Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Atheism 101

Hello students! Welcome to atheism 101 where I, your brilliant instructor will attempt to teach you some basic facts about atheism. But first, what is atheism?

Atheism is a disbelief in gods. Quite literally an atheist may say, “I don’t believe in God.” However this usually means that they don’t believe in any gods, just like all the other gods a Muslim or Christian doesn’t believe in! Atheism on its own doesn’t mean anything else except a lack of belief, this does not mean they know there is no God, they just don’t believe.

However, they could be a Gnostic Atheist, meaning they don't have a belief in God, but also know there is no God, just like how many Theists will say they know there is a God. However, most Atheists are Agnostic Atheists, meaning that they just don’t know for sure. This is usually the case for Theists since most believe faith is tantamount in importance.

So now when someone says they are an Atheist you know what they mean by that statement, and you can now press whether they are Gnostic or Agnostic Atheists! Good for you!

This is a picture of the Four Horsemen, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. This title wasn’t necessarily chosen by them but it fits in the Christian community who deem them as such. Of course, Jennifer Hecht, and Susan Jacoby were writing mainstream, atheistic material long before these guys, but since they were women they probably weren’t chosen by Christians to be the Four Horsemen.

Many people believe that these men are the de facto leaders and prophets of atheism, as if it’s a religion! This is an obvious stance of ignorance because if anyone listened to these four men they would realize that they do not agree on plenty of things, and in the DVD, The Four Horsemen, they actually argue back and forth some. They all may be more confrontational than the average atheist, but they certainly are not prophets.

And I must point out that Atheism is not a religion! This is absurd! Religions are belief systems that worship or revere a superhuman being or entity, particularly gods. In Atheism you can certainly assert that it has a belief system, but its belief is that there are no gods. This is the antithesis of religion, the prime opposite. Atheism a religion, please.

Atheism has its roots go back as far as religion! The most concise writings we have go back to the Indian subcontinent where Buddhism and Hinduism led some to not believe in gods, though they could still believe in the supernatural. Diagoras, Euhemerus, and Epicurus are all major atheist figures from classical antiquity as well. Before the bulk of the Bible was written there were writings denouncing the gods.

This will conclude Atheism 101. It should be noted that there are many other facets to Atheism, such as its rich history of great thinkers, the role of science, the theory of evolution, the debate on morality, and whether or not religion is good for the world!


  1. I have compared atheism to religion before in that I think sometimes people can be just as pushy and just as "I know what is best for you" as a religion can in atheism. Plus what you already pointed out with it being a belief system. I think that is probably why I am so lax to say what I believe because I hate the idea of trying to tell anybody else that what I think is the best idea for them or that I am in anyway better or smarter than they are for what I have figured out.
    I do think that some people would be a lot happier if they could see how damaging religion is, but at the same time - it could backfire and leave them somewhat hopeless (where I think we've all found ourselves at one time or another).
    Now I'm just blabbering, but yeah.

  2. I like how Mormons think they have solved the problem of evil but instead have really just decided that God must not be all-powerful.

    They say, "God creates trials to help us improve" well why didn't God create people in the already improved state?

    Apparently the only way he can improve people is by subjecting them to pain and suffering, which would make him something less than omnipotent.


  3. I would say that atheism is a religion. It's a group of people that carry a set standard of beliefs.

    The universal definition of god is: The most perfect person imaginable.

    Imaginable doesn't necessarily mean made up - But if you ask anyone their idea of god - they will use their own thoughts and opinions to describe a perfect being (or god).

    I believe in god - i just don't believe he's real. He's more of an image - I define perfection, realize that i'm not perfect - and then try to accomplish my own version of perfection. In a very real sense I am god. I'm just not your god.

  4. AJ - I think if people ask for it then you are no way in the wrong. Also I don't think there's any problem 'coming out of the closet' as an atheist. If someone says what their spiritual or religious views are I don't feel it is being forced on me simply for them saying what they are. But that's just me.

    Lam - Yeah, Mormonism has a decent theological system to explain the fact of evil, but it's still all just hoobilygook. Anyone can make up a bunch of undocumented, unverifiable claims to make sense of the world, and everyone has.

    Gestotamoseke - I disagree with you from the start, but given your 'definition' of God and religion I would say you're right. I don't think many people would agree with your definitions, but your system is sound.

