Are there different kinds of atheists?

different kinds of atheism

by Matt Slick

A lot of people may not be aware of it, but there are different kinds of atheists. In my many years of dialoguing with them, I discovered that not all are the same. Some believe in the supernatural, where others do not. Some believe they know God does not exist or others do not. There are materialist atheists as well as naturalist atheists and even atheists. But, the general commonality between all of them is that they function without belief in God. In other words, in their consideration of our origin, our development, morality, etc., God is not a consideration when explaining phenomena or deriving moral obligations. Some atheists are aggressive, and some are passive. Some are polite, and some are quite rude. The differences are almost as varied as there are individuals.

Some atheists practice religious rituals, though they are few. Generally, they do so for cultural or family reasons. Some atheists are completely against any religious expression and think all religions are ultimately harmful. I've encountered many atheists who think that religion is beneficial. There are atheists who are extremely aggressive and insulting, and there are as atheists who are very polite and can talk about their position and religion without becoming rude. In short, there are a great variety of types of atheists in the world.

I offer the following grid as a categorization of different kinds of atheists. Of course, it is not perfect. I'm sure that there are those who disagree with certain classifications. But, I do not intend to misrepresent any particular group, so I offer the generic categories on the left with variations of belief on the right. If you have any suggestions for this grid, please contact us at

  • A large X means the person is stronger in that position. 
  • A small x means the person may or may not hold to that position.
  • A blank square means that it generally does not apply.
Different Kinds of Atheists  
  Lacks belief
in a god or gods
Does not believe
in a god or gods
Knows there
is no god
Does not know
if there is a god
Affirms the
Tries to convince
others against
god belief
Religion is harmful Hum-anist Evol-ution Mater-ialist/
Primacy of reason
Agnostic Atheist X X   X       x x x  
Anti-theist   X x     X x x x x x
Evangelistic atheist X   x     X x x x x  
Freethinker atheist x X       x   x x x X
New atheist X X X     X X x X X  
Non-theist X     x x     x x x  
Passive Atheist X X         x x x x  
Strong Atheist   X X     X x x x x X
Supernatural Atheist X X x x X     x x x  
Weak Atheist X X   X       x      

Again, if you are an atheist and you disagree with something in the grid or think there's a way to improve it, please let me know. It is never my intention to purposely misrepresent another person's position. But please understand that developing a comprehensive grid that can fit on a webpage is difficult.

Nevertheless, I hope this is satisfactory and I'm sure I will be modifying it in the future.





About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.