Astrology of Religion, Atheism, and Belief | 11. Michael Shermer


An Astrology of Skepticism?

Is a predisposition toward belief or doubt shown in the astrological chart? In this series on the astrology of religion, we have explored the charts of a number of famous believers and doubters. Here were explore the astrology of religion in the chart of Michael Shermer, the famous skeptic.

The ingredients and recipes for this type of analysis can be found in the first post of the series, which you can view here, and were reviewed with additional comments a couple posts back, which you can view here.

Michael Shermer

Shermer is one of the most prominent skeptics in the world today as the founder of The Skeptics Society ( and editor in chief of its magazine, Skeptic.  He is also a self-professed atheist – see here for his article, “Why I Am An Atheist”.  You can read Shermer’s biography on Wikipedia by clicking here.  His natal chart is shown below and has a Rodden Rating of AA.

Michael Shermer's Natal Chart
Michael Shermer’s Natal Chart (CTRL-Click to enlarge)

Michael Shermer’s Central Belief Indications



Jupiter is strong in Shermer’s chart.  Jupiter is advancing, in a sign of a light (Cancer), and regarded by both Lights. It is also receiving the application of its ruler, the Moon.  When Jupiter is generally strong in this way, we might suppose that among other Jupiter significations being prominent in the life. For instance, we may suppose that the native has had many expansive spiritual experiences that transcended the known.

Benefic to Mixed

Jupiter is naturally benefic and is in the 11th (its Joy), while in sect.  This is a very benefic Jupiter overall.  Mars is the out of sect malefic and Mars opposes Jupiter. Jupiter is afflicted in this sense and can be mixed. Mars adds heat and contention to Jupiter’s significations, particularly upon activations of the Jupiter-Mars opposition.

Notes on Jupiter

The influence of Jupiter is substantial and mostly positive.  The subjects which Shermer pursued in school reflect this. Those subjects were cultural anthropology and experimental psychology, both of which are more expansive, holistic, and Jupiterian fields. Later in life, he earned his Ph.D. in the History of Science.  While an atheist, he has also argued that science cannot invalidate religion.  Unlike many prominent skeptics and atheists, he doesn’t appear to advocate intolerance for others based on their religious beliefs. He does have a strong Mars-Jupiter signature in the chart which relates to argumentation and crusading for one’s beliefs.

Michael Shermer's Natal Chart

9th Place:

Moderate strength

The 9th, Taurus, is empty.  Venus, the planet of sensuality, artistry, and pleasure, rules the 9th.  Venus is advancing, but is in a cadent place.  She does regard the 9th by an opposition. Overall, the 9th is only of middling prominence.

Somewhat malefic, mixed

Venus rules the 9th and is somewhat malefic here in the chart, as she is out of sect and applying a conjunction to a malefic (Saturn). She is also in both the bound and the sign of the out of sect malefic, Mars.  Saturn is in very close aspect to Mars, and Saturn opposes the 9th. Overall, the 9th place has a very Saturnine influence on it, inducing much doubt, critical thinking, and need for tangible evidence when it comes to matters of belief and truth.  In the evaluation of belief, Saturn leans toward science/skepticism, while Venus leans toward aesthetic value and human pleasure/joy.  There may be an association of matters of higher truth or dogma with unpleasantness or strife. However, it is mixed in this regard, exhibiting a broad range, as Saturn is in sect and Venus is a benefic.

Notes on the 9th Place

Belief-systems and truth-seeking have moderate prominence in Shermer’s life. They are not as prominent as in most of the charts of vocal atheists we’ve seen.  His evaluation of belief systems tends to be heavily influenced by aesthetics/pleasure (Venus rulership) and doubt/skepticism (Saturn opposes the 9th and is with the ruler of the 9th).

Michael Shermer's Natal Chart


Moderate strength

Saturn is moderately strong, as it is advancing but cadent.  While Saturn has a strong effect on the 9th (via opposition), it doesn’t have a strong effect on the life overall.  The life is not marked strongly by doubt, loss, dreariness, darkness, and negativity as it is in the charts of many atheists.

