I’ve felt that I needed to compile a compendium that addresses the questions and fallacies that are frequently discussed regarding atheism and atheists. It’s quite a long read, and perhaps too long for your average theist who prefers projecting, and redefining what atheism actually is, rather than dealing with facts. I often encounter someone who provides Stanford as the universally accepted thesis on what atheism is, yet many people reach atheism many different ways and the reasoning behind it can be very different. Someone may have lost their faith and began to question their religion, they’ve found religion isn’t answering the big questions and they start to doubt god’s existence until they either don’t know anymore, are just aren’t convinced any of their prayers were ever answered. People like me see no logical evidence and it’s irrational to conclude that any gods exist considering there’s no interaction from any of them, and science is answering more questions than religion ever could.
‘Atheism’ has been around for as long as man has worshipped deities. The term ‘Atheism’ originated in Ancient Greece over 500 years before Christ was allegedly born, and it derived from the word ‘Atheos’ which means ‘Without Gods’ (ᾰ̓́θεος – Godless). As opposed to ‘Atheism’, ‘Theism’ is derived from the word ‘Theos’ (θεός – The belief in god/s who is the creator and the ruler of the universe’)
As we can see, there’s a clear distinction between the two words. One literally says a person is ‘Godless, without God’, and the other is claiming a ‘Belief in God’/s.
Now we move onto modern definitions, and there are several:
• The first definition of ‘Atheism’ is ‘A lack of belief, or disbelief in the existence of God/s, or deities’. This is an example of Negative/Weak/Soft Atheism, where there’s disbelief but the person does not assert that there’s no God/s.
• The second definition of ‘Atheism’ is ‘Not believing in the existence of God/s, or deities’. This is an example of Positive/Strong/Hard Atheism, where they do not believe in God/s, but additionally does assert that there are no God/s.
• The third definition of ‘Atheism’ is simply the rejection of ‘Theism’.
• The fourth definition of ‘Atheism’ is ‘Apatheism’ which is a person living their life as though there are no God/s, and using nature as an explanation for everything, but without questioning the nature of God/s. This is a term that some scientists claim to live by.
• The fifth definition for ‘Atheism’ is ‘Epistemological Atheism’ which is essentially ‘Agnosticism’ in which the argument is that nothing can be known about the existence of God/s.
• The sixth definition of ‘Atheism’ is ‘Religious Atheism’ which involves an atheist religion without a God, like ‘Buddhism’, ‘Taoism’, or the ‘Church of Satan’
• The seventh definition of ‘Atheism’ is ‘Axiological Atheism’ which is a rejection of God in which humanity as an absolute, and is a source of moral standards. ‘Humanism’ is an example of this.
So, to conclude, there are seven versions of modern day atheism that are accepted, and these will often overlap, but the easiest way to explain ‘Atheism’ without someone claiming it’s a belief, a faith, or religion is to just say that you are ‘godless’.
Is atheism a worldview?
We’ve all encountered someone on social media that suggests atheism is a belief system, a religion or even a world view, but is it? For something to be a worldview it must essentially be:
‘A particular philosophy of life or conception of the world’
So is atheism a philosophy?
No, is the correct answer. It’s simply a rejection of the belief that God exists. Ever been told that atheists believe that something came from nothing, and if we came from Monkeys, then why are there still Monkeys? This is because ignorance has replaced rationality. Somehow many theists think that if you don’t believe in God, then you must believe in the Big Bang and Evolution by default – and that atheists are responsible for 100 million deaths in the twentieth century.
It’s not because I’m an atheist that I accept Evolution. I accept it because the evidence is abundant. It’s also not because I’m an atheist that I think the Big Bang theories are more likely, it’s because it’s illogical and ludicrous to imagine that a supreme being created everything. Because atheists refuse to accept the supernatural, then the only logical way to come to a conclusion is by studying, researching and examining evidence ie: Facts over faith.
“Science can teach us, and I think our hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supporters, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make the world a fit place to live” – Bertrand Russell
For something to be a world view it has to dominate your thinking and affect your life decisions. Religion is a world view as it has dogmas, doctrines and an expectancy of how you should behave and how to lead your life. Atheism has none of this.!I live my life by abiding the laws of my country. It makes no difference to me what faith someone is. I work with several Muslims, and I would happily vote for a religious candidate so long as their policies respected the people. Atheists tend to want to protect the planet as we know we only have one life, and if possible, we want to leave the earth better for the next generation. Theists don’t tend to think this way. Their lifetime is just a stepping stone to the afterlife, so who cares if the planet gets ruined. They believe their future relatives will get to meet them in Heaven regardless of how the world is in the future. Atheists accept that we have one life and live in the moment. Is that a world view, or just accepting the reality we live in?
Does atheism lead to nihilism?
