Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Atheism: Belief or No Belief?

A question that has been bugging me for as long as I've been an atheist still has not been answered. Is atheism the "lack of belief in any deities" or the "belief that there are no deities"?

In this (most likely) final post of 2011, I aim to dissect the problem and attempt to find a solution. Let us begin with the word "atheism" itself.

"Theism" is either the belief in one or more deities or the belief that deities exist. Regardless of the definition, adding the prefix "a-" to a word negates it. For example, "sexual" means that an organism reproduces in binary fashion, with a sperm and an egg, both from a different organism of usually the same species. "Asexual" means that an organism reproduces itself by itself. It could produce both the seed and the egg, or simply find a host and grow. Therefore, "atheism" is the negation, or opposite, of "theism".

Theism is the philosophy whereby one derives a sense of morality and a style of life from the teachings of philosophers who claim(ed) to be inspired by an unseen power usually depicted as a human or an animal.

A theism is the having of a religion. It doesn't matter which religion, just that one has a religion. Conversely, atheism is the lack of a religion.

"Religion" is a more specific form of theism in that it refers particularly to one set of morals and one lifestyle. In a religion, one believes in one set of gods. To lack a religion is to lack a belief in a set of gods.

Therefore, "atheism" is the lack of belief, not the belief that there is no set of gods.

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