Atheism 101

Atheism is the lack of a belief in god(s) and the supernatural.

That’s it. Seriously. There is nothing more too it.

A few common misconceptions:

There are no “doctrines” of atheism. There are no “leaders” or “popes” of atheism. Sure there are prominent speakers, scientists, and authors, but none of us take marching orders from them. On the whole we’re very independent. (This independence has historically hindered us in the fight for secularism in politics)

Atheists, while primarily liberal, can come from all political backgrounds. A prominent atheist, Christopher Hitchens, is a neo-con and supports Bush style foreign policy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We really do come from every walk of life. Because of this diversity and lack of organization, it is not unusual for us to disagree with one another.

As cool as it would be, we are not running a global conspiracy and we do not have an awesome secret lava base. (see above point):

The “a” in atheism should never be capitalized unless at the beginning of a sentence because we are not a religion.

Atheism does not make any claims. Saying “I know there is no god” would be intellectually dishonest. There is no way you can know. The correct statement is “Based upon the available evidence, I am unconvinced that a god exists.” This is perfectly fine because atheism, just like the justice system and science, operates off of the null-hypothesis. We assume a claim is false until it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be true. “Innocent until proven guilty” is a common example of the null-hypothesis. Theists make the extraordinary claim “My god(s) exist, they have these properties/characteristics, they’ve made everything, and actively intervene in my life.” We simply ask for extraordinary evidence to back up this extraordinary claim. Until that required evidence is presented, we assume the claim is false.  Because atheism operates this way, many of us have a fondness for science which operates very similarly and is the best tool humans have for learning about and manipulating the world around us.

It does not take “faith” to be an atheist. Since atheism does not make claims and focuses on evidence (see above) there is nothing in atheism that requires faith (belief without evidence).

Atheism and agnosticism are different answers to different questions. They are not mutually exclusive. Most atheists, at least the intellectually honest ones, are agnostic atheists.

Atheists do not believe in Satan or worship Satan. There is no evidence he exists, just as there is no evidence god exists.

Atheists do not believe they themselves are god. As hard as it is for people to imagine, we don’t believe in the concept of god. Period. Not other gods, and not ourselves as gods.

Everyone is born an atheist. You only learn about the concept of god later in life, usually through some kind of indoctrination as a child.

We do not “hate god” or secretly know he exists but deny it because we wish to live a sinful lifestyle.

We are perfectly normal, moral, happy people capable of leading rewarding and fulfilling lives.


17 Responses to “Atheism 101”

  1. Erin Forever January 30, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

    Do you believe you have a soul? When you die and your body goes into the ground, where does your soul go? Does it die with the rest of your body parts, or have you not considered that the “life” inside you is more than just parts i.e. brain, heart, lungs, voice-box, music preference, hopes, dreams, goals etc. I have been to a couple funerals; when I see the “shell” of the person I know lying in a casket I think “this person and I have walked together, talked together, laughed together, maybe even loved each other.” Did you know that science is made up of theories, nothing can be considered real proof. It is observed by men with brains not much bigger than yours. No person alive has all the answers; have you ever considered that there might really be a “higher power” greater than your human capabilities. Or did a mere human create the entire universe? I get that you don’t believe in God(s), but how are you really living if you believe in “nothing”?

  2. godlesspaladin January 30, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

    Hi Erin, how’re you? As to your questions:

    No, I do not believe in a soul, thus there is no where for it to “go” after you die. The “life” within me, along with everything that makes up my personality is just the sum of chemical reactions in my brain. When I die and my brain decays, my personality will be gone forever as well.

    I’m afraid you are misinformed as to what science is and how it operates. I have a science 101 tab if you’re honestly interested. (You’re also misusing the term “theory”. It’s not what you think it is, ie “a guess.” Gravity is also “just a theory”)

    You’re correct, no person alive has all the answers, and scientists don’t claim to either. Everything science uncovers is open to change should new information come along. There is no certainty, and I’m fine with that.

    Have I ever considered there might be a “higher power” (whatever you might mean by that)? Why yes, I was raised religious. I was actually an evangelical Christian for a period of my life. I later left this because there was no evidence to support my beliefs.

