Atheism is a belief.


An atheist’s reaction after you’ve show him that atheism is a belief.

If you’re familiar with internet atheism you will have read the atheist’s claim of “I just a lack of belief in a god.” In other words, “atheism isn’t a belief.” This, however, is questionable since it reduces anything that does not have a specific belief to that of an atheist (dogs, babies, rocks etc.). Essentially, on his redefinition the atheist isn’t saying anything. What believers have noted, however, is that atheists only redefine their atheism to escape the responsibility of having to give reasons for being an atheist; philosopher William Craig explains:

“Such a re-definition of the word “atheist” trivializes the claim of the presumption of atheism, for on this definition, atheism ceases to be a view.  It is merely a psychological state which is shared by people who hold various views or no view at all.  On this re-definition, even babies, who hold no opinion at all on the matter, count as atheists!” and that such atheists simply try to “to shirk their epistemic responsibility by re-defining atheism so that it is no longer a view but just a psychological condition which as such makes no assertions.  They are really closet agnostics who want to claim the mantle of atheism without shouldering its responsibilities” (1).

But it goes beyond solely this. It is also the dogmatism of the atheist that clearly betrays his redefinition; Tyler Vela articulates: “They get to hold their atheism dogmatically and even possibly “religiously” – having conventions, conferences, publishing journals and periodicals, dedicating books, marketing for the belief in unbelief, forming societies, having weekly/monthly gatherings (worship services?), all while saying that it is not actually a belief” (2).

It does not make sense that people would engage in these activities based on their lack of a belief in something. Instead, atheists engage in these activities because they are part of a community that does not believe in God, a community espousing atheism and its alleged truths, and a minority community that wishes to proudly promote its identity. Vela continues: “the fact that atheists commonly label themselves “atheists”, (and ascribe attributes to such a label, such as rationalism, empirical validity, etc.) reveals that functionally speaking “atheism” may in fact actually be what people say that it isn’t – a belief; a system of thought” (3).

Professor Stephen Prothero likewise explains that “Many atheists are quite religious, holding their views about God with the conviction of zealots and evangelizing with verve … It stands at the center of their lives, defining who they are, how they think, and with whom they associate. The question of God is never far from their minds” (4).

The Christian may therefore argue that although he does not believe that atheism is a religion (as some theists claim), he does view it as the positive affirmation that God does not exist (The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy puts atheism as: “the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God” (7)). Atheism is thus a belief, as the atheist George Klein writes: “I am an atheist. My attitude is not based on science, but rather on faith. . . The absence of a Creator, the non-existence of God is my childhood faith, my adult belief, unshakable and holy” (5).

Where there is faith it is reasonable to hold that there is belief. Andy Bannister concludes:  “Whether or not it is a religion, atheism, certainly is a belief, a positive claim, just as much as the claim ‘Sweden doesn’t exist’ and positive claims need to be argued for. That can take time and effort but if the claim is true, the hard work will presumably pay off. Sometimes however, I’m afraid, I encounter atheists who seem to prefer to simply deconstruct the worldview of others without bothering to put in the effort to defend their own” (6).


1. Craig, W. 2007. Definition of atheism. Available.

2. Vela, T. 2011. Is Atheism a Belief? Available.

3. Vela, T. ibid.

4. Prothero, S. 2010. God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World.

5. Klein, G. 1990. The Atheist and the Holy City: Encounters and Reflections. p. 203.

6. Bannister, A. 2013. The Scandinavian Sceptic (or why atheism is a belief system). Available.

7. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2004. Atheism and Agnosticism. Available.

15 responses to “Atheism is a belief.

    • I put more value on the Stanford Ency. of Philosophy’s definition: ‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God.”

      • The Oxford definition can be improved but the definition you quoted is enthnocentric since it implies the only possible actualisation of theism is a monotheism that refers to it’s god as “God”. It also sets up a false dichotomy.

  1. If you get to dictate to me what I believe when I use the word “atheist” (which is absurd in its own right), what word would you recommend for someone like me who ‘lacks belief’ in a deity.

    Especially since idea of a “God” is not some monolith. There’s literal monotheisms and personal omnipotent deities through to vague utterances about purpose and of panentheism.
    In terms of the general “God” idea, I am not ‘agnostic’ (at best I am ignostic — the position is too poorly defined to make having a position a sensible claim. Surely this is a subset of atheism).
    But for some specific Gods, I do go further than lacking a belief, I do actually reject them.

    It seems to be a red herring of a conversation to focus on defining the label when people are so ready and willing to tell you their position in explicit terms.

  2. Sometimes I wonder, when people make the same arguments over and over, if they are really looking to find the truth or have an ulterior motive. I posted the earliest definition of Atheist (atheos) in response to an earlier blog you posted.

    “What I do believe, however, is that the atheist only redefines his atheism to escape the responsibility of having to give reasons for being an atheist”. –The reason for being an atheist could be that someone was born to a family that was not religious and a god was never part of their life. What other reason would they need?

    What generally happens to me is: Someone will bring up religion or a god and ask me what religion I belong to. When I tell them that I am not part of a religion they will ask if I believe in God. I have to tell them I do not believe in a god. Suddenly I am asked to defend my stance. I have no stance. “How could you not believe in God?” they exclaim “How do you think you came to be?”. Where is my positive claim?

    I think what happens, atheists are asked to defend their lack of position time and time again that the atheist now has to take a stand on their position. The famous atheists will compile the answers to the theist questions and start compiling a list of questions asking the theist to defend their position.

    I was told I have a belief in god because I tried to defend myself from a zealot religious person. My answer to them was:

    “You are from a Monotheistic religion, I presume” I asked.
    “Yes” they answered
    “How could that be” I replied.
    “Huh, what are you getting at” they asked.
    “Wouldn’t your belief of other gods go against your monotheistic belief”, I inquired.

    and that was the end of that argument.

  3. The title atheism is not a belief, nor does it describe one. IF i say ” im an atheist” you dont know a SINGLE belief i have. You only know of one i dont have. That being said there are beliefs that surround and lead to atheism, but those are not described by(nor set by) the title atheist. So no, atheism is NOT a belief.

    • “You only know of one i dont have” – well, atheists certainly talk about that thing they don’t have (God) quite a lot. I tend to get the impression that they believe God doesn’t exist.

      I take atheism, as I’ve said, to be the belief that God does not exist. And since its a proposition it constitutes a part of a worldview (naturalism, materialism, secular humanism etc.); in other words a whole worldview is grounded on the belief that God does not exist. Just like my worldview believes that unicorns or elves don’t exist.

      If you, however, maintain your definition that atheism is not a belief then you waste time here because you aren’t saying anything (hence this conversation is fruitless). Simply put Theism = the belief that God exists. Atheism = the belief that God does not exist. Agnosticism = neither believes nor disbelieves in God;

      In other words, “you dont know a SINGLE belief i have” Actually I do, you believe you’re an atheist, and you believe that God doesn’t exist.

      • I completely understand your position, however I still disagree with it simply for personal reasons. However if by your “world view” comment you mean that being an atheist means you hold/are apart ofone of those world views youre wrong.

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  6. No dumbass its cause religious people make the world a horrible ibel place to live in that peoole gather to try to work against religion.

    a cosmic beeing will torture u forever and ever for not beliving in him?

    Hell yeah im an atheist.

    kill people and get 77 virgins?

    Hell yeah im an atheist

    and so on.

    The first christians were caled atheist cause they belived in to few gods.

    sorry but its plain evil to promote belif in a cosmic beeing that want to torture u or u family forever just cause u see no evidence for his existence.

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