The word ‘atheism’ comes from the
negative ‘a’ which means ‘no’ and ‘theos’ which means ‘god.’
Hence, atheism in the most base terms means ‘no god.’ Basically, atheism is the
lack of belief in a god and/or the belief that there is no god. By contrast,
theism is the belief that there is a God and that He is knowable. I need to
mention that most atheists do not consider themselves anti-theists. Most
consider themselves as non-theists.
I've encountered many atheists who claim that atheism is not a belief system while others say it is. Since there is no official atheist organization, nailing down which definition of atheism to use can be difficult. Following are some definitions offered by atheists.
|"An atheist is someone who believes and/or knows there is no god."|
|"An atheist lacks belief in a god."|
|"An atheist exercises no faith in the concept of god at all."|
|"An atheist is someone who is free from religious oppression and bigotry."|
|"An atheist is someone who is a free-thinker, free from religion and its ideas."|
Which ever definition you go by, atheism
There are two main categories of atheists: strong and weak, with variations in between. A strong atheist actively believes and states that no God exists. They expressly denounce the Christian God along with any other god. Strong atheists are usually more aggressive in their conversations with theists and try shoot holes in theistic beliefs. They like to use logic and anti-biblical evidences to denounce God's existence.
Agnostic Atheists, as I call them, are those who deny God's existence based on an examination of evidence. Agnosticism means 'not knowing,' or 'no knowledge.' I call them agnostic because they state they have looked at the evidence and have concluded that there is no God. But, the interesting thing with them is that they say they are open further evidence for God's existence.
Weak atheists simply exercises no faith in God. The weak atheist might be better explained as a person who lacks belief in God the way a person might lack belief that there is a green lizard in a rocking chair on the moon; the subject simply isn't an issue and they don't believe or not believe it.
Finally, there is a group of atheists that I call militant atheists. They are, fortunately, few in number. They are usually highly insulting and profoundly terse in their comments to theists, particularly Christians. I’ve encountered a few of them and they are vile, rude, and highly condescending. Their language is full of insults, profanity, and blasphemies. Basically, no meaningful conversation can be had with them at all.
Two Main Types of Arguments from Atheists
Atheist positions seem to fall into two
main categories. The first is the lack of evidence category where the atheist
asserts that the supporting evidence isn't good enough for him to affirm God's
existence. The second is the category where they believe that the idea of God
existing is illogical and contrary to the evidence at hand. To simplify, one
says there isn't enough evidence to decide and the other says there is evidence
contrary to God's existence. For those atheists who simply lack
belief and exercise no energy in the discussion, neither category applies
because are not involved in the debate.
A typical argument posed by an atheist to show why God does not exist is as follows: God is supposed to be all good and all powerful. Evil and suffering exist in the world. If God is all good he would not want evil and suffering to exist. If He is all powerful then He is able to remove all evil and suffering. Since evil and suffering exist, God is either not all good (which means he is not perfect and not God), or he is not all powerful (and limited in abilities and scope). Since either case shows God is not all good and powerful, then He does not exist.
Some Basic Tenets of Atheism
Presuppositions are important to us all.
We look at the world through them. The atheist has a set of
presuppositions, too. Though there is no definitive atheist organization
that defines the absolutes of atheism, there are basic principles that
atheists, as a whole, tend to adopt. They are listed below. Please note
however, that not all atheists assert all of these tenets. The only
absolute common one they hold to is that they do not believe in a God or
For the Christian, atheism clashes with
many aspects of our faith. Some atheists openly attack Christianity citing
apparent contradictions in the Bible, perceived philosophical difficulties
related to God, and what they consider as logical evidences against God's
existence. But the atheists' criticisms are not without answers. Hopefully, this
information will help answer some of their claims and give reasons for believing
Terms and Definitions
A priori - Knowledge, judgments, and principles which are true without verification or testing. It is universally true.
Agnosticism - The belief that the existence of God is not knowable. The word is derived from the negative ‘a’ combined with the Greek word ‘gnosis’ which means ‘knowledge.’ Hence, agnosticism is the belief that God cannot be known.
Argumentum ad hominem - An irrelevant attack upon a person to deflect the argument from the facts and reasons.
Argumentum ad judicium - An argument where appeal is made to common sense and the judgment of people as validating a point.
Argumentum ad populum - An argument where appeal is made to emotions: loyalties, patriotism, prejudices, etc.
Argumentum ad verecundiam - An argument using respect for great men, customs, institutions, and authority in an attempt to strengthen one's argument and provide an illusion of proof.
Atheism - The lack of belief in a god and/or the belief that there is no god. The position held by a person or persons that 'lack belief' in god(s) and/or deny that god(s) exist.
Autonomy - Freedom from all external constraints. Independence consisting of self-determination.
Causality - The relationship between cause and effect. The principle that all events have sufficient causes.