  5. @Gestotamoseke

    If atheism is a religion then not collecting stamps is a hobby.
    The only thing it takes to be an atheist is to lack belief in a god. Even religious people lack a belief in most gods. A Christian doesn't believe in the gods of Hinduism, the gods of roman and greek mythology, or the other million gods people have come up with in human history. An atheist just goes one further in not believing in any.

    If you say God is a sort of imaginary ideal there is already a better word for that...abstraction. You are in the realm of thought experiment not religion my friend. Come back when your definition of God is much more convoluted and preferably based on a text of dubious veracity.

    -Lam (butting in, trying to make this some kind of crazy forum =])

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  8. @anonymous

    Alright... I'm guessing my comment was removed because I was mean in it.

    In which I apologize - but given your response, you were trying to be confrontational.

    Has many definitions.

    (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural
    (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
    2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
    3archaic : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness
    4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

    #2: a PERSONAL set or INSTITUTIONALIZED belief.

    #4: A cause held by faith.

    In your theory you describe stamps as god. But god is not tangible, he's an idea. Anything that requires faith, requires that it's an idea.

    So it's the collective idea of god that makes religion possible.

    How is that any different from Atheism?

    It's a collective idea or belief about god.

    Atheism therefore wouldn't be related to not collecting stamps is a hobby. We have an idea of god (or a stamp, as you'd like to call it). Just like religion has an idea of god (or a stamp)

    If you have a room full of mormons and you're discussing how god should react to any given situation. You'll find that although these mormons carry the same title of religion - their belief in god is quite different - because their personal gods are reflections of their own thoughts of what perfection is, and how a perfect being would react to a given situation.

    The theory you use to discredit my opinion, actually just discredits yours.

    In this instance atheism is better defined as a religion, than most religions are defined as religon. Because our idea of god is unified, where as in everyone else has their own personal opinion about who he is, and how he acts.


    1. The quality of dealing with ideas rather than events.
    2. Something that exists only as an idea.

    You say that i'm dealing with an abstraction, which related more to a mind experiment than religion.

    I've never heard a better word to describe religion or god than the definition of abstraction. have you?

    Maybe in the future if god is proven, we'd be dealing with more than an idea. But as of right now - god is only an idea, and religion is the accumulation of IDEAS rather than events.

    Once again - the very term you use to make light of my opinion - actually is just making light of yours.

  9. I'll probably be back tonight or tomorrow to read through these and post, but:

    Gestotamoseke - Since you reposted anyway I deleted the old comment. It may have been the use of lots of capitalized words maybe (?), I don't know, but the language wasn't bad. No idea why it sometimes filters and other times does not. I mean, it didn't filter out the Screaming Nephite when he said I was a druggie 2-dollar whore along with some disparaging things said about my mother, lol.

  10. Gest. - Though I will make one quick point for now - For me my atheism is a staunch belief in no gods, though I remain agnostic when concerned for the truth and knowledge of the stance. Beyond that my atheism says no more. I currently am building/rebuilding my philosophies on life and they come from all kinds of systems and places. I have an atheist view on all of them, but I don't derive my philosophies from atheism itself.

  11. If you want to describe atheism as a LACK of belief. You're using a dead language to define something in our active language. And that doesn't work.

    We do not define Hinduism by their LACK of belief in Christianity. Nor, do we define Christians as a LACK of belief in there being no god.

    We don't define things in what they aren't. That’s not a definition, you’re using an antonym to describe what it is.

    That's like trying to make the statement that hobbies are not schools, religions, stars, people... and the list goes on.

    That's cute that you'd like to define something by what it's not. But by doing so, you haven't really defined Atheism, you've just told us what it's not. And the only item in your list of what it isn't - is that it lacks in a belief of god. What else isn't atheism?

    In latin they used the word atheism to mean:
    A: without
    Theism: theology or religion

    So while yes the root meaning of the word does define a lack of something - it's a dead language for a reason.

    If someone told me I lack a belief in god – I would think they were god fearing person. And Atheism taken from its root sounds more like what believers used to label non-believers.

    You lack in faith, you lack in morals, you lack in religion, you lack god.

    Which is probably why if you say you're an Atheist - believers instantly think the worst of you. Because the word derives from a group of people trying to define you as something 'lacking'

    I don't lack in a belief in god. And I am not defined by what I'm not. If you'd like to define yourself in such a way, go ahead.

    But I ask you then… If an Atheist is a lack of belief in god and religion. What is the word used to define someone who DOESN'T believe in god? Such as myself?

    You're taking an old language and trying to find use for it in our day... like I said, it doesn't work. That's why it's dead. Things were not defined properly, and therefore languages changed.

