Usually, a joke about people walking to a bar includes a selection of different people of opposing, or different views, resulting in humor. And in the case of my title it sounds like a terrible joke without any conflict, thus no humor… and you would be half right, there is no humor. But there is conflict.
When anyone looks at atheists they seem a motley bunch of people with more disagreements than any religion could ever have. The obvious reason for this is because they are not the same. After much thought, I have found I can classify atheists into four distinct philosophical groups.
The Non-cura (Do not care)
This first group I find are the most common types of atheists. They are often also the least detectable. these people are your every day casual person who goes about their life without concerning themselves with questioning what they believe in. Such people sometimes are even part of religious groups, usually for reasons other than a belief in gods such as social awareness, culture, or tradition.
Here is an example:
John is a father, husband, and office worker. By day he works as an accountant at a government facility, then at night he goes home and enjoys his family. On the weekends he takes his son to play football, then goes out with his extended family for a large lunch. twice a week he drops in to his best friend’s place to have a few beers and chat about things.
John has never thought about whether a god matters and prefers to avoid such discussions.
In this example “John” is an atheist because he does not believe in a god. This is not by direct choice, he just does not think about it. If you asked him if he were atheist he likely would not say he was, despite being defined as one.
This is the “atheist by default” type of atheist. They simply do not believe and yet did not do so by choice.
The “Infidel” (Unbeliever)
These are those that choose not to believe in the claim of a god or gods. This is not a belief in itself, rather a denial of a belief. These people tend to have heard and considered the claim of a god or gods but have not been convinced by them. They may either be fully understanding of the concept that has been explained or lacks a full understanding. Either way, they do not believe in the concept of a god.
Cassie is an English teacher who is well educated and has read about the culture of Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. She finds them interesting from a cultural perspective but does not think they are correct for numerous reasons. She still uses them in her teaching to help her students grasp the cultural background of various cultures but remains unconvinced of their validity on the issue of a god and thus chooses to not believe in one.
This is the educated atheist. They usually know what they are talking about, but do not believe it.
The Agnostic Atheist (Unknowing)
These are those that are not sure, either because they lack sufficient education, or because they can not determine a viable argument to alter their belief system. Many agnostic atheists are very educated and statistically from research are more likely to be intelligent (if you give IQ any measure of importance), however, there are some that are not educated and while they do indeed care, they feel they lack sufficient information to cross the line to belief.
In 1799 upon reflection of the platypus the Naturalist George Shaw was quoted as saying:
“impossible not to entertain some doubts as to the genuine nature of the animal, and to surmise that there might have been practised some arts of deception in its structure.” – Geroge Shaw, Naturalist’s Miscellany
In this case, George Shaw was unconvinced by the existence of the platypus but remained open to the possibility of its existence. This is a highly scientific, and agnostic way of approaching issues like a platypus… and a god.
It is important to note that not all agnostics are seeking scientific evidence of a god. Many agnostics seek reasoned logical arguments. Agnostic atheists are simply yet to be convinced. In a way, they are the most open to the idea of theism, unlike the ‘infidel’ who often are not open to belief.
The Fidelis (Faithful)
This last group is arguably the group that gives the other three a bad name. In a way, they are to atheism what fundamentalists are to religion. A fundamentalist needs a scripture of course and in this case, the scripture is quite easy:
“There is no god”
-A random faithful atheist
The previous three groups have not made this claim, the previous three groups either did not care or remained unconvinced. They simply did not believe in a god. This is a vastly different issue to believing in the absence of a god. The difference is that this last group is making a claim, a claim that they lack proof of… because in order to prove something’s absence you need to go to all locations and show it is not there. Which in the case of a god is simply not possible.
A common argument made by such people is that the lack of convincing evidence implies the absence. However, this is false logic and is why the agnostic and infidel do not claim such. Likewise, Science does not dismiss the existence of a god, neither does it confirm it. As mentioned earlier, the agnostic would be closer to a scientific perspective on the issue.
Thus, this fourth group of atheists are the believers, of the atheist world.
From The Outside
So why do I classify atheists into these four groups?
It is actually quite important in my opinion to make sure that we understand how people think and how they work logically. It is not uncommon for a religious person to point out an atheist “believes” in atheism, yet am surprised when they get annoyed because they actually fit into my ‘agnostic’ or ‘infidel’ group. Likewise, it is important for atheists to realise that when they make a claim of “there is no god” then they are indeed making a claim that sets them apart from some of their fellow atheists.
It is important for us not to lump atheists in the same group so as to know better how to discuss the issue. For without understanding then the discussion is worthless.
So when a non-cura, an infidel, an agnostic, and a fidelis walk into a bar, remember that they may not all treat the wine the same way.