There are, or should be, as many types of atheists as there are atheists. The banal reason for this is the –ists’ –ism being largely defined by what it is a rejection of. It is a negation, a rejection, and not an assertion. This is true enough, but it is not hard for me to picture a similarly composed atheist worldview in a world where theism never became an issue. In such a world it could no longer be a rejection. In such a world, though, there should still be the same profusion of atheist types.
There appears to be a lack of such variety, however. Possibly because the ubiquity of theism throughout human time and space leaves most of us with no grasp of what it might be to stand outside of or away from banners, conventions and –isms. Some creeping thought always follows even the rejection of theism, that we atheists therefore have something substantive in common.
In general the most dismal reason for this lack is more to do with only a partial understanding of the nature of the rejection theism forces upon theism. So many atheists expend endless effort trying to rebuild almost every edifice and convention religion has constructed upon nothing but marginally altered foundations. All of our theistic-tradition-derived intuitions, ethics and wonders are real, it seems, they just need to be couched with more rational casters. Perhaps partial understanding is what this is. Perhaps it is some understanding of, and a resultant shying away from, the proper consequences of this rejection.
I have said many times. Atheism, as a rejection, or as its own system in some imagined world without the stillborn grotesque of religion, is not just one altered line in the script of how the world is. An atheist and a theist do not have an identical worldly rulebook respectively prefaced with ‘no god says’ or ‘god says’. The atheist can have no rulebook they have not written, at least if they are to avoid being little more than the tinkering new temple tenants mentioned above.
The most important philosopher of atheism unsurprisingly understood this well. Perhaps the least important criticism of religion was that it was utterly wrong from the outset. Not so important was the mainstay of so much atheistic thought recently, of the misery, hypocrisy, abuse, perversion and inhumanity necessarily created, facilitated and propagated by religion. Religion is a lie. Of course. The atheist knows that everything is a lie. Religion’s lies, however, are almost ubiquitously ugly, and this is the worst thing. That it creates ugliness, and bands peoples together in –isms of ugliness. The atheist has no choice but to lie as well, they just have the chance to lie more elegantly, more affirmatively. But few do.