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What is Atheism?

Just about everyone knows what an Atheist is, right? Well, judging by what I've read
on the internet, read in chat rooms, & received in Emails; many people still have no
clue what Atheism really is! Since not all Atheists have the same view of Atheism as I
do, I may not cover your individual outlook on it, but I will attempt to define the
basics of Atheism.

Defining Atheism

To define Atheism, you must first look at its root word, theism. Theism is simply the
belief of a god(s). Theism by itself is not a religion; it is just simply a belief, nothing
more. Theists can be either polytheists or monotheists, depending on how many gods
they choose to believe in. After this we go into specific religions, like islam, judaism,
& christianity.

Atheism is simply the opposite of theism. The prefix A means "without" or "not", so
Atheism is simply a lack of belief in god(s). It is not a religion, just like theism is not
a religion, but there are specific philosophies of Atheism that can be defined as
religion, thought since they all lack a belief in a god or the supernatural, they are not
true religions, for example Humanism.

Atheism also has branches off the basic disbelief. There are "strong Atheists" and
"weak Atheists." Strong Atheism usually is a total denial of the existence of god(s); it
usually is aimed at one or two specific gods for various reasons. Most Atheists, who
think this way, see a belief in a particular religion's god to be totally irrational and see
no possibility for the existence of their god.

Weak Atheism, is what most Atheists would be; simply without belief in any god(s).
Weak Atheists do not believe in god(s) for the simple reason that it is irrational and no
evidence for the god has been brought to their attention. Most weak Atheists are quite
ready to believe in a god as soon as there is some sort of evidence in its favour. Weak
atheists will not choose a particular god to deny, they look at all gods equally.

Theists & Atheism

Theists generally focus on their individual gods and fail to realise that other gods are
believed in besides theirs! They then use this lack of understanding to make all sorts
of wild and irrational claims about Atheism. They would like to think that since
Atheism does not follow their one "true" god(s), then Atheists must be against their
god. We are often lumped together with other theists when this happens, since every
other belief system in the world would deny the trueness of that one god, just like
Atheists do. They all fail to realise that Atheism is not focuses on individual gods, in
some cases they are, but not in the general definition. Atheism deals with the disbelief
of all gods, not just those of christianity, islam, wicca, judaism, etc...

Theists simply assume that everyone has the same image of god as they do. But the
christian's gods are not even remotely similar to the gods of Wicca. So first we must
define what a god is, and then can debate weather or not it exist. As long as the theist
holds the belief that there is only one god, then the conversation is pointless, because
of flawed logic on the part of the theist. This can lead to many headaches as the
Atheist attempts to explain how everyone else in the world views god, so the theist
can actually understand the position of the Atheist.

Theists tend to make some very irrational assumptions about Atheism, most are based
on either incorrect information or flat out lies based on hatred.

1. People stop believing in god, so they can sin and do whatever they want.

This misconception stems from the idea that atheists not only cannot be moral without
god, but in fact do not want to be moral. Theistic, particularly Christian, attitudes
towards atheists can often be summarized by the oft-quoted verse Psalm 14:1

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they do abominable
deeds, there is none that does good.

Despite numerous attempts, no theist has ever conclusively demonstrated that belief in
their god is required for morality - and in fact there are many good reasons to think
that such a claim is simply false. Perhaps there are atheists who rejected belief in gods
in order to avoid morality - but I've never encountered any, and the many atheists I
have known have had quite different reasons for their atheism.

2. Atheists hate God.

This is just a misunderstanding of what Atheism is! Atheists cannot hate something
that they do not and cannot believe exists. It's one of those arguments that are
designed to make people hate Atheists, nothing more.

3. Atheists worship Satan.

Again, we find a theist thinking that for some reason that only their god is relevant to
the atheist - and if the atheist does not believe in their god, then they must worship the
antithesis of their god, Satan. But the fact of the matter is, atheists who don't believe
in a god also aren't going to believe in the god's supernatural competitor, either.

4. Atheist relies as much on faith as theists do.

This is theists trying to place their irrational beliefs on Atheists, which is impossible,
by definition! Faith is the assumption that something is their without any proof; it is
pretty much wishful thinking. Theists try to say everyone has faith in something, but
this degrades faith. To say Atheists have faith in science could just as easily be applied
to theist’s faith in science. That would then make the theist definition of faith lose al
its supernatural meaning, therefore destroying their so-called proof of god through
faith.

5. Everyone worships something, so atheists must have some god.

This complaint runs along lines very similar to the previous, and sometimes this idea
is also expressed by claiming that "Atheism is a religion." Since they cannot imagine
living their life without worshipping their god, they also cannot imagine atheists
living without worshipping something, like money or humanity.

We must redefine worship to make this make any sense. Worship would have to
include anything that ultimate concern or most important. This is a grasp at straws,
just because you can identify one "most important" aspect of your life, does not
constitute worshiping it. By defining worship like this does an injustice to the
religious meaning of worship.

6. Atheism is due to bad childhood experiences with false religions.

It is certainly true that many atheists have had poor experiences with religion, often in
childhood. It is also true that such experiences have caused people to reconsider how
they feel about religion and, in some cases, to finally reject religion and even belief in
gods. However, this is by far not the only reason why people are atheists. Some, for
example, never believed in any gods and never belonged to any religion.

7. All atheists believe in "X." Many theists still try to pigeonhole atheists into a
single philosophical straight-jacket - be it humanism, communism, nihilism,
objectivism, or something else. By claiming to have identified this other belief system
necessary to Atheism, they can then proceed to attack that belief system and pretend
to have refuted atheism without ever actually addressing atheism itself. It is certainly
true that atheism can be a part of the aforementioned worldviews, among many
others, but it is not true that atheism necessitates any of them.

Not only does atheism fail to imply an agreement with any one belief system, it also
fails to imply agreement with any other atheists. My neighbour might also be an
atheist, but we might disagree on nearly every single philosophical and social issue
imaginable. Just because we agree on not believing in magic elves, unicorns or gods
does not announce to the world that we agree on anything else.

Psycholex