Mixed to somewhat malefic

Saturn is naturally a malefic and is ruled by the out of sect malefic, so there are some challenging circumstances indicated by Saturn. However, it is also in sect and conjunct a benefic, so there are definitely some benefits and positive outcomes associated with Saturn. Jupiter overcomes Saturn by sextile; another beneficial configuration.  Therefore, there is a quite a broad mixed range with the significations of Saturn in the chart, from malefic to bringing about very positive developments.

Notes on Saturn

Saturn influences the belief system but doesn’t have a huge impact on the life overall. Saturn has both constructive and challenging associations.

Michael Shermer's Natal Chart


Extremely strong

Mercury is very prominent. It is strongly advancing on the Ascendant and rules the Ascendant. It is also very strongly in phasis (15 degrees from Sun).  Therefore, Mercury is extremely strong and prominent in this chart.  The god of movement, intellect, rational thought, and commerce has a very strong and pervasive effect on the life as a whole.  Shermer encounters prominent Mercurial themes (complexity, rationality, ingenuity, synthesizing, commerce) in his typical life circumstances.

Somewhat malefic

Mercury always has a broad range from benefic to malefic, but here it leans malefic due to its influences. Mercury is out of sect and in a dark place (the 2nd), while in the bound of Saturn, and applying to Mars. All of these indications push Mercury to be more malefic.  In other words, we expect Mercury to be more geared into destroying than creating, and negatively evaluating rather than positively contributing something new.  In the bound (and exaltation, and triplicity) of Saturn, we expect Mercury to be particularly at home with skeptical evaluation (Saturn pertains to doubt, judgment, and nullification).

Notes on Mercury

Mercury connects strongly with the Ascendant, indicating a strong identification with Mercury. It is also very prominent in the life generally.  Mercury is in the 2nd of money and wealth, so while Mercury’s influence is pervasive and broad, the significations concerning commerce are particularly reinforced. We expect that Shermer is a shrewd business-minded individual.  The general identification with Mercury is a very common theme among atheists and skeptics. As a whole, they identify very strongly with rationality and intellect.  So far, half of the atheists/skeptics in this series (Randi, O’Hair, and now Shermer) have had Mercury as the actual ruler of the Ascendant.

Michael Shermer's Natal Chart

A Mercury that is Particularly Skeptical When it Comes to Belief but Also Tolerant

With Shermer, we again see a strong identification with Mercury. By contrast, there is no identification with Jupiter, despite the fact that Jupiter has a significant influence on life circumstances. However, Mercury is the strongest overall influence in his life.  We also see the influence of Saturn upon the belief system (9th) and rational thought (Mercury).  Unlike many atheists, it appears that there isn’t a strong influence of doubt, dreariness, difficulty, and rejection in his life in general (Saturn is not very strong). Also, he may have had many spiritually expansive experiences in his life that tested the limits (Jupiter is strong).  Perhaps it is this which has led him to be more tolerant of religion generally than many other skeptics and atheists. He remains open-minded and directs his attacks instead at specific ideas and claims.

Michael Shermer wiki portrait


Image Attributions:

Featured image of Michael Shermer at TAM 5 (cropped) by José Ramírez [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Final image of Michael Shermer by User: Loxton (Wikipedia) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons



Blogger interested in all things astrological, especially Hellenistic, medieval, Uranian, and asteroid astrology.

4 thoughts on “Astrology of Religion, Atheism, and Belief | 11. Michael Shermer

  • February 29, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Dear Anthony

    Did you condider Jupiter (tenant) in this case resides in weaken house (Cancer) due to
    1. Its landlord (Moon) is in dritimental sign (Capricorn)
    2. Its landlord also oppose its house

    In this case, Jupiter should be weak, but should be benefic as it in the 10th house and other reason you mention above.

    Your sincerely,

    • February 29, 2012 at 9:19 pm

      Hi Peter,

      Thank you for commenting!

