What is Atheism Anyway? A brief introduction into Atheism

Have you ever wondered what it means when someone says that they are an atheist? I know I have. Perhaps you’re pretty certain that you already know what atheism is. That’s OK. This blog post can still offer insight into atheism that perhaps you hadn’t considered before.

Let’s see what the atheist themselves have to say. A quick Google search will no doubt turn up the answer.

American Atheist (http://atheists.org/activism/resources/what-is-atheism?)

“Atheism is usually defined incorrectly as a belief system.”
“Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods”

That Atheist Guy (https://youtu.be/HCp66yS8n_4?t=44s)

“Atheism is a non-belief in the existence of a deity” (spoken)
A disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of deity” (written on screen)

Atheist Survival Guide (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGe53qM1huM)

1. Atheism is not a belief
2. Atheism is a non belief – a rejection to the claims that there is a higher power or supernatural being. Nothing more than this.

A disbelief in the existence of a diety” ( written on screen)
Those who don’t believe in God have been forced to label themselves as atheists.

Hitchens – What is Atheism (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXUX1c9TTSY)

We argue (believe) quite simply that there is no plausible or convincing reason, certainly no evidential one, to believe that there is such an entity.”

“I believe that we are not here as the result of a design (https://youtu.be/fXUX1c9TTSY?t=1m9s)

DorsetGhost (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSSDJdaFEc8)

Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in deities.
In a narrow sense, atheism is specifically the position (belief) that there are no deities.


So the answer to the question, What is Atheism, should now be quite clear to you I hope. Let’s move onto the types of atheism:

There is gnostic atheism, igtheism, agnostic atheist, negative atheist, weak atheist, implicit atheist, positive atheist, strong atheist, explicit atheist, broad atheist, narrow atheist, and my favorite…drum roll please…

The Religious Atheist

The religious atheist practices religion but does not believe in gods.

I’m not making this up. I swear.


Well that concludes today’s lesson. I hope this post helped to clear up all the preconceived ideas that “evolve from theistic influences.” (http://atheists.org/activism/resources/what-is-atheism?)


Note: No, I didn’t cherry pick these definitions – all offered by self-proclaimed atheists – just because of the obvious contradictions in how they define the doctrine to which they subscribe. These are literally the first results I got when I searched Google for “what is atheism” using both the Web and Video search.

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8 thoughts on “What is Atheism Anyway? A brief introduction into Atheism

  1. I am aware of that new atheist have redefined atheism to be the lack of a belief, I find this to be nothing more than clever posturing. I could equally say I am a weak theist, thus I simply assert the lack of belief in a unguided natural process because I don’t see any evidence for it. In doing so I have cleverly taken the burden of proof off my shoulders and made theism the default. It’s very frustrating to see such intellectual dishonesty. The new atheist are attempting to make their position the default by saying there’s no proof for God, but atheism is not the default because there is no precedent in which a default could be assumed. Assuming the world came about by some natural unguided process is a very extraordinary claim and is not something that could ever be taken for granted, what evidence do these atheist have for a natural unguided process? if they don’t have any and they are just asserting there isn’t any evidence for God therefore evolution must be the default choice, then your simply promoting ignorance and blind indoctrination.

  2. “Note: No, I didn’t cherry pick these definitions – all offered by self-proclaimed atheists – just because of the obvious contradictions in how they define the doctrine to which they subscribe. These are literally the first results I got when I searched Google for “what is atheism” using both the Web and Video search.”

    Atheists do not subscribe to any doctrines. 😉

  3. For that matter there are contradictions in how Christians define Christianity: It is religion. It’s not a religion. It’s a relationship. It’s faith; it’s works. Yes, some atheists sometimes disagree on the semantics, but for the most part, I think the basic premise of atheism is summed up in the statement, “I don’t believe in (any) god.” As such, I don’t see contradictions in any of the above definitions. Some people say it’s a disbelief. That is covered in “I don’t believe.” Some say it’s a lack of belief. That too is covered. Some call it a suspension of belief in light of lack of evidence. This fits too.

    As long as your hashing out what atheists have to say, I actually posted yesterday on what atheism is to me. http://theheathensguide.com/what-an-atheist-believes/

  4. Jon,
    First let me say that I appreciate you commenting here. I read your post “What and atheist believes” and i felt like your explanation was intellectually honest.