    And with that – definitions changed, which is why today, if you look up atheism in the dictionary you'll see these definitions:

    1 : ungodliness, wickedness
    2 : a disbelief in the existence of deity :
    the doctrine that there is no deity

    I'm not lacking anything... I don't believe in god.

  12. Clearly we are having an argument about semantics if we need to turn to the dictionary. I think semantics are boring so lets just define our terms and get on with it; you have done so now let me do the same.

    Religion is different from abstraction, or at least the religion I see on a daily basis.

    It's not about people working through problems from a theoretical or metaphorical sense based on reason, it's about people who think their practical and emotional problems can be solved by adherence to arbitrary rules and their trust in the source for these rules is based off of unreliable evidence.

    People are told, if what I say gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling that is God's way of telling you it is true, and then they never have to think again about it is true or if there might be a more simple explanation for the feeling they get.

    These arbitrary rules become the basis for their life, anything that might shed doubt on the source for these rules is either ignored outright or given an unsatisfactory answer. Anything that might even possibly be construed as support for the source is lapped up and not questioned. This is religion as I see it.

    I would hope that I have gotten the better of my biases, I would hope my rationality is a stronger force than the crazy world view I was raised in. I am first and foremost a person of reason.
    Reason and evidence might cause me to not believe in a religion, to eat a balanced diet, or to know that holocaust deniers are retards.

    If my atheism is really only a small part of what I believe based off of rational inquiry then how is that my religion? I suppose you could call rationality religion, but it certainly would be a strange religion.

    I used the example of how Christians don't believe in any other gods and how atheists just take it one step further to show how easily rationality will lead to atheism. Just apply the same level of scrutiny to your own beliefs as you apply to others.

    If religion was how you see it, reasonable people trying to find answers through rational discussion, I might not have any objection to the institution. But the real fact is that it is the opposite. People think they already know what the answer is, the only problem is that reality and their answer have a number of discrepancies. Rather than change their answer they seek ways to change reality. As their answer doesn't really satisfy their problems they continue anyway either with mounting frustration or mounting confusion. Eventually people will either abandon that which doesn't work or learn to live with what doesn't work. The former is why so see so many people either trade religions or give it up altogether, the latter is the makings of a true believer.

    P.S.(sorry for being long winded, and here I promised myself to never get into an argument on the internet again! Sorry if I sounded confrontational, I actually like discussion so long as it makes any kind of sense.)

  13. That seems odd to me that you define atheism as rationality. I've met many atheists... and some of them are completely irrationial. Maybe not towards GOD or RELIGION - but nonetheless - irrational in social settings, relationships, their way of thinking, etc.

    I would also disagree with your definition of religion. You're describing a personal experience, or what happens to individuals WITHIN religion.

    When I was in religion - I would gather together with people that thought like me. We talked about what we thought, we made fun of people who didn't think like us - we brought up fallacies in their ways of thinking. Then talked about how we can improve ourselves.

    Since being an Atheist - i've gathered together with people that thought like me. We talked about what we thought, made fun of people who didn't think like us, etc.

    That's religion - a support base of like minded people concerning their beliefs about how this world came to be, and morality, etc.

    If you'd like to know why I left, you can read my blog -

    I started going to atheist meet ups to be social with people similar to me.
    Unfortunately i've met nothing but people completely unlike me.
    All atheists do, is the same thing religious people do. label things, then assume they know everything about them. By doing so you cut yourselves off to the rest of the world - all under your own self-proclamation that - you're better. (or more rational)

    And then you have the AUDACITY to complain about your family or friends (or religion in general) when they act the same (that they're better) than you.

    Do you not see the huge... HUGE contradiction here? I mean you're the rational one - so it should be pretty obvious.

    I would never label an entire group 'rational'. I don't think the difference between believers and non-believers is rationality. My friends are very rational. They're just irrational when it comes to god.

    Which is fine. I'm irrational when someone kills me online in a video game. Doesn't mean I'M irrational. It means I have moments - like everyone.

    Do I think they're stupid when they act like that? sure. Do you think i'm stupid when i yell at a t.v. screen - you should.

  14. @j-dog

    I agree - my theories on life don't DERIVE from atheism - but they definitely support my atheist ideas. My main philosophies derive from hinduism, taoism, bob dylan and joseph campbell.

    Otherwise - I would say you sound just like religious people. They might view their philosophies from the standpoint that there is a god - but their philosophies don't derive from the fact that they believe.