    It does not logically follow that if you don’t believe in a “higher power” then humans made the universe. Humans are a product of the universe. The atoms in your body were forged in the death of stars, it’s really quite amazing.

    I also don’t believe in “nothing”, I just don’t believe in god. They’re not the same thing. Hope you’re doing well, feel free to ask me any other questions you might have. ^_^ Cheers
    –GP

  3. matt oakley February 7, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    I am a non-theist

  4. K. Syrah February 19, 2011 at 11:22 am #

    Godlesspaladin – you are my hero.

  5. robinfla July 4, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    Thank you for this site, you make me feel like Im not alone. You treat people with respect..that says alot about you. I only wish there were more of us out there!

  6. Neel July 22, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    i don’t like the term atheist. it gives off the impression that we (people who don’t believe in god) belong to some sort of organization.

    It makes it seem like there is a “church of athiesm”

    when people ask me what my religion is. I don’t say “i’m an athiest”

    I say i don’t have a religion.

    and if they say, “so that means you’re an athiest?”

    i say, “no, it just means that i have no idea what happens after I die, and i don’t pretend to know”.

    Usually by that point when i’m talking to reasonable people the conversation stops right there. THe religious bigots that try to press the conversation are simply ignored after that point

  7. Melia Donk November 24, 2011 at 4:33 am #

    Thanks for this, you have expressed the issue well. Like Neel posted, I am often uncomfortable using the term atheist to describe myself because of the negative connotations that go with it. A clear and concise explanation like yours goes a long way to getting the information across. I only wish more people would read and understand it.

  8. David Hamm November 29, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    The negative connotations that the word atheist carries with it, does not bother me, just as the word christian doesn’t bother most. I was reared in the church, but when I reached the age of reason, I progressed through agnosticism to atheism. In the small southern town of my life, I had to conceal my conviction, until a vicious divorce “brought me out” by my ex-wife. What a wonderful relief!!! I’m now quite vocal and willing to share my views with anyone mature enough to converse with me. I completely understand closet atheists struggling to come out, but it cannot be forced, it must be your choice. For me, the feeling was incredible ! Best wishes to fellow atheists…

  9. j July 13, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    It’s really what Neel and Godless said, atheism is not really an organization or religion. I had friends before that happened to be atheists like myself, but it wasn’t the main or fundamental reason why we were friends to begin with (at least I don’t think that’s how they saw it), and as we’ve grown apart over the years, atheistic belief has not held us together, as we differ on other subjects and have chosen other ways of life. I feel in a lot of ways that religion presents itself as being like a family and that’s why you find many people of religious persuasion flocking together and sticking together of religions whereas atheists are independent of a religious or family oriented model and are very much indeed a social archetype of modern society.

  10. Lauren August 23, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    Hi there. I just happened to stumble onto your site while looking for in-text citations (very random, right? haha), and I noticed the title of your page. I went to this tab to see what you are all about, and I read what you had to say on atheism (such as not capitalizing the ‘a’, because it’s not any kind of religious organization or group). I see your point about not believing in something because there is no exponential proof, because even as a Christian, I have had that thought before. Then I realize that it’s by faith that we can believe in the one true God. Faith is not something we can attain ourselves, but it’s God-given. It’s like trust, you just have to trust Him. You may not know why this and that happens, but that’s why you just have to have faith that God knows what He is doing, and that everything will work out justly. Also, I’d like to say that how respectful you are in your post and comments is nice to see. I’ll be praying for you and all those who are in the same mindset as yourself. Hope you have a nice day (:

  11. Pete October 17, 2013 at 5:57 am #

    Lauren, you mean well, but you’re thinking is illogical.
    I too was a believer and had ‘faith’ with no evidence to support my beliefs.
    Why has my ‘God given faith’ been taken away again?

    You also do not realise that as things now stand you are just wasting your time by praying (funny), rather take action and DO something meaningful if you want to help your fellow man!

    • Reuben July 3, 2014 at 3:32 am #

      As an atheist, how do you choose your moral standing? Do you help others? If so, why?

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  13. Frank Ramirez January 15, 2015 at 7:39 pm #

    Funny how atheists speak more of god, and soul than even religious people between them… Need to joke on that or something?

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