Non-theistic beliefs, spiritual paths, etc.
"Do god(s) exist?
I don't know & I don't really care"
The term "Apatheism" is a portmanteau
1 -- a combination of
two words. They may be considered a fusing of:
||"Apathy" and "Theism" or
||"Apathy and "Atheism."
When spoken, the emphasis is on the "pa," as in the word "apathy."
Apatheism is more an attitude than a belief or belief system. An Apatheist is a person who regards
the question of the existence or non-existence of a god or gods to be
essentially meaningless and irrelevant. However, some define the term more
broadly to refer to apathy towards all religions or belief systems, not just
toward a belief in god.
Unlike most Theists, Agnostics, Atheists, etc, an Apatheist doesn't really care whether it is possible to prove either the existence or non-existence of a god.
Apatheism is a.k.a. pragmatic Atheism, and practical Atheism.
An associated term is Apathetic Agnosticism, a.k.a. Pragmatic
Agnosticism. This is the view that millennia of debate has neither proven
nor disproven the existence of a god or gods. However, even if one or more
deities exist, they do not appear to be concerned about the fate of humans.
Thus, their existence has little impact on humanity and should be of little interest.
The origin of "Apatheisms" is unclear:
According to the Wikipedia article on Apatheism, 2 the
website titled "The Church of Apatheism" went online in the
year 2000. 3 The latter is believed to be a satiric web site,
although it is often difficult to determine which religious
web sites are satiric and which are serious.
According to the Global Oneness Commitment Foundation, the term was used on message boards as
early as 2000-JUL. 4
Johnathan Rauch wrote an article on Apatheism in the 2003-MAY edition of The
Atlantic magazine. 5
According to the Urban Dictionary, it was coined in 2004
by Grayson Scantelbury in Vancouver, BC, Canada. 6
A possible benefit of Apatheism:
Johnathan Rauch, who describes himself as "... an unrepentantly atheistic Jewish
homosexual," wrote an article in The Atlantic, saying, in
"Apatheism -- a disinclination to care all that much about one's own
religion, and an even stronger disinclination to care about other people's
-- may or may not be something new in the world, but its modern flowering,
particularly in ostensibly pious America, is worth getting excited about."
"Apatheism concerns not what you believe but how. In that respect it
differs from the standard concepts used to describe religious views and
people. [Strong] Atheism, for instance, is not at all like apatheism; the
hot-blooded atheist cares as much about religion as does the evangelical
Christian, but in the opposite direction. "Secularism" can refer to a simple
absence of devoutness, but it more accurately refers to an ACLU-style
disapproval of any profession of religion in public life -- a disapproval
that seems puritanical and quaint to apatheists. Tolerance is a magnificent
concept, John Locke's inestimable gift to all mankind; but it assumes, as
Locke did, that everyone brims with religious passions that everyone else
must work hard to put up with. And agnostics? True, most of them are
apatheists, but most apatheists are not agnostics. Because -- and this is an
essential point -- many apatheists are believers. ..."
"Religion, as the events of September 11 and after have so brutally
underscored, remains the most divisive and volatile of social forces. To be
in the grip of religious zeal is the natural state of human beings, or at
least of a great many human beings; that is how much of the species seems to
be wired. Apatheism, therefore, should not be assumed to represent a lazy
recumbency, like my collapse into a soft chair after a long day. Just the
opposite: it is the product of a determined cultural effort to discipline
the religious mindset, and often of an equally determined personal effort to
master the spiritual passions. It is not a lapse. It is an achievement."
In his article he refers to the well known fact that
about 40% of American adults
tell public opinion pollsters that they attend religious
services weekly. However, when nose counters actually try to
verify this number, they find that about half of Americans
lie about church attendance. Only about 20% actually go. Canadian statistics are
similar: about 20% say they go; 10% do go. He
"A great many Americans ... apparently care about
religion enough to say they are religious, but not
enough to go to church."
Some tentative conclusions:
||Apatheism may well be one of the largest religious divisions in the U.S.,
although few people know the meaning of the term. To our knowledge, no public opinion
pollster has ever attempted to measure the number of Apatheists.
||If Apatheism became a dominant force in the world, religiously-motivated
terrorists would have major recruitment problems. No Apatheist would be
prepared to fly an airliner into a tall building in order to make a
||Mission programs would similarly suffer if Apatheism became dominant.
A great deal of human suffering would result if Apatheism became
prominent and was coupled with a lack of commitment to the
Ethic of Reciprocity -- the Golden Rule regarding
the treatment of other people.
The Rev. Mark Stringer of the First Unitarian Church of Des
Moines sees positive and negative aspects of Apatheism. In a 2004 sermon he said,
"On the surface, apatheism sounds like a good idea, and
compared to the rigidity of fundamentalism, it is definitely a
cultural improvement. Certainly most of us would agree that,
throughout recorded history, enormous amounts of damage have
been done by humans wound too tightly in their own religious
zeal. An increase in the number of people who are committed to
more relaxed religiosity, who do not see it as their religious
duty to separate the saved from the unsaved, the sheep from the
goats, the pure and holy heterosexuals from the wicked and evil
homosexuals, just to name one currently pertinent example, canāt
be anything but good, right? The rise of apatheism, then, could
be seen as a welcome indication that more and more people are
not taking religion so seriously and frankly, in a world where
those holding fanatical religious views can put entire countries
on the defensive, itās about time. ..."
have pondered the concept of apatheism this week, Iāve come to
see that Iāve moved away from it as a descriptor for my own
beliefs because I now realize that there is too much at stake to
be indifferent about matters of religion."
recognize that I canāt be an apatheist because, while I donāt
wish to deny your individual perceptions of the God you may
follow, I do care and am affected by what you think the God you
may follow feels about me, my friends and companions, and this
earth we share."
to be something more than indifferent, for example, if your God
is telling you to discriminate against, withhold civil rights
from, or persecute people simply based on their gender or sexual
orientation, class, race, or politics.
to be something more than indifferent if your God requires you
to support wide-ranging censorship or the disregard of
scientific fact in favor of creationism."
to be something more than indifferent if your God requires you
to support unfair distribution of income or privilege."
your God sanctions misuse of the planet or doesnāt question a
lack of environmental responsibility."
your God is calling upon you to take up a crusade or holy war
against another people, whether the facts support this crusade
ever-evolving Unitarian Universalist faith has helped me see
that in all of these cases, and many more, I need to be
something more than indifferent, something more than
YouTube entries concerning Apatheism:
References and notes:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- The word "portmanteau" has two unrelated meanings: a
word made up from two other words fused together, and a type of
suitcase that opens up in to two equal parts.
"Apatheism," Wikipedia, at:
"The Church of Apatheism,"
"Apatheism," the Global Oneness Commitment Foundation
Johnathan Rauch, "Let it be: Three cheers for Apatheism," The Atlantic,
2003-MAY. Online at:
"Apatheism," Urban Dictrionary, at:
Rev. Mark Stringer, "The Good, the Bad, and the
Indifferent," First Unitarian Church of Des Moines
Copyright © 2008 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2008-AUG-22
Latest update: 2013-APR-03
Author: B.A. Robinson