True nihilism is in essence a compulsion to destroy, as nothing has any value, and everything is approached with rabid scepticism and extreme pessimism. Nihilism is mostly associated with ‘Friedrich Nietzsche’ who claimed that the corrosive effects, lack of moral boundaries and the fact that life is meaningless will eventually lead to the downfall of humanity.
“Nihilism has no substance. There is no such thing as nothingness, and zero does not exist. Everything is something. Nothing is nothing.” – Victor Hugo
Nihilism is derived from the Latin word ‘Nihil’ which literally means ‘nothing’, and is also the foundation of the word ‘annihilate’ which means to destroy and bring something to nothingness, so it’s hardly a human quality. Most people who identify as nihilist don’t believe in God, Heaven or Hell, and because of this also claim there’s no meaning in what’s right, or wrong, so anything goes, as there’s are no such thing as values.
“I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Atheists do share some nihilistic qualities in the fact that they think theists are attempting to push their subjective propaganda for the purpose of gaining power. I personally think that’s where it ends. Scepticism is a healthy stance, especially where the subject of God is concerned, or in the study of science, as evidence, and the ability to reach an unbiased conclusion, is the only way to seek the truth.
“Scientists are skeptics. It’s unfortunate that the word ‘skeptic’ has taken on other connotations in the culture involving nihilism and cynicism. Really, in its pure and original meaning, it’s just thoughtful inquiry.” – Michael Shermer
Political nihilism is a form of anarchy, which opposes political power, and is about bringing down tyranny and fighting for personal freedom, but at the same time it’s a revolt against public order, any form of religious, or state control. Philosophers claim that political nihilists agree that ignorance is the root to all evils.
“If we believe in nothing, if nothing has any meaning and if we can affirm no values whatsoever, then everything is possible and nothing has any importance.” – Albert Camus
The opposite of ‘nihilism’ is ‘existentialism’, which emphasises a person’s existence as free and in complete control of their own free will, and it’s an intellectual philosophy about the meaning of the human condition and being, and in this regard, it’s a form of humanism. It’s focus is on the meaning of life, personal responsibility, accountability, and not imposing religious doctrines on anyone else, and believe that people can give their own lives meaning, and it’s no less than what religious meaning can offer.
“Existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes individual existence, freedom and choice. It is the view that humans define their own meaning in life, and try to make rational decisions despite existing in an irrational universe. It holds that, as there is no God or any other transcendent force, the only way to counter this nothingness (and hence to find meaning in life) is by embracing existence.” – Philosophy basics
Does atheism lead to narcissism?
Whenever I read this unsubstantiated generalisation, I struggle to comprehend how they come to this nonsensical and illogical conclusion.
“Narcissism – selfishness, involving a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy,” – Oxford Dictionary
The above quote describes narcissism from a psychological viewpoint, and it’s actually recognised as a mental personality disorder, and is known as narcissistic personality disorder. People who are diagnosed with this condition generally have an inflated ego, and a belief that their importance is to be recognised and be admired, and if this isn’t achieved it can result in depression, and affect every area of their lives. Unable to hold down a job; unable to keep a relationship healthy; unable to keep their financial affairs in order, and this will often lead to the need of psychotherapy. Below is a general set of symptoms that someone with narcissistic personality disorder may suffer from:
• Have a sense of self-importance
• Require constant, and excessive admiration, and praise
• Expect to be seen as superior, regarding intelligence and social standing
• Excessive lying and unfounded claims of success
• Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally superior people, and look down upon others that don’t teach their high standards
• Take advantage of others to get what they want, and be ruthless to any extent to achieve their goals
• Have an unwillingness to understand, or appreciate the needs and feelings of others ie: lack of empathy, compassion and humility
• Be envious of others, and believe others envy them
• Have a tendency to be arrogant, conceited, boastful and pretentious
• Insist on having the best of everything ie: Car, career, home, clothes and accessories. It can lead to an extensive need for a materialistic lifestyle.
Narcissism is derived from the Greek word ‘Νάρκισσος’, who is a myth and legend about a young Greek man called Narcissus, who was a Laconian hunter which is where Spartans originated. He was a very handsome man, and many instantly fell in love with him. One day he was roaming the local woods and the nymph, Echo spotted him and instantly fell in love with him. Narcissus pushed her away, and said that he didn’t want to be disturbed. This made Echo instantly distraught and spent the rest of her life wandering the woods in despair.
Nemesis, the goddess of retribution was witness to this and it infuriated her, and she decided that Narcissus had to be punished. She led him to a pool and as soon as he saw his reflection he instantly fell in love. He was so besotted with his reflection he didn’t at first realise that it was his face, and when his lover didn’t materialise he was so desperate that he committed suicide.
