Attempts to dilute the definition of atheism

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Atheism, as defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and other philosophy reference works, is the denial of the existence of God.[1] Paul Edwards, who was a prominent atheist and editor of the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, defined an atheist as "a person who maintains that there is no God." [2]

In the late 19th century and more broadly in the latter portion of the 20th century, the proposition that the definition of atheism also include a mere lack of belief in God or gods began.[3] It is now common for atheists/agnostics and theists to debate the meaning of the word atheism.[4]

In terms of contemporary definitions of atheism, the Webster-Merriam Dictionary defines atheism in two ways: "1) a lack of belief or a strong disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods 2) a philosophical or religious position characterized by disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods."[5] Oxford English Dictionies defines atheism as "Disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods."[6]

Charles Bradlaugh, in 1876, proposed that atheism does not assert "there is no God," and by doing so he diluted the traditional definition of atheism.[7][8][9] Since 1979, many atheists have followed Bradlaugh's thinking further and stated that atheism is merely a lack of belief in any god.[9][10] The motive for such a shift in meaning appears to be to an attempt to shift the burden of proof regarding the existence of God to the theism side.[9]

In the article, Is Atheism Presumptuous?, atheist Jeffery Jay Lowder, a founder of Internet Infidels, states that "I agree (with Copan) that anyone who claims, "God does not exist," must shoulder a burden of proof just as much as anyone who claims, "God exists."[9] In short, the attempt to redefine atheism is merely an attempt to make no assertions so no facts need be offered.[9] The attempt to redefine atheism, however, is not in accordance with the standard definitions of atheism that encyclopedias of philosophy employ which is that atheism is a denial of the existence of God or gods.[7][8][9] In addition, the atheist community has often used deception to promote their ideology.

Unlike Christianity, which is supported by a large body of sound evidence (see: Christian apologetics), atheism has no proof and evidence supporting its ideology. In addition, atheists/skeptics do have a tradition of making assumptions that later have proved errant.[11] Also, prominent atheists, such as Charles Darwin (see: religious views of Charles Darwin ), have experienced doubts concerning the validity of atheism.

This redefinition blurs the distinction between saying, "There is no God", and "I don't know whether God exists or not." It lets people say, "I don't believe in God," without clarifying whether they are denying God's existence (which is atheism) or are merely uncertain about it (which is agnosticism).

Atheism as a religion

See also: Atheism is a religion]

The British atheist Sanderson Jones is a founder of the Sunday Assembly atheist church movement.[12]

Atheism is a religion and this has implications in terms of the disciplines of religion, philosophy, Christian apologetics and law.[13] 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.[14]

If the view that there is no God (or are no gods) is a religion, it is argued its expression is constitutionally protected in the United States. [15] The government cannot force atheists to recant and adopt the opposite belief.

In his BBC documentary The Trouble with Atheism the award-winning journalist Rod Liddle indicates:

Some atheists have become rather dogmatic. Terribly certain in their conviction that there is no God and anyone who thinks there is is a deluded and dangerous fool. ,,,atheists are becoming as intransigent about their own views as the people they so despise.

Atheism is becoming a religion of its own. It already has its gurus and its revered sacred texts... It has its magnificent temples within which lie mysteries and unknowable truths.[16]

If atheism is not a religion, then the expression of atheistic ideas is still covered by the First Amendment, but only by the free speech and free press clauses.

The implications go deeper, affecting public education. If atheism is a religion, then the atheism adhering to the methodological naturalism of physical science cannot be given excessive government support. That would violate the establishment of religion clause. So, evolution education would have to allow students freedom to dissent from the "orthodox" pseudoscientific view that human beings evolved from earlier forms of life without any intervention from God. It should be noted that biology courses only require knowledge of what the theory of evolution, its mechanisms, and the evidence supporting it, rather than belief that evolution occurred.[17]

In 2013, a trend of atheist churches began and atheist church services were reported on in the New York Times, The Blaze and other major news outlets.[18]

See also

External links

General articles on atheism and agnosticism:


  1. Multiple references:
  2. Putting the Atheist on the Defensive by Kenneth R. Samples, Christian Research Institute Journal, Fall 1991, and Winter 1992, page 7.
  3. Day, Donn R. (2007). "Atheism - etymology".
  4. Atheism, Webster-Merriam dictionary
  5. Atheism, Oxford online dictionary
  6. 7.0 7.1
  7. 8.0 8.1 Is Atheism More Rational by Creation Ministries International
  8. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5
  9. Positive Atheism's Big List of Charles Bradlaugh Quotations
  11. Atheist Church Split: Sunday Assembly And Godless Revival's 'Denominational Chasm', Huffington Post, 2014
  12. Is Atheism a religion? by Daniel Smartt, Published: 4 May 2010(GMT+10)
  13. The Supreme Court has said a religion need not be based on a belief in the existence of a supreme being. In the 1961 case of Torcaso v. Watkins, the court described "secular humanism" as a religion. Court rules atheism is a religion
  14. BBC Documentary The Trouble With Atheism BBC Horizon Documentary
  15. See Kenneth Miller's testimony in Selden v. Cobb County', available at [2], p. 178