Atheism and belief

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In the Western world, the most common assertion used by militant and proselytizing atheists to support their position and discredit religion, Christianity or otherwise, is that atheism is factual or a knowledge system, supported by evidence, whilst religions are beliefs.’’ In asserting this, atheists attempt to tie atheism to verifiable science. In fact, rather than knowledge, atheism is a false religion. See: Common arguments against atheism and Arguments for the existence of God

Whether or not atheism is a belief rather than individuals attempting to suppress the truth of God's existence is matter of debate (see: Denials that atheists exist). Also, the degree to which atheism is conditional depending on external events is a matter of debate (see: Atheism and death anxiety and There are no atheists in foxholes).

In addition, although many atheists deny that atheism is a worldview, atheists commonly share a number of beliefs such as naturalism, belief in evolution and abiogenesis.[1]

Atheism and Belief - Belief and Knowledge

In order to fully comprehend the issues surrounding atheism and belief, a fundamental understanding of the terms "belief" and "knowledge" is necessary to understanding atheists’ claims, and how they fail.

Within epistemology, knowledge is understood to be propositions that are backed up by data.[2]

For example: the proposition of universal gravitation, that all bodies accelerate towards each other, is backed up by endless amounts of data and experience.

What’s more, the proposition makes predictions that are testable: if an apple is held above the ground and released, it will fall. Thus, the knowledge is understood to be scientific.

Beliefs within the realm of Christian faith are understood to propositions which are supported sufficiently but not exhaustively. Christian apologist Dr. William Lane Craig contends the for the reasonableness of the Christian faith in his classic work Reasonable Faith.[3] Christian apologists assert there are multiple lines of evidence pointing the validity of the Christian faith. For example, the Apostles of Christ appealed to being eyewitnesses of his resurrection.[4] Also, Christian apologists contend that Christian faith not contradicted by evidence.[5]

The above criteria can apply to any number of social, political, or even economic beliefs, but is very important in Christian religion. There is no absolute method of proving or disproving the existence of the Christian God, and Christianity relies on faith itself for salvation.[6] (Note, however, the existence of powerful evidence of biblical truth, unearthed by biblical archaeology plus Christian legal scholars have effectively argued that Western legal standards point to the resurrection of Christ when one examines the historical evidence. )

Atheism and lack of knowledge

Less militant agnostic and atheist philosophers have acknowledged for centuries the impossibility of disproving God’s existence. Ex-atheist Alister McGrath, in Beyond Opinion, states that "all atheist philosophers concede that the nonexistence of God cannot be proved."[7]

Even T. H. Huxley, one of Darwin’s chief supporters, acknowledged this. Huxley invented the term agnosticism, literally meaning "without knowledge." While Huxley was utterly without Christian faith, the term agnosticism was indicative of the impossibility of proving or disproving God, as he noted “In matters of the intellect, do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable. That I take to be the agnostic faith…"[8] Thus any view of the universe, be it theism, atheism, or fence-sitting agnosticism entailed a sort of belief.

Contemporary atheist philosopher Kai Nielsen noted "All the proofs of God's existence may fail, but it still may be the case that God exists." [9]

Unscientific nature of atheism

Newton could not explain gravity without an appeal to God

See also: Atheism and the suppression of science

Atheists claim that scientific knowledge has replaced the need for appeals to God to explain the universe. This is easily demonstrated to be false, as countless legendary scientists found it necessary to invoke God to explain First Causes in the universe. Isaac Newton could explain what gravity did but not what caused it, and believed God kept the universe in motion.[10] While Albert Einstein's theistic views were complex, he too could not explain the universe without God, and famously derided chaos in the universe by stating "God does not play dice."[11] Even in the 21st century, no scientific theory attempts to replace appeals to God in explaining the universe's existence.

Indeed, atheists have merely usurped the mantle of "science" to disguise unevidenced assertions. They claim that evolution has been proven as scientific valid, that evolution necessarily proves abiogenesis, and that abiogenesis precludes God and design.[12] The first claim is refuted by numerous theistic scientists, the second is a belief, and the third is a philosophical absurdity. Atheists believe the universe can be explained without recourse to God, but have no actual evidence to back up their assertions.

Belief and atheistic arguments

More militant atheists have denied that their belief system is just that, belief, and instead have attempted to paint atheism as logical and evidence based. However, their arguments invariably on axioms and assumptions which they cannot prove.

Belief in some of the simplest and most common atheist arguments follow:

Argument from ignorance

  1. We have no absolute evidence of God’s existence.
  2. Occam’s razor tells us that a Godless universe, being simpler than a universe with God, must be true.
  3. Therefore, God does not exist.


Bona fide Christians who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit have direct evidence of God's existence (1 Corinthians 3:16) (see also: Argument from religious experience and Swinburne's argument from religious experience). Jesus Christ said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27). Furthermore, Jesus said, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8:31-32).

This argument also relies on an appeal to ignorance (also known as an appeal from silence), a logical fallacy which states that since we do not have evidence of something, it must be false. It also misuses Occam’s Razor, which states that the argument with fewest ‘’assumptions’’ is most likely to be true. In truth, a designed universe only assumes a creator, while an atheistic universe assumes countless perfect items of blind natural forces improbabilistically occurring. (see: Origin of life and universal constants ).

Problem of evil

See also: Atheism and the problem of evil

Responding to perhaps the oldest theological question, atheists claim that the existence of evil proves that if God existed, he would not allow suffering. As suffering exists, God must not.[13]

Problems: This argument relies on an atheist belief that God cannot allow suffering, though Christian theologians and apologists have addressed the question for centuries. C. S. Lewis pointed out that suffering is a necessary result of human free will, which God granted out of love, that humans might reach their full potential for virtue.[14]

See Atheism and the Problem of Evil for a larger discussion.

See also


  1. Fred I. Dretske, Perception, Knowledge, and Belief, 18.
  5. Acts 16:30-31
  6. Alister McGrath, "Challenges from Atheism," in Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith we Defend, 97.
  7. Bernard Lightman, The Origins of Agnosticism: Victorian Unbelief and the Limits of Knowledge, 47.
  8. Alister McGrath, “Challenges from Atheism,” in Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith we Defend, 97.
  9. Ayval Leshem, Newton on Mathematics and Spiritual Purity, 2.
  10. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Science, Religion and Christianity, 215.
  11. For example, Dawkins, The God Delusion, 134.
  12. Barbara Omolade, “Faith Confronts Evil,” in Christian Faith and the Problem of Evil, 278-9.
  13. C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 574.