According to Kenell Touryan’s review of Eugene Curry’s paper, “Do Polls Show That Science Leads to Atheism?”¹, there are 4 kinds of atheists. I will share parts of that review and add a 5th kind to the pot.
There are 5 kinds of atheists.
(1) Atheists whose beliefs develop out of protest and who are angry with what is wrong with the world.
You can see these easily in “a dozen seconds,” or with a little more time consider our explanation of these kinds…through the DOOR, of course…
Ivan Karamazov, from The Brothers Karamazov, is an example. “He carried around a notebook in which he copied down every instance of innocent suffering that he heard of…The accumulated anecdotes served up an unanswerable indictment against the existence of God: because this is the way the world is, there cannot be a God.”
(2) Atheists who struggle with intellectual honesty.
It usually begins with an idea of God that is formed from bits of reading, misinformation, movies, talk shows, and perhaps professors with atheist agendas. So an intellectually discriminating atheist can be accepted as an ally in skeptically rejecting all the popular, half-baked stupidities named “god” that abound in our time and invited into conversations that explore what the best minds thought, and think, about God. Failure of Christians to live out Christ’s ideal, contribute greatly to this type of atheist.
(3) Atheists who say in their hearts, there is no god.
(Psalms 14:1: The fool says in his heart, “There is no god.”) These are people that may even appear religious, go to church occasionally, participate in ritual, and so forth. But they live their lives centered on self: independent, autonomous, lord of all reality, manipulating people to achieve their desires, power hungry. A subset of this category would be atheists who can be classified as people of acedia, those with spiritual apathy, who do not care if God exists.
(4) Atheists who have chosen to deny God because of a moral issue.
Often the issue is a secret habit, desire, sexual sin, or betrayal, and rather than acknowledge one’s sin and confess, it is easier to block the source of morality, the God who has given a universal moral standard by which to judge ourselves. Another reason for their atheism could be the absence of a good father in their formative years.² Often these people become militant, as if shouting and posturing will eliminate the conscience–which it often does. It is more appropriate to call such atheists, anti theists, or god haters.
(5) [A Dozen Seconds adds] Atheists who innocently or deliberately are oblivious to the possibility of God, or “a god,” who may exist beyond the natural world.
Similar perhaps to #3 above, there may the occasional savant so immersed in observation and study of the natural world, and so sheltered from the conflicts and agonies of life, that he has never seriously read about, or talked about, or thought about the possibility of a domain or influence beyond the natural world. It is interesting to realize that in some cases personal tragedy or loss, or sorrow, bewilderment, or anger (similar to #1) may be the first factor to ever cause someone to consider the possibility of supernatural influence.
(Further: In answer to Curry’s article, he (Curry) concluded that atheistic scientists “far from being pushed to atheism by science, generally arrive at the atheism for reasons unrelated to their science and then persist in their atheism despite their science.”)
¹ Most of this post is taken was taken from Kenell Touryan’s review of Eugene A. Curry’s article, “Do the Polls Show That Science Leads to Atheism?” that appeared in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (PSCF 65, no. 2 : 75-8). Touryan’s review appears in PSCF 65, no. 3. This is the quarterly journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA). Be aware that Touryan has adapted the first 4 of these “kinds” of atheist from Eugene Peterson, Where Your Treasure Is (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1993). The 5th kind, as mentioned, is our own.
² Paul C. Vitz, Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism (Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Co., 2000).