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Atheists, Fundamentalists, and Mystics

Three points on the belief spectrum

Every one of us is somewhere on the belief spectrum. Whether we’re willing to admit where we sit on the spectrum is another matter altogether. It may be that where we sit is a movable feast, with the precise location depending on the circumstances of our lives.

Atheists, fundamentalists, and mystics occupy three clear points on the belief spectrum. There are others but we can use these three to explore the scope of the spectrum.


The non-believers. According to atheists, there is no empirical evidence proving God’s existence, and the current state of world affairs is more than enough evidence to demonstrate that there is no all-powerful being in the heavens. 

Atheists are people that question everything, not just the existence of God. They tell us they’re rational thinkers, that they only believe in the facts. 

Their perspective is derived from the physical world in which we live. If something can’t be seen, smelt, heard, or touched it doesn’t exist. If it can’t be measured, it’s non-existent. They place their faith in their ability to explain the physical world. There are no psychics among this lot.

They’re resigned to this life being all there is and ceasing to exist at death. They don’t believe in an afterlife. That would require a leap of faith beyond the physical realms known to them. 


The true believers. They believe what they’ve been told about Almighty God – literally. For fundamentalists, their holy book is the unerring word of God. They do not question the doctrines and teachings of their religion. These are the people that claim to know the will of God and to speak in His name.

And, like the God they speak for, they’re judgemental. They know what’s right and what’s wrong. They’re not much into fun and they’re definitely not into sex – unless it’s for procreational purposes within the confines of the sacred union of a marriage blessed by their religion.

Fundamentalists have certainty of belief and like to tell the rest of us how to live our lives – especially if we don’t want to spend eternity in what they call hell. They believe in the afterlife and in that all-powerful heavenly deity the atheists deny exists.


The witnesses of the divine. Like atheists, mystics question everything, especially the scriptures and religious doctrines that give the fundamentalists their certainty. They realise God is unknowable from an intellectual perspective and are open to the existence of spiritual dimensions. 

Mystics are not looking for empirical proof of God’s existence or searching for certainty of belief. They’re open to there being more to life than the physical dimension and one short lifetime stretching from birth to death.

For mystics, thinking and talking about God are distractions. They’ve learnt you need silence to allow the divine to reveal itself. Using meditation, mystics turn their attention away from the noise of the external world, the world of the ten thousand things, and allow the divine to make its presence known from within. 

Mystics won’t tell you what to believe or how to behave. They know you have to find that out for yourself.

Our default starting point on the belief spectrum is determined by the cultural circumstances of our birth. Some of us never question the initial set of beliefs we inherited from our culture. That’s how beliefs persist from generation to generation and become entrenched within a culture.

 Others eventually come to question the beliefs they were born into and go in search of answers – and find themselves opening to new perspectives and moving to a different point on the belief spectrum. 

I’ve moved from a starting point of Orthodox Catholicism – somewhere in the fundamentalist zone – to being a modern-day mystic. It’s an ongoing journey of self-discovery – a  journey I encourage you to take.

Photo by Katie Rainbow 🏳️‍🌈 on Unsplash