fufluns, god of plant life, happiness and health and growth in all thingsMenrva, goddess of war, art, wisdom and healthGreek mythology[edit]Aceso, goddess of the healing of wounds and the curing of illnessAegle, goddess of radiant good healthArtemis, goddess of the hunt, wild animals, the wilderness, childbirth, fertility, plague and good healthApollo, god of music, poetry, prophecy, archery, healing, medicine and plagueAsclepius, god of medicine and healingChiron, a centaur known for his knowledge and skill in healingEileithyia, goddess of childbirthHygieia, goddess of health, cleanliness and sanitationIaso, goddess of cures, remedies and modes of healingPaeon, physician of the godsPanacea, goddess of healingTelesphorus, demi-god of convalescence, who “brought to fulfillment” recuperation from illness or injuryHindu mythology[edit]




Lord Dhanvantari, the Hindu god of medicine and Lord of Ayurvedic medicineAshvins, twin doctors of the gods and gods of Ayurvedic medicineDhanvantari, physician of the gods and god of Ayurvedic medicineDhatri, solar god of health and domestic tranquilityMariamman, goddess of disease and rainShitala Devi, goddess of smallpox and diseaseHittite mythology[edit]Kamrusepa, goddess of healing, medicine, and magicShaushka, goddess of fertility, war, and healingInuit mythology[edit]Eeyeekalduk, god of medicine and good healthPinga, goddess of the hunt, fertility and medicineJapanese mythology[edit]Ebisu, god of fishermen, good luck, and workingmen, and the guardian of the health of small childrenMaya mythology[edit]Ixchel, jaguar goddess of midwifery and medicineMesopotamian mythology[edit]Anahita, Indo-Iranian goddess of fertility, healing and wisdomNamtar, god of death and diseaseNinazu, god of the underworld and healingNingishzida, god of the underworld and patron of medicineNintinugga, goddess of healingNinurta, god of the South Wind and healingNative American mythology[edit]Kumugwe, Nuxalk underwater god with the power to see into the future, heal the sick and injured, and bestow powers on those whom he favorsNorse mythology[edit]Eir, goddess associated with medical skillPersian mythology[edit]Haoma, god of healthPhoenician mythology[edit]Eshmun, god of healingRoman mythology[edit]Angitia, snake goddess associated with healingBona Dea, goddess of fertility, healing, virginity, and womenCardea, goddess of health, thresholds and door hinges and handlesCarna, goddess who presided over the heart and other organsEndovelicus, god of public health and safetyFebris, goddess who embodied and protected people from fever and malariaVejovis, god of healingVerminus, god who protected cattle from disease



Atheism is more than just the knowledge that gods do not exist, and that religion is either a mistake or a fraud. Atheism is an attitude, a frame of mind that looks at the world objectively, fearlessly, always trying to understand all things as a part of nature.Atheism is the acceptance that there is no credible scientific or factually reliable evidence for the existence of a god, gods or the supernatural.