    When I believed in mormonism - my theory was god didn't care if i watched rated R movies. They inspired and motivated me most of the time. MORMONISM would say otherwise - but my bishop also tried to suck my dick out of desperation to convince me to stick with mormonism when i got my name removed... So, so much for religions answer to things.

  15. Well let me clarify, I didn't define atheism as being rational, quite the opposite. A person can be atheist for any number of reasons and they need not always be rational.

    I think that I came to the conclusion rationally. I looked at the evidence in systems of belief that I knew and didn't find anything reliable. I looked at their teachings and thought they were pretty inconsistent. So I decided they were probably false. But this is just one thing I came to rationally, so how can this one thing be my religion?

    Now you say that you've met many like minded atheists, as if that proves that atheism is a religion, well I've met many like minded Martin Scorsese fans, though I tend to not think of that as a religion.

    I have met many atheists who believed things very different than what I believe in.
    I've known atheists who still believe in cosmic spiritual forces just not a personal god. I've known atheists who believed in reincarnation. I've known atheists who thought 9/11 was an inside job. In the end the only thing we had in common was that we hadn't been convinced by anyone's theory of deity.

    Nowadays I would say many atheists might also consider themselves humanists. Humanists I would say can be pretty like-minded and hold a common set of beliefs, but I think that is what might be better called a philosophical group of thought. The principle difference is that their beliefs are founded on reason.

    What makes a religion is revelation. It might be Budda, Muhammad, Jesus or Joseph Smith but there is some source for belief out side of the individual. This source passes down rules and assertions that are to be taken as fact. Sure religious people can be rational in their daily lives, or even rational inside the framework created by their religion, but they never apply that rationality to the framework.

    What is really funny is when I'm sitting in a religion class in BYU and I see this inconsistency. A religion professor will use reason to guidance put forward in scripture to everyday life, and we might discuss how to best do it. But what is never discussed in any serious way is why we should believe the source, unless it's the bible and then we can say evil men put in falsehoods. But anything Smith touched in infallible.

    To point out the difference this example is usually given: Imagine if people should care is a person in history was really a work of fiction. for a Christian is matters a lot if Christ never really lived, but for scientist is doesn't matter at all if the person said to have invented the scientific method ever really lived. The difference is that one set of beliefs is taken as fact because of a supposed divine source of knowledge while the other stands up on its own merits.

    The same is true for philosophical thought. Does it matter to a deontologist if Immanuel Kant really lived or not? No because his arguments were based off of logic and reasoning and either stand up or fall according to their own merits. There is no revelation, no reliance on something sacred that can't be questioned.

    I've asked my Bishop how I can trust the so-called spirit to accurately "testify truth" to me when it feels so much like a nice emotional feeling. And he got pissed. I asked him how I could believe in the BoM when it has gone through over 100,000 changes from all the different revisions. He didn't know what I was talking about. I asked him why Blacks weren't allowed the priesthood til 1978 and he only said, "Don't you have a testimony of the prophet?". Religions say don't question the central dogma, just accept it.


  16. Yeah, this isn't really a debate I wish to get into. But I don't think either one of us truly ignorant of what is going around. I try to post philosophical quotes in the secret atheist group FB page that reflect my thinking but also bring up my stance that I feel some people in the group THINK they have good reasons for doubting or not believing in God, but really haven't THOUGHT about it that much. In fact, I'll go post another one right now.

    I fully realize what I'm doing by hanging out with atheists, but I enjoy it, and truthfully I enjoyed it before I was an atheist. I love atheism as a culture actually, and I've said that before. Some people do NOT realize this though, and think it's a numbers game again, like Mormons saying "oh we must be right cause there's [supposedly] 14 million of us and we're baptizing thousands of people." Though i think we are at another atheism peaking moment in history, i do think that the next valley may not be very much of a valley at all.

    Rambling, not directly related in any way.

    About atheism though - using the word 'lacking' may be incorrect. I don't define myself that way when i use the term, what i mean for myself is simply "i don't believe in God." For religion they will derive different meanings for life and philosophies based off their God, but for the atheist the field is, and should be, much more open leaving you more free. You don't have to accept evolution and be an atheist, but you better come up with something instead of just saying "i don't accept evolution", even an "i don't know" is much better.

    I still disagree that atheism is a religion. There is no set doctrines or beliefs, no holy text, no leaders. There are notable figures, many different philosophies, and there can sometimes be community, but this is more akin to a LGBT organization than the Catholic church.