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Atheism symbol used by some atheists.
For more information, see the Wikipedia article:

An atheist, in the general sense, is a person who does not believe in the existence of any gods. Atheism is the corresponding philosophical position. Atheism may or may not be a position of faith, depending on the type of atheism, as atheism may or may not refer to a stance on the theistic question, depending on the individual in question and how the term "atheism" is meant. Arguments over whether or not atheism constitutes a belief are often based on one side assuming that the term always does or always doesn’t constitute a positivist statement, and therefore, a belief.

Types of atheism[edit]

Strong atheism[edit]

Main Article: Strong atheism

A "strong" atheist is one who asserts that "there is no god." Strong atheism is the form of atheism that most theists reference in debates, since most don't know the distinction between strong and weak atheism. However, strong atheists are rarer than most people think.

"Atheism is a proposition or a truth claim about the world; and that proposition is: God does not exist. [1]"
"One would need to be omniscient in order to prove there is no God, but if one were omniscient one would, by definition, already be God! [2]"

For the above reason, strong atheism is sometimes criticized for "requiring faith." This criticism often rests on the assumption that faith is a fault, which, if spoken by an arguer whose stance rests on faith, is self-defeating in a direct sense. Other times this idea is argued by theists to 'bring them down to our level'. Most often it is argued as a 'your stance is no better than mine' argument. Often, this is successful in derailing the conversation, as many atheists are uncomfortable with admitting that any element of their thoughts contain faith. Users of this wiki are advised to consider that, in the literal epistemic sense, all knowledge eventually requires some basic assumptions, and that assumption is functionally identical to faith. The difference relies not in avoiding faith/assumption, but in grounding one's knowledge in firmer and more well-reasoned thought.

Strong atheism is also called 'positivist' atheism. In this usage the term 'positivist' comes from the root 'to posit' meaning 'to take a position'. Thus a positivist atheist is one who has taken the position that there are no gods.

Weak atheism[edit]

Main Article: Weak atheism

A "weak" atheist is one who doesn't claim to know that there is no god, but instead simply lacks belief in a god. This form of atheism is the most common, and is sometimes called "agnostic atheism" (see our discussion of atheist vs. agnostic). Every newborn baby is (unknowingly) a weak atheist, and remains so until the concept of god is introduced to him or her.

Weak atheists often argue that theirs is the only rational position, as both theism and strong atheism make positivist claims. Weak atheism is also called non-positivist atheism.

Other views of atheism[edit]

Not everyone (not even all atheists) agree with the definitions above (which are based on academic sources). For instance, the authors of Evil Bible seem to define atheism as denial of the existence of any gods, or the (positive) belief that there are no gods. Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, does reserve the terms theism, agnosticism and atheism on a Spectrum of Theistic Probability from 1 (I know that a God does exist) to 7 (I know that a God does not exist). In other words, "atheist", for Dawkins, is synonymous with "strong atheist", as above.


Zuckerman provided a review of scientific studies examining the demographics of atheism. [3] There are between 500 million and 750 million non-believers around the world. Men are generally more irreligious than women and more likely to leave a religion for atheism. [4] Atheism is more common in industrialised democracies. In the westernised countries, atheism is correlated with youth, lack of poverty, verbal ability and education, which is ironic considering the Bible equates atheists with fools (Psalm 14:1 Bible-icon.png). Homosexuals are more likely to be atheists.

Typically, the number of atheists in the USA is calculated to be around 2% of the population. However, this type of data is problematic as it requires people to identify as an atheist. Atheism is the absence of belief in god(s) - if one does not believe in god(s) then they are by definition, an atheist. In this regard, the number of atheists is substantially higher than 1-2%. The American General Social Survey is a nationally-representative survey that is done every few years. A question that is sporadically asked is, "Describe your beliefs about God" (the variable is called GODCHNG). Possible responses to this question are, "I don't believe now, and I never have", "I don't believe now, but I used to", "I believe now, but I didn't used to", and "I believe now, and I always have". In 2008, which was the most recent year this question was asked, the number of persons indicating that they "did not believe in God" was 130/1301 persons (~10%) of the population.

Beliefs and behaviours[edit]

Apart from not believing in the existence of any gods, there is no official atheist doctrine. There is no atheist pope or church, and there are no atheist rules to live by. This does not mean that atheists do not also follow societal and legal rules, lack ethical principles, nor that they are never religious.

While there are no unifying beliefs of atheists other than non-belief, there are some general patterns of belief and behaviour that distinguishes atheists from non-atheists. However, assuming an individual atheist conforms to these patterns is not justified. From Zuckerman's scientific literature review, [3] atheists are markedly "less nationalistic, less prejudiced, less anti-Semitic, less racist, less dogmatic, less ethnocentric, less close-minded, and less authoritarian" and more politically independent than religious believers. Atheists are less likely to support right wing political parties and are generally more liberal/progressive. Atheists are more supportive of gender equality and accepting of homosexuality. Zuckerman suggests this implies that atheists may have a superior sense of social justice than the religious. Atheists and more secular nations generally are less likely to support the use of corporal punishment on children and place more emphasis on independent thinking in children.

Atheist are less likely to commit violent crime than non-atheists. Atheists are also significantly under-represented in the prison population. However, atheists are more likely to consume alcohol while underage and partake in illegal drug use.

