Apologetic Journey Pt. 3: Atheist Varieties

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Senior Member
Feb 9, 2014
Apologetics often depends on your audience. Muslims require one kind of apologetic. Errant Christian denominations require another.

But in the postmodern age Atheists are the most common contender.

Now to the main purpose of my piece: identifying different kinds of atheists. A common feature of atheist argumentation is the straw man. They tend towards lumping all Christians into unflattering categories and most who have ever had to endure a good Atheist drubbing find the comparisons unflattering and untrue.

I think this undermines their arguments, so let's avoid matching them if we can. Here, I will identify the different atheists you may or may not encounter.

1. The Libertine

This sort really doesn't think critically about their atheism. They are rather behavioral atheists who adopt atheism as a sort of crutch- they don't want to be accountable to even the slightest moral law or regulation of behavior. The equivalent of the "pew warmer" in Christian parlance.

Their arguments are typically weak and resemble brainless proof-texting among Christians.

2. The Ideologue

This is probably the hardest atheist to talk to because their atheism primarily rests in the political realm. Quite similar to the "cultural christian" in that respect.

The existence or non-existence of God is discussed often, but it isn't their primary driving force. They view religion as the perennial source of barbarity and injustice. Therefore, it ought to, in their estimation, be de-platformed, marginalized, and, in some cases, outlawed entirely.

This sort is often tempted by totalitarian belief systems- Communist, Nazi, in that they promise a form of salvation from the clutches of the Abrahamic God.

3. The Skeptical Materialist

The skeptic arrives at atheism through a process of piecemeal questioning and a resulted dissatisfaction with the answers religion has to offer. They tend to fall into two different subcategories- the philosopher and the scientist.

The scientist reasons that certain advancements in technology and quantifiable understanding have proved there is no need for a creator (not necessarily that there isn't one). They then, typically, look to scholarship in other realms to similarly cast doubt on other Christian claims- the inerrancy of scripture, the resurrection, etc.

The philosopher often comes to the same conclusions with similar date, but from the opposite direction. They find religious answers or explanations to be teleological, epistemologically, and axiologically wanting. The scientist bolsters them by adding quantifiable meat to their argument.

I think of "New Atheism" as the postmodern baseline the two tend to drop on.

If they ever get political (many do), their ideology isn't totalitarian as much as it is a sort of late 19th century Social Darwinism. It's uncharitable to confuse them with ideological atheists.

4. The Hurting Unit

Newsflash: Christians are not perfect- even the real Christians.

People get hurt by Christians. When they are hurt by Christians, they doubt the veracity of scripture even when those "Christians" act in violation of scriptural standards of behavior!

Their atheism is buried under a long sequence of hurt and pain. A truly tragic situation.

5. The Cynic/Troll

The Bible doesn't answer all questions! Even some of the most intriguing ones. Cynics and Trolls mine for these and smack Christians around with them liberally.

Their main drive is their own sense of superiority.


This is not an exhaustive list, but I do find that the different variants I could mention are hybrids of the above categories. In fact, I would wager most atheists do occupy more than one space.

But- I'm open to other types if they're named in good faith. So, if you can think of more, post in the comments below. I'll edit this piece to incorporate your comment if it cuts the mustard.

Finally, I want to clear the air of one thing- I am struggling mightily with many questions. This is part of the reason I'm writing here in this community of (partial) support.

I'm still a Christian and I do not suspect I will depart the faith, but walking alongside my atheist and sharing in their questions and sorrow has had my head spinning.

This is then a series as much for me as it is for them. Please include us both in your prayers and if you are the kind of Christian with the Gospel in their heart (as opposed to the primarily tribal sort), I welcome your fellowship.


Senior Member
Feb 9, 2014
Rather than write an additional piece on the subject, I would argue that these various manifestations of atheism have direct mirrors in Christianity and almost every other system of belief.

I do hypothesize the distribution of Christians among these categories would differ from the distribution of atheists and other groups.