Is Atheism A Belief Or A Lack Of Belief?

Is Atheism A Belief Or A Lack Of Belief?

Understanding Atheism

What’s up Heathens! Today we are discussing if Atheism is a belief or just a lack of belief. This subject has become heavily debated in our online community and I wanted to bring the discussion to you guys. So does Atheism have belief associated with it?

Atheism if we define atheism in terms of theism we must first consider the definition of theism. Theism is the belief in a god or gods. The prefix “a-” when applied to a word usually adds a negative connotation to it such as without, not, or lack of. So to define atheism in terms of theism we have it defined as “[without | lack of | not a] belief in a god or gods.” I feel this is the most useful definition that we can use in any common conversation.

There are some people out there that want to define atheism as “I believe no gods exist.” This insinuates that they have some kind knowledge about the existence of a god. I don’t think we need to muddy the waters when having these discussions so keeping any knowledge claim out of belief claims provides the clearest communication. We do have terms for these types of knowledge/belief claims. Gnostic Atheist is what is being described where they don’t believe in a god and knows one doesn’t exist. They would shoulder the same burden of proof as general theists (or Gnostic Theists) would. Agnostic Atheist would be someone that doesn’t believe in a god but also doesn’t claim to know the existence of said god.

I feel like these terms provide the clearest communication possible. There is a Dawkins scale out there that ranks people on a range of 1-7 where “pure agnosticism” and “weak/strong atheist” reside. You can say “weak atheist” if you want to but that doesn’t mean that the use of agnostic/gnostic is wrong.

2 Replies to “Is Atheism A Belief Or A Lack Of Belief?”

  1. The word does not describe the state of belief. It describes the object of belief. Thus atheism is not “no belief in a god or gods”. Rather it is “belief in no god or gods”.

    1. No. An atheist is a person who lacks belief or disbelieves in the existence of God or gods. This is the most useful definition because it includes both usages. People who use the SEP as a prescriptive source instead of understanding that words have usages not definitions, are not understanding how words work.

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