Chance - Being undetermined. Events without apparent cause. An accidental happening.
Choice - Action based on one's volition, will, desire.
Christian - A person who believes in biblical person of Jesus who claimed to be God in flesh, died, and rose again from the grave and who lives according to the principles of Christ’s teaching.
Cosmological argument - An attempt to prove that God exists by appealing to the principle that all things have causes. There cannot be an infinite regress of causes, therefore, there must be an uncaused cause: God.
Cosmology - Study of the origin and structure of the universe.
Deduction - A system of logic, inference and conclusion drawn from examination of facts. Conclusions drawn from the general down to the specific.
Deism - The belief that there is a God but that God is not involved in the world. Deism denies any revelatory work of God in the world whether it be by miracles or by scripture.
Deontology - The study of moral obligation.
Determinism - The teaching that every event in the universe is caused and controlled by natural law.
Dialectic - The practice of examining ideas and beliefs using reason and logic. It is often accomplished by question and answer.
Didactic - The branch of education dealing with teaching.
Dogma - A generally held set of formulated beliefs.
Empiricism - The proposition that the only source of true knowledge is experience. Search for knowledge through experiment and observation. Denial that knowledge can be obtained a priori.
Epistemology - The branch of philosophy that deals with knowing and the methods of obtaining knowledge.
Ethics - Study of right and wrong and wrong, good and bad, moral judgment, etc.
Evolution - Change from simple to complex. That system of study authored by Charles Darwin that seeks to explain the development of life.
Fact - An indisputable truth.
Faith - Aceptance of ideals, beliefs, etc., which are not necessarily demonstrable through experimentation or reason.
Free will - Freedom of self determination and action independent of external causes.
Freethinker - A person who forms his opinions about religion and God without regard to revelation, scripture, tradition, or experience.
God - Deity, infinite being of power, influence, knowledge, and immortality.
Hedonism - That pleasure is the principle good and proper goal of all action. Self indulgence.
Humanism - The system of philosophy based upon human reason, actions, and motives without concern of deity or supernatural phenomena.
In facto - Something that exists and is complete.
In fieri - Beginning to be, but not yet complete.
Induction - A system of logic where specific facts are used to draw a general conclusion.
Infidel - A person who does not believe in any particular religious system.
Karma - In Hinduism, the total compilation of all a person's past lives and actions that result in the present condition of that person.
Metaphysics - The study of the nature and being of reality and its origin and structure.
Monism - The view that there is only one basic and fundamental reality, that all existence is this one reality.
Monolatry - The belief that there are many gods but only one of them is served and worshipped.
Monotheism - The belief that there is only one God in the universe.
Morals - Ethics, the codes, values, principles, and customs of a person or society.
Myth - Something not true, fiction, or falsehood. A truth disguised and distorted.
Ontological argument - An attempt at proving the existence of God by stating that God exists because our conception of Him exists and nothing greater than God can be conceived of.
Ontology - The study of the nature of being, reality, and substance.
Panentheism - The belief that God is in the universe. It differs with pantheism which states that God is the universe and all that it comprises.
Pantheism - The belief that God is the universe and all that comprises it: laws, motion, matter, energy, consciousness, life, etc. It denies that God is a person and is self aware.
Philosophy - The study of seeking knowledge and wisdom in understanding the nature of the universe, man, ethics, art, love, purpose, etc.
Polytheism - The belief that there are many gods in existence in the universe.
Pragmatism - A method in philosophy where value is determined by practical results.
Rationalism - A branch of philosophy where truth is determined by reason.
Relativism - The view that truth is relative and not absolute. It varies from people to people, time to time.
Religion - Generally a belief in a deity and practice of worship, action, and/or thought related to that deity. Loosely, any specific system of code of ethics, values, and belief.
Teleological argument - An attempted proof of God's existence based upon the premise that the universe is designed and therefore needs a designer: God.
Teleology - The study of final causes, results. Having a definite purpose, goal, or design.
Theism - The belief that there is a God and that He is knowable and involved in the world.
Theodicy - The study of the problem of evil in the world in relation to the proposition that there is an all powerful good God.
Theology - The study of things pertaining to God and/or the relation of God to the world.
Transcendent - That which is beyond our senses and experience. Existing apart from matter.
Trinity - The Christian doctrine that there is only one God in existence and that He consists of three separate and ontologically divine persons.
Yin and Yang - A dualistic philosophy of passive and active, good and bad, light and dark, positive and negative, male and female, etc., and that they are in opposition, each is part of the whole and works together.
Baker's Dictionary of Theology, Edited by Everett F. Harrison, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan,1960.
Christian Apologetics, by Norman Geisler, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1976
Dictionary of Philosophy, edited by Dagobert D. Runes, Ph.D., Philosophical Library, New York, 1942.
Webster's New World Dictionary, edited by David B. Guralnik, Simon and Schuster, 1986.