Outline of atheism

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The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to atheism:

Atheism – rejection of belief in the existence of deities.[1] In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[2][3] Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist.[3][4] Atheism is contrasted with theism,[5][6] which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.[6][7]

What type of thing is atheism?[edit]

Atheism can be described as all of the following:

Types of atheism[edit]

  • Positive atheism – the form of atheism that asserts there is no deity.[8] Also called "strong atheism".
  • Negative atheism – refers to any type of non-theism other than positive atheism, wherein a person does not believe in the existence of any deity, but without asserting there to be none.[8] Also called "weak atheism".
    • Implicit atheism – "the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it".[9]
      • Agnostic atheism – philosophical position that encompasses both atheism and agnosticism. Agnostic atheists are atheistic because they do not hold a belief in the existence of any deity and agnostic because they claim that the existence of a deity is either unknowable in principle or currently unknown in fact.

Atheistic arguments[edit]

  • Arguments against God's existence
    • Argument from free will – contends that omniscience and free will are incompatible, and that any conception of God that incorporates both properties is therefore inherently contradictory.[10][11][12] Also called the "paradox of free will", and "theological fatalism".
    • Argument from inconsistent revelations – asserts that it is unlikely that God exists because many theologians and faithful adherents have produced conflicting and mutually exclusive revelations. The argument states that since a person not privy to revelation must either accept it or reject it based solely upon the authority of its proponents, and since there is no way for a mere mortal to resolve these conflicting claims by investigation, it is prudent to reserve one's judgment. Also known as the "avoiding the wrong hell problem."
    • Argument from nonbelief – premise that if God existed (and wanted humanity to know it), he would have brought about a situation in which every reasonable person believed in him; however, there are reasonable unbelievers, and therefore, this weighs against God's existence. The argument affirms inconsistency between the world that exists and the world that should exist if God had certain desires combined with the power to see them through.
    • Argument from poor design – reasons that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent creator God would create organisms that have optimal design. Organisms have features that are sub-optimal. Therefore, God either did not create these organisms or is not omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. Also called the "dysteleological argument."
    • Incompatible-properties argument – argument that the existence of evil is incompatible with the concept of an omnipotent and perfectly good God. A "good" God is incompatible with some possible worlds, thus incapable of creating them without losing the property of being a totally good God. A "good" God can create only "good" worlds.
    • Omnipotence paradox – states that: if a being can perform any action, then it should be able to create a task which this being is unable to perform; hence, this being cannot perform all actions. Yet, on the other hand, if this being cannot create a task that it is unable to perform, then there exists something it cannot do.
    • Problem of evil – question of how to explain evil if there exists a deity that is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient.[13][14] Some philosophers have claimed that the existences of such a god and of evil are logically incompatible or unlikely.
    • Fate of the unlearned – eschatological question about the ultimate destiny of people who have not been exposed to a particular theology or doctrine and thus have no opportunity to embrace it. The question is whether those who never hear of requirements issued through divine revelations will be punished for failure to abide by those requirements.
    • Problem of Hell – ethical problem related to religions in which portrayals of Hell are ostensibly cruel, and are thus inconsistent with the concepts of a just, moral and omnibenevolent God.[15]
  • Atheist's Wager – goes something like this: "You should live your life and try to make the world a better place for your being in it, whether or not you believe in god. If there is no god, you have lost nothing and will be remembered fondly by those you left behind. If there is a benevolent god, he will judge you on your merits and not just on whether or not you believed in him."[16]
  • Russell's teapot – analogy first coined by the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) to illustrate the idea that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon a person making scientifically unfalsifiable claims rather than shifting the burden of proof to others, specifically in the case of religion. Russell wrote that if he claimed that a teapot were orbiting the Sun somewhere in space between the Earth and Mars, it would be nonsensical for him to expect others not to doubt him on the grounds that they could not prove him wrong. Sometimes called the "celestial teapot" or "cosmic teapot."
  • Theological noncognitivism – argument that religious language, and specifically words like "god", are not cognitively meaningful. Theological noncognitivists await a coherent definition of the word God (or of any other metaphysical utterance purported to be discussable) before being able to engage in arguments for or against God's existence.
  • Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit – counter-argument to the modern form of the argument from design, by Richard Dawkins. A central thesis of the argument is that, compared to supernatural abiogenesis, evolution by natural selection requires the supposition of fewer hypothetical processes and thus, according to Occam's razor, a better explanation than the God hypothesis.

