As Christians we know what it feels like to be stereotyped. Despite our commonalities, we recognize the great diversity among our faith, so we should be sympathetic to the recent efforts by researchers to document various types of religious non-belief.
Not all nonbelievers—be they atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists, or some mixture of all of these identities—are identical, and we are mistaken if we develop a singular, cookie-cutter approach in our interactions with them. Just as we do not want to be reduced to a simplistic stereotype, we also should not reduce our ideas about nonbelievers to some image developed through media or a few past friendships.
In a prominent new project, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga researcher Christopher Silver documented six types of nonbelievers. Here's a very, very brief recap of each:
1. The Intellectual Atheist/Agnostic: Sees his/herself as intellectually too advanced for religion and seeks to engage with other likeminded individuals through writings, YouTube videos and talks.
2. The Activist: Proactively works for issues connected to naturalist or humanist causes.
3. The Seeker-Agnostic: Considers the metaphysical a possibility but is comfortable with uncertainty as it concerns the interaction of science and the metaphysical.
4. The Anti-Theist: Believes religion to be evil, thus actively works against religion and religious influences.
5. The Non-Theist: Does not have much interest in religious concepts.
6. The Ritual Atheist/Agnostic: Does not have otherworldly beliefs but regularly attends a religious ceremony, finding that this meets some social or psychological need.
In a society where Christianity is losing its dominant social ...1