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An Overview: What is Atheism?

Author: Lena Santos

Atheism is non-belief in the existence of god or deities. It originated from the Greek word “atheos” which means ‘without god’. Atheist is the person known to practice atheism. It is in contrast with “theism” which is the belief that at least one deity exists.

Is atheism a religion?

For centuries, there has been argument on whether aethism is a religion. The answer to this questions is “NO, ATHEISM IS NOT A RELIGION”. People may be misguided that all that ends in suffix “ism” is under the umbrella of a certain system or dogma guided by principles such as Christianism, Taoism, Communism, Buddhism, and the likes. “Ism” can also mean state, form or condition like autism, astigmatism, heroism. This simple suffix actually led people to fall to the trap that atheism is a religion.

To further justify, we need to see the components of religion that is shared by most belief systems and which are not met by atheism:

Believers of religious groups are guided by ritual ceremonies and moral codes originating from faith in the divine being. Since theism believers consider the existence of a supernatural, communication to the deity in form of prayers and ritual gatherings is an important factor.

Does an atheist qualify under the above factors of religion? Atheists may have their own set of moral beliefs but they are not founded on the fact that they come from a supernatural being. They may be attached to certain sacred things or rituals but they could just be incidental as they follow their own ideologies. This is why they are also called free thinkers. Religion dictates that believers are joined together to worship and perform their rituals in social union. Though atheist may join specific groups, they are not bound to follow anything.

Therefore, based on the above, atheism is not a religion because it doesn’t encompass the essence of how religion is defined. Religion is steered by common beliefs while atheism is the absence of such beliefs. Hence, they are not analogous and should not even be compared. Implication: Because people get the wrong impression that atheism is a religion, atheist are being subjected to spur of politics. They can be used by political groups to support, endorse and promote certain ideologies.

Brief History
Atheism started in ancient Greece even before the 16th century. Some say that it even dates back to 5th century BC. The works of the early Greek freethinkers influenced other countries such as Rome where most of Roman philosophies where just borrowed from them. One of the Roman Emperors, Marcus Aurelius, approached a belief with a standpoint that one can believe or not believe in gods. In the following centuries many other Roman skeptical philosophers emerged and with the flourishing civilization, freethought and atheist wrtitings stirred up. Leonardo da Vinci during the Renaissance was one of those who opposed the influence and authority of the Church. Soon until the nineteenth century, a lot of freethought activities boomed in books, lectures, speeches and even plays. Here are some excerpts from known freethought advocates or atheists (reference: atheistempire.com; great minds quotes)

“ I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absenteed myself from Christian assemblies.” – Benjamin Franklin


“Atheism is the voice of a few intelligent people.” -- Voltaire


“All natural institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.” --- Thomas Paine


There are a lot more known philosophers, writers and even leaders who expressed their indifference towards theism. Even Shakespeare during his time has expressed or implied in some of his play lack of sympathy in religious feelings.

On a personal note as a believer of God, it is really hard to follow the doctrines that encompass Christianity. It must be very easy for non-believers because there are no boundaries that would question their actions. In this modern time where everybody can speak their minds, this can pose a great challenge. People would rather choose a sect that would somehow allow them to believe in a deity (just so they will not be labeled atheist) but would not make them accountable for the worldly desires that they cannot resist such as sex, drugs, bigamy, blasphemy and the likes. Issues of same sex marriages, priests marrying or even birth control are challenges being faced by modern thinkers that could affect their choice of beliefs. People might search for a group that would not allow them to feel that they are being watched out in every wrong action done. Thus, there are a number of people that jump from one group to another to be able to look for a more lenient dogma.

Suggested Pdf Resources

The Non-Existence of God
Atheist Universe Excerpt
Atheism and atheists defined, 25, 33, 44 overview (interview with author), 25–64 statistics, 26. Australopithecus (southern ape), 117.
A SUMMARY CRITIQUE PHILOSOPHERS WITHOUT REASON
A SUMMARY CRITIQUE. PHILOSOPHERS WITHOUT REASON a book review of .
Bulletin Personality and Social Psychology
Feb 22, 2011 testing the hypothesis that learning about atheist prevalence would reduce implicitly measured distrust of atheists. Study 1.
When Prophecy Fails and Faith Persists: A Theoretical Overview
This paper offers a systematic overview of these variations and .

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Suggested Web Resources

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Aug 22, 2011 Definitions of Atheism (There is no general consensus). Review. Ambiguity among religious terms.
Review of God and the New Atheism
Critique of John Haught's God and the New Atheism.