History of atheism[edit]

General atheism concepts[edit]

Related positions[edit]

Atheism organizations[edit]

List of atheist organizations

Atheism publications[edit]

  • The Encyclopedia of Unbelief
  • The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief

Persons influential in atheism[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
    • Nielsen, Kai (2011). "Atheism". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2011-12-06. Instead of saying that an atheist is someone who believes that it is false or probably false that there is a God, a more adequate characterization of atheism consists in the more complex claim that to be an atheist is to be someone who rejects belief in God for the following reasons...: for an anthropomorphic God, the atheist rejects belief in God because it is false or probably false that there is a God; for a nonanthropomorphic God... because the concept of such a God is either meaningless, unintelligible, contradictory, incomprehensible, or incoherent; for the God portrayed by some modern or contemporary theologians or philosophers... because the concept of God in question is such that it merely masks an atheistic substance—e.g., “God” is just another name for love, or ... a symbolic term for moral ideals.
    • Edwards, Paul (2005) [1967]. "Atheism". In Donald M. Borchert (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Vol. 1 (2nd ed.). MacMillan Reference USA (Gale). p. 359. ISBN 978-0-02-865780-6. On our definition, an 'atheist' is a person who rejects belief in God, regardless of whether or not his reason for the rejection is the claim that 'God exists' expresses a false proposition. People frequently adopt an attitude of rejection toward a position for reasons other than that it is a false proposition. It is common among contemporary philosophers, and indeed it was not uncommon in earlier centuries, to reject positions on the ground that they are meaningless. Sometimes, too, a theory is rejected on such grounds as that it is sterile or redundant or capricious, and there are many other considerations which in certain contexts are generally agreed to constitute good grounds for rejecting an assertion.(page 175 in 1967 edition)
  2. ^ Rowe, William L. (1998). "Atheism". In Edward Craig (ed.). Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-07310-3. Retrieved 2010-02-01. As commonly understood, atheism is the position that affirms the nonexistence of God. So an atheist is someone who disbelieves in God, whereas a theist is someone who believes in God. Another meaning of "atheism" is simply nonbelief in the existence of God, rather than positive belief in the nonexistence of God. …an atheist, in the broader sense of the term, is someone who disbelieves in every form of deity, not just the God of traditional Western theology.
  3. ^ a b Simon Blackburn, ed. (2008). "atheism". The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (2008 ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2011-12-05. Either the lack of belief that there exists a god, or the belief that there exists none. Sometimes thought itself to be more dogmatic than mere agnosticism, although atheists retort that everyone is an atheist about most gods, so they merely advance one step further.
  4. ^ Religioustolerance.org's short article on Definitions of the term "Atheism" suggests that there is no consensus on the definition of the term. Most dictionaries (see the OneLook query for "atheism") first list one of the more narrow definitions.
    • Runes, Dagobert D.(editor) (1942). Dictionary of Philosophy. New Jersey: Littlefield, Adams & Co. Philosophical Library. ISBN 0-06-463461-2. Retrieved 2011-04-09. (a) the belief that there is no God; (b) Some philosophers have been called "atheistic" because they have not held to a belief in a personal God. Atheism in this sense means "not theistic". The former meaning of the term is a literal rendering. The latter meaning is a less rigorous use of the term though widely current in the history of thoughtCS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link) – entry by Vergilius Ferm
  5. ^ "Definitions: Atheism". Department of Religious Studies, University of Alabama. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
  6. ^ a b Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). 1989. Belief in a deity, or deities, as opposed to atheism
  7. ^ "Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-04-09. belief in the existence of a god or gods
  8. ^ a b Flew, Antony (1976). "The Presumption of Atheism". The Presumption of Atheism, and other Philosophical Essays on God, Freedom, and Immortality. New York: Barnes and Noble. pp. 14ff. Archived from the original on 2005-10-12. Retrieved 2011-12-10. In this interpretation an atheist becomes: not someone who positively asserts the non-existence of God; but someone who is simply not a theist. Let us, for future ready reference, introduce the labels 'positive atheist' for the former and 'negative atheist' for the latter.
  9. ^ a b Smith, George H. (1979). Atheism: The Case Against God. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus. pp. 13–18. ISBN 0-87975-124-X.
  10. ^ See the various controversies on God's Omniscience, and in particular on the critical notion of Foreknowledge
  11. ^ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Foreknowledge and Free Will
  12. ^ Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Foreknowledge and Free Will
  13. ^ The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "The Problem of Evil", Michael Tooley
  14. ^ The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "The Evidential Problem of Evil", Nick Trakakis
  15. ^ Kvanvig, Jonathan L. (1994). The Problem of Hell. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 24. ISBN 0-19-508487-X.
  16. ^ Atheist's Wager

External links[edit]