    In your reply above you stated:
    “I think the basic premise of atheism is summed up in the statement, ‘I don’t believe in (any) god.’ As such, I don’t see contradictions in any of the above definitions.”

    So an atheist is someone who:
    1. does not believe in the existence of any god.
    2. believes god does not exist; believes no god exists, believes there are no gods.

    Are any of these statements contrary to atheism in your understanding?

    I do not believe the assertion – that gods exists – to be true.
    I do believe the assertion – that god does not exist – to be true.

    I do not believe the assertion – that god does not exist – to be untrue.
    I do believe the assertion – that god exists – to be untrue.

    I do not lack belief in the assertion – that god does not exist.
    I do lack belief in the assertion – that god does exist.

    I do not lack disbelief in the assertion that god exists.
    I do lack disbelief in the assertion that god does not exist.

    Based on your article and your response here, I can see no reason you would not agree that each of these statements express what atheism means to you.

    Yet clearly these are entirely contrary in many cases to the definitions above.

    1. Atheism is not a disbelief in gods
    2. Atheism is not a belief

    Clearly atheists do hold beliefs regarding god.

    I point this out not to imply that your definition is wrong but to explore your thoughts and how you account for this clear rift in how self proclaimed atheists are defining themselves and, yes, their beliefs.

    I agree with Nathanael David above when hes said: “new atheist have redefined atheism to be the lack of a belief, I find this to be nothing more than clever posturing.”

    I agree with you when you say: “the basic premise of atheism is summed up in the statement, “I don’t believe in (any) god.”

  5. I’m not sure I would agree with all of those statements; however, this is primarily because of wording and not strictly due to the concepts themselves. For example, I would say I believe the assertion “God exists” is not “true” but rather, “untestable, but unlikely given what I have seen and based on the definitions of god that have been posited.” Admittedly, however, this gets into semantics, and once we are quibbling over semantics, we are not gaining common ground for conversation.

    Yet, I think you could say that atheists “hold beliefs about God” without necessitating that atheism is itself a belief system. By analogy: I can believe things about basketball; however, basketball is not a belief, in and of itself.

  6. Belief and Believing are concepts that I’ve been contemplating lately and I’m struggling to reach a clear position for myself. At least one that I can explain clearly.

    I want to argue that disbelieving an assertion is equivalent to believing it’s opposite; That belief is an all or nothing proposition; That either you believe an assertion to be true or don’t which means you must believe the assertion’s opposite; That any proclamation of lacking belief in both is hollow because in real life decisions and actions reveal belief one way or the other whether, when asked, we admit it.

    A. The stove is hot.
    B. I don’ t believe you.
    A. Then touch it if you don’t believe me.
    B. No. I don’ t want to touch it. (acts according to the belief that the stove is hot)
    or
    B. OK. Walks over…get’s burned. (acts in accordance with the belief that the stove is not hot)

    Are belief and disbelief positive/negative (all or nothing) concepts or can they be like an alkaline/acidity scale where one could potentially have a belief of 3 with a maxim value of 7? 7 being complete belief. Can anything less than complete belief be belief at all?

    If I say I lack belief that x is true, must I believe then that -x is true.
    In other words, if I say I lack belief that the sky looks blue, must I believe that the sky is not blue?
    Is it even logical to claim lack of belief that the sky is blue and that the sky is not blue?

    Could it be that these different ways of thinking about belief play a part in how people relate differently to assertions about God’s existence. I don’t know. It’s all a bit jumbled and shifty in my head and I haven’t been nail down or articulate things in a way I’m happy with as of yet.

  7. There are numerous things (theological and otherwise) that I continue to mull over in my head, so I have tremendous respect for that. This isn’t an issue I’ve put tons of thought into, but I’m inclined to view belief as a sliding scale similar to your acidity analogy. Extending this to your stove analogy, I would say there is another option in which I say I don’t want to touch it because it very well might be hot–however I still walk over and hold my hand about an inch away to see if I feel heat coming off the burner.

    Indeed, This is how I deal with belief in my own theological outlook. You say there’s a God. I say I don’t believe you. However, at the same time, I acknowledge that I don’t know this, so I apply any and all tests I can find.

    I’m not saying I believe the burner is not hot, but I sure don’t believe it is until I can feel any heat coming off the burner.

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