Who the Hell are ‘Nones’ Anyway?

By Wendy Thomas Russell | June 20, 2013 | 3 comments

nonesThose unaffiliated with any religious group — AKA the “Nones” — often are misrepresented as those who “don’t believe in anything” or who “don’t care about religion.” In fact, the group is far more diverse than that. Nones may refer to any of the following:

Agnostics: Those who don’t know whether God exists, and do not think it’s possible for anyone to know.

Anti-theists: Those who are opposed to religion and/or the belief in a deity or deities.

Apatheist: Those who are indifferent to belief or disbelief and consider the subject meaningless.

Atheists: Those who do not believe in God, or — put more strongly — believe there is no God.

Brights: Those who belong to a sociocultural movement promoting a “naturalistic” worldview — based in nature with no supernatural forces.

Deists: Those who believe in the existence of God as creator of the universe but reject all organized religion and supernatural events.

Freethinkers: Those who form opinions about religion on the basis of reason — rather than tradition, authority or established belief.

Humanists/Secular humanists: Those who embrace ethics, compassion, social justice and naturalism and attach primary importance to human matters, rather than the divine or supernatural.

Naturalists: Those who believe the universe is devoid of general purpose and indifferent to human needs or desires.

Theists: Those who believe in the existence of at least one deity who is personal, present and active in the universe.

Pantheists: Those who reject the idea of a person-God but believe that the “holy” manifests itself in all that exists.

Pluralists: Those who accept all religious paths as equally valid.

Rationalists: Those who hold that reason and logic are the only true sources of knowledge.

Skeptics: Those who believe that continuously and vigorously applying methods of science are the only ways to arrive at explanations for natural phenomena.

Searchers: Those who belong to no belief system or worldview but are still open to ideas and actively searching for the truth.

Spiritualists: Those who are spiritual — which is an undefined term but generally refers to people who open to “the sacred” and are interested in personal well-being and development.


Who am I missing?


  1. The following is a purely subjective observation. That being said, I’ve noticed of late that admitting to atheistic tendencies seems to be as bad – or worse – than professing an active membership in any satanic “church” or organization. I’m basically one that sees no convincing evidence for a supernatural god to explain the temporal universe’s creation/evolution. However, I refuse to preemptorily discard all data that conflicts with an absolutely materialist, reductionist, deterministic, world paradigm. After doing my utmost to weed out all possible (though, at times, improbable) causes, I’m left with a small – but still sizeable

  2. Rich Wilson says:

    You’ve gone with the dictionary definition of atheist/agnostic, I think more common in the general public. The problem is that that version of ‘atheist’ barely exists. None of the ‘famous’ atheists “believe there is no God”. They will say “we lack a belief in any gods”.

    The definition that most atheists now use is that atheist and agnostic are not mutually exclusive, and describe different things. Put that way there are:
    Gnostic theists- know God exists.
    Agnostic theists- think God exist but don’t think they can prove it.
    Gnostic atheists- know there are no gods.
    Agnostic atheists- don’t have any belief in any gods, but don’t think that can be proven.

    Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, David Silverman, Dan Barker, Matt Dillihunty- all ‘agnostic atheists’.

    You will occasionally see some atheists use the traditional version, usually to distance themselves from the baggage. Neil deGrasse Tyson has, even though he’s quite obviously just as atheist as Dawkins. Lawrence Krauss has said he’s not an atheist, but as a set up to describing himself as an anti-theist.

    • Rich, I just don’t think I can get onboard with all this. It seems so academic and high-brow, especially at a time when so much of the country doesn’t know the difference between an atheist and agnostic. Plus, honestly, “gnostic atheist” and “gnostic theist” — ugh. I mean, ugh. If people “knew” God existed, they wouldn’t call it faith. And most people — even fundamentalists — DO call it faith. As for the second, the truth is, it doesn’t sit well with me. I’m as sure as I can be (on a very personal level) that there isn’t a God. But I don’t “know” it. Nobody “knows” it. But dude, I really really really believe it. I think if I say that to someone, they’ll get it. I don’t think adding adjectives to our labels really helps matters, and it may just confuse them.

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