Mar 19, 2014

Not believers; not atheists

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson says that he is unconvinced "by any claims anyone has ever made" about the existence of divine power. Yet, he doesn't call himself an atheist.

In this, it turns out, he's not unique. 

Less than one quarter of Americans who say they don't believe in God or a universal spirit actually identify as "atheists." According to a Pew poll from 2007, about five percent of Americans don't believe in God. But those five percent are quite diverse in how they self-identify:

via @conradhacket
It's possible to articulate subtle differences between these identifications. Atheists can be thought of as differing from agnostics on the question of the strength of a negative claim and/or the rules of evidence for such claims. "Nones" -- not to be conflated with the larger category of "nones," many of whom do believe in a God -- can be conceived of as differing on the question of the importance of the question.

The other identifies can be thought of as religious identities that don't involve belief in a divine, or as the identities of individuals who affiliate with believers even while they themselves do not believe.

It does raise the question, though: To what extent are atheists, as a movement, not even trying to get theists to stop believing, but just attempting to push and persuade 76 percent of those who don't believe in a God to identify as atheists?