Russell Blackford www

It really just means that someone does not believe in any god or gods. In the past, it was sometimes applied more widely as a term of abuse for people who did not believe in the fundamentals of the Christian religion, even if they had some kind of basic belief in the existence of a divine creator, such as postulated by deists.

Atheism is not, in itself, a complete worldview or philosophical system, although most contemporary atheists are philosophical (or metaphysical) naturalists, i.e. they deny the existence of any supernatural reality. Technically, however, you can be an atheist without having such a strong position.

Posted: June 15th 2007

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vjack www

Theism makes a positive belief claim in which existence of some sort of god or gods is asserted. An atheist is someone who does not accept this claim. Thus, atheism refers to the absence of theistic belief. That’s it. It doesn’t mean anything else. Atheism is not a religion, a philosophy, a worldview, or anything similar. It is not the conviction that there are no gods, ghosts, angels, etc. Rather, it is the absence of a belief that these things are real.

Atheism is nothing more than the lack of belief in a god or gods. Note that this is not the same thing as a positive claim that a god or gods do not or cannot exist. While some have described such a positive claim as “strong atheism,” it should not be taken as being synonymous with atheism.

For more information, see Defining Atheism: The Advantage of Parsimony at Atheist Revolution.

Posted: June 8th 2007

See all questions answered by vjack

bitbutter www

Being an atheist simply means you lack belief in gods. The term atheist isn’t really comparable to terms like Christian or Muslim because it doesn’t describe a complete ideology.

Many atheists consider themselves Freethinkers, or Secular Humanists first, and are atheists as a consequence of these ways of looking at the world.

Many atheists consider themselves 'weak’ or agnostic atheists. There’s some more information about the nature of agnostic atheism on the teapot page.

The relationship between atheism and agnosticism is explored further in the article Atheism vs. Agnosticism : What’s the Difference? Are they Alternatives to Each Other?

Thus, it is clear that agnosticism is compatible with both theism and atheism. A person can believe in a god (theism) without claiming to know for sure if that god exists; the result is agnostic theism. On the other hand, a person can disbelieve in gods (atheism) without claiming to know for sure that no gods can or do exist; the result is agnostic atheism.

Posted: June 3rd 2007

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jonecc www

I actually prefer the term secularist. This is because it is impossible to actually prove that there is no God, because by definition an all-powerful creative sentient being could create any data we might observe.

The crucial point though is that there is no evidence that points towards the existence of God. God therefore joins the long list of entities whose non-existence cannot be proven, but for practical purposes can be assumed until some evidence presents itself. This is the basis of Bertrand Russell’s flying teapot analogy. To quote Russell:

If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

So, to be an atheist is to believe that God is like the flying teapot. In practice, it is to live your life without turning to supernatural theories of the world for explanation, comfort or guidance.

Religious people often seem to think this must be difficult in some way, but I have never found it so, and to be honest I’ve never understood why they think I might.

Posted: May 31st 2007

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