      It’s a good question, because the Hellenistic doctrine of counteraction has it that a strong planet with a weak lord is weakened and subject to reversals. Detriment is not a separate concept for the most part in the Hellenistic period in the way that fall/descension is. The Moon is also the second trigon lord of earth signs by day, so I don’t consider the Moon to be weakened. She is made somewhat malefic by being out of sect and assembled with Mars, the out of sect malefic. I consider her opposition to her natal house to be overall better than if she were in aversion to the place, as she can at least keep an eye on it without depending on the testimony of another planet. Additionally, she’s in a succedent place and advancing toward the IC. See the first post in the series for the main basic strength/weakness and beneficent/maleficent factors that I look at first and foremost. I don’t consider sign dignity to be a major strength/weakness or benefic/malefic factor. I address this at length in a series of posts on Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Turner. I do think that planets that are in “dignity” tend to act more independently, for better or worse, and that this can make them stronger in a sense, but I definitely don’t think it makes them more beneficent, and I don’t consider it as important as advancing/retreating, “stakes” of the chart, stationing direct, being in phasis, or even of being a Light (naturally powerful), when it comes to evaluating general strength and pervasiveness of effect in a planet’s natural significations. In terms of independence, it is in the sense that because Jupiter is in its exaltation and bound, it is much less reliant upon support from the Moon at all, and also less restrained because of that. I also consider Jupiter to be in the 11th place, its joy, as the houses are the houses of the planets, i.e. the signs, and Virgo is rising – the 11th is Jupiter’s joy.

      If Jupiter is to be considered weakened to some degree, I’d pinpoint its copresence with the South Node, which is typically considered depleting and Saturnine in influence. While a malefic influence would come through the opposition by Mars and that it’s ruler is with Mars. Mars-Jupiter contacts tend toward some dogmatic contentiousness whether one is religious or not, and often come up in both vocal believers and non-believers, as well as in my own chart where I have an applying Jupiter-Saturn conjunction (about 1.5 deg orb) in a superior square to Mars, all within 3 degrees of each other. Overall, with strong Mars-Jupiter contacts like the square or opposition you’ll tend to see people who get hot under the color about truth, dogma, and the importance of the right belief system, typically theirs – in one word, “crusading”. Mars opposing Jupiter and Saturn opposing the 9th tend to tell a story here.

      The Ascendant shouldn’t be under-rated in terms of identification. I was looking at a list of astrologer charts the other day and noticed that more than 1/3 of them had a domicile of Jupiter or Jupiter itself in the 1st. Next most common was a domicile of Venus or Venus in the 1st. Shermer identifies with a very Saturnine Mercury and the Ascendant is in the bound of Mars, while the trigon lords are strongly mixed with Mars and Saturn. It’s a penetrating and fault-finding Mercurial type of character. I can relate as my Mercury is also ruled by Mars in a bound of Saturn. He seems like a bright guy and a good skeptic. He also seems religiously tolerant. I don’t have any beef with him, like the last commentator seemed to think. I just think he’s an interesting case for belief analysis.

      Best wishes,


  • February 26, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    I know Michael Shermer, and know many others who are close to him. You have utterly missed capturing the first thing about his personality. Everything you say about him here could be gleaned from what is publicly available without effort. If you wish to convince anyone, you’ll have to do much better than this.

    • February 27, 2012 at 12:49 am


      I wasn’t trying to capture the first thing about his personality. This is a comparison of a few of the more basic and important factors pertaining to delineating belief, particularly faith vs. skepticism, from Hellenistic and Persian horoscopic astrology, which I’m comparing against actual people and their natal charts in a systematic way for evaluation purposes. I really don’t know much at all about Michael Shermer, but if everything I say about his beliefs here, which is straight from the systematic rules for reading the chart that I laid out in the earlier posts, matches up with what is publicly available, then that’s a good start. To be quite honest, I don’t really care to convince anyone of anything though. I just do my astrological studies, communicate them here, and enjoy it immensely. 🙂

      Best wishes,



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