Many people with narcissistic tendencies acquire the disorder through genetics, neurobiology complications, or over-attention, or under-attention during their upbringing. So how does any of this associate with atheism? As we well know, atheism is the rejection of belief in Gods due to insufficient evidence, or just not believing in Gods as they think it’s absolute nonsense. Not all, but many atheists adhere to humanistic principles and agree that secularism is the only fair way forward for humanity as a whole. To ignore the concept of a God usually means putting humanity first. I’d go so far as to say that theists are selfish, as they put their imaginary God, and their imaginary god’s rules first, and despite many of them being homophobic, and against leftist principles, which has them insulting people for their sexuality and claiming the moral high ground, they don’t care about hurting anyone’s feelings, just so long as their God is happy, as they don’t wish to upset him and they feel the need to constantly stroke his extremely fragile ego.
The Ten Commandments (עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְּרוֹת) , or the Decalogue, is a list of requirements, ethics and codes of worship, which are paramount in Abrahamic religions, and is found in Exodus 20.
“I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.”
“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”
Correct me if I’m wrong, but are those commandments all about God’s need to be worshipped. It’s all ‘me, me, me’. If anything god is narcissistic, and unstable, and has the need to be loved above anything and everything else.
If atheism is true then …
“If atheism is true, then you’re just bags of meat and you’ve no more purpose than a slug’’
How does a theist brain work when they say nonsense like this? If something is ‘alive’, and it’s ‘sentient’, and has feelings like ‘compassion’, ‘remorse’ and ’empathy’, how does it matter how it came to be? How is something that’s created have more ‘intrinsic value’ than something that’s happened, or come about naturally? Theists have just one purpose, and that’s to serve God by worshipping him and obeying his every wish and command. How is that giving your life meaning? Or how is being created by God giving yourself life meaning as opposed to everything beginning through a natural phenomena? Theists act all ‘holier than thou’, but they are told that all of the animals on God’s earth are for their consumption, although some animals depending on faith are forbidden. This takes away any value an animal’s life has to a theist, as it’s considered just food. Theists generally don’t tend to care about the environment, believe in the climate change debate or the general conservation of our planet, as not only do they believe everything happens as it’s God’s will, but this life isn’t as important as the afterlife, so who cares what state the planet is left in? It was ‘fucked’ when they got here.
I’m asked to define what being human is, and how can I give my existence any meaning or purpose without God in it. This is a very strange question, and one that shouldn’t have to be answered. The purpose of life is what you make it. Some people are meant to rule, some are meant to obey. Some are meant to lead, and others are meant to follow. Some are meant to study medicine, others are meant to explore. Some are meant to study law, others are meant to study the universe. In any species of sentient animal, a ‘hierarchy’ forms and a leadership contest happens, which is exactly what happens with humans. We form a society, we breed, certain people take certain positions and we prosper. Sometimes this doesn’t work and we have wars, or revolutions. This happens whether you have God in your life or not. It makes no difference at all how we got here, we are here and we have to make the most of the short time on this planet.
There are no atheists in foxholes
This statement has to be one of the most arrogant, presumptuous and irritating that I’ve heard, and I’m so sick of reading it on social media. It’s apparently a ‘aphorism’ which is considered an observational general truth, or principle. What it means is that in times of duress, where your life could be close to its end, especially in a foxhole during a war, there are no atheists as everyone will be praying to a higher power to save them, or protect them.
This implies that no one can face death with honour and dignity. It suggests that even the most anti-theist will disregard their life-long principles and suddenly ‘believe’ in the hope of being saved. I don’t know about any of you, but I’d rather stare death in the face with my head held up high, that go out like a weak- willed coward.
It’s a typical arrogant quote that’s come from Christianity, as they generally can’t accept that atheists exist. They think that everyone believes in God, and if they say they don’t they hate God, or they are living in denial.
Is it a direct attack at atheism?
Some may say it is, but if anything it just proves how disposable faith and religion is. I’m a life-long atheist, and I’m quite sure if facing potential death, the first thing on my mind would be to prevent it, and if it was unpreventable, I’d hope it happened quickly. The last thing on my mind would be asking a God that I’m quite sure doesn’t exist to help me. At the end of the day, if my death is imminent, would I want to spend my last few moments praying to a man-made God, and grovelling for forgiveness for not believing in him? Or would I stand up like a man, and face what’s coming? If I end up facing an eternity at Satan’s mercy, then that was always something that I was prepared to face.
“Maybe there are only atheists in foxholes. If the faithful truly and fully believe in a protective deity, why would they dive into a foxhole to protect themselves from the bullets whizzing by ? A part of their brain knows damn well that if they do not protect themselves, the bullets will hardly discriminate between those who claim faith and those who reject it.” – J. Anderson Thomson
This saying needs to stop. It’s making a mockery of the military, as they accept that there are atheists enlisted, and it’s mocking atheism as it’s suggesting that every one of them is a hypocrite, and it’s mocking faith, as it’s suggesting it’s a convenient ‘get out of jail free’ card when times get tough.
To be continued…