Atheists in the US have similar sexual behaviours when compared to non-atheists, except for: a higher proportion having more than 20 sexual partners over a lifetime, have sex for a longer period of time, more likely to engage in anal sex and women are more likely to receive oral sex. [5] Atheism is also associated with pre-marital sex, more likely to have an extra-marital affair, to approve of oral sex and masturbation and to feel less guilt over their sexual activity.

Compatibility with religion and other beliefs[edit]

Atheism features in several religions and spiritual belief systems, including Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Neopagan movements such as Wicca, Unitarian Universalism and other nontheistic or non-dogmatic religions. Not to be misunderstood, atheism is not a foundational belief in all of these religions, but exists as an option or requirement within at least some part of each of these religions. There are minority atheist movements in religions that are typically considered monotheistic, such as Christian atheism.

There is nothing specific about atheism, by itself, that tells you how you should live. However, there are comprehensive philosophical positions that include atheism as a part of the overall philosophy (Humanism being the most well-known example).

Atheism is closely related to agnosticism, which indicates a person considers the question of the existence of God as undetermined, or the question cannot be determined at all. Ignosticism is the position that the concept of God has not yet been defined coherently, so the existence of God cannot be discussed meaningfully.

Views of academic atheist philosophers[edit]

A survey of academics in philosophy departments found that atheist in the group generally accept the philosophical positions of: mind physicalism (68%), free will compatiblism (67.4%), naturalism (63.2%), using switch in the trolley problem (77.3%), moral realism (59.2%), scientific realism (80.9%), the existence of a-priori knowledge (69.8%), non-skeptical realism (86.6%), rejecting virtue ethics (67.1%), moral cognitivism (71.1%), analytic-synthetic distinction (65.3%), truth is deflationary (66.7%), rejecting sense-datum theory (81.2%) and the existence of free will (77.2%) [6]

The biggest contrasts between atheists and theists are in the areas of mind physicalism (68% atheists, 25.1% theists), free will libertarianism (7.7%/44.4%), naturalism (63.2%/25%), free will compatibilism (67.4%/35.9%), B-theory of time (50.1%/29.2%) and moral consequentialism (32.1%/11.9%).[6]

Perception of atheists by theists[edit]

Skeptics Annotated Quran.jpg
For more information, see the Skeptic's Annotated Quran article:
Main Article: Discrimination against atheists

Atheists and apostates have been persecuted throughout history and around the world. Many theists believe that atheists are immoral or morality depends on religion. Saudi Arabia enacted laws that equate atheism with terrorism. The government of Egypt launched a campaign in June 2014 to warn of the "dangers of atheism". The president of Malaysia accused "humanism and secularism as well as liberalism" of being "deviant". [7]

In the US, atheists have almost the worst public image of any other belief grouping (atheism is approximately equal to Muslims). [8] Atheists are sometimes portrayed as unhappy, short lived and mentally unstable. [9] Most US Christians would be upset or unhappy if a close family member married an atheist. [10] In a 2014 survey of traits used by voters to select the US president, the trait that made most people less likely to vote for a candidate was atheism. [11]

Atheists who have abandoned their previous religious views may also be persecuted as apostates.


For more information, see the Wikipedia article:

Atheism goes back at least as far as ancient Greece. It is a strong tradition within Buddhism.

"these early atheists were making what seem to be universal objections about the paradoxical nature of religion – the fact that it asks you to accept things that aren’t intuitively there in your world. The fact that this was happening thousands of years ago suggests that forms of disbelief can exist in all cultures, and probably always have. [12]"


No argument for lack of belief[edit]

"If the term “atheism” simply describes a lack of belief, then there can be no argument to support what is lacking. [1]"

This does not follow. I can argue that a lack of belief is justified. This is typically done by arguing for skepticism. However, this does not mean that a lack of belief has any burden of proof.

See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 [1]
  2. [2]
  3. 3.0 3.1 Phil Zuckerman, Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being: How the Findings of Social Science Counter Negative Stereotypes and Assumptions, Sociology Compass 3/6 (2009): 949–971, 10.1111/j.1751-9020.2009.00247.x
  4. [3]
  5. Michael, Robert, John Gagnon, Edward Lauman and Ginba Kolata, Sex in America: A Definitive Survey, New York: Warner Books, 1995
  6. 6.0 6.1 [4]
  7. [5]
  8. [6]
  9. [7]
  10. [8]
  11. [9]
  12. Atheism has ancient roots and is not ‘modern invention’, claims new text

External Links[edit]

v · d Atheism
Terminology   Etymology of the word atheist · Weak atheism · Strong atheism · Agnosticism · Atheist vs. agnostic · Tenets and dogma
Contemporary literature   The End of Faith · The God Delusion · God: The Failed Hypothesis · Letter to a Christian Nation · God Is Not Great · Irreligion · 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God
Classic literature   Why I Am Not a Christian
Atheist and secular groups   Atheist groups · Secular charities · How American Non-Atheists view Atheists
Contemporary authors   Richard Dawkins · Daniel Dennett · A. C. Grayling · Sam Harris · Guy P. Harrison · John Allen Paulos · James Randi · Victor Stenger
Internet non-believers   Reginald Vaughn Finley · PZ Myers
Writers and philosophers   David Hume · Robert Ingersoll · Friedrich Nietzsche · Bertrand Russell · Carl Sagan · Voltaire · Jean-Paul Sartre · John Stuart Mill · Karl Marx · Heraclitus