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Atheism: Belief in no God, or no belief in God.

Quotations and an overview

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Read a news feed of current topics related to Atheism, maintained by American Atheists.

Quotations about Atheism:

bullet Woody Allen (attributed): "To you, I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition"
 
bullet Anon: "Almost every American denies the existence of Artemis, Baal, Cybele, Fergus, Thor, Wotan, Zeus, and thousands of other gods and goddesses. The difference between a Christian and an Atheist is that an Atheist either actively denies the existence of the Trinity or has no belief in the Trinity. The difference is truly insignificant. It is only one deity among many thousands."
 
bullet Isaac Asimov, from the article "On Religiosity" in Free Inquiry magazine: "Although the time of death is approaching me, I am not afraid of dying and going to Hell or (what would be considerably worse) going to the popularized version of Heaven. I expect death to be nothingness and, for removing me from all possible fears of death, I am thankful to atheism."
 
bullet Dan Barker, Author of "Losing Faith in Faith:" "I have something to say to the religionist who feels atheists never say anything positive: You are an intelligent human being. Your life is valuable for its own sake. You are not second-class in the universe, deriving meaning and purpose from some other mind. You are not inherently evil -- you are inherently human, possessing the positive rational potential to help make this a world of morality, peace and joy. Trust yourself."
 
bullet Annie Wood Besant: "No philosophy, no religion, has ever brought so glad a message to the world as this good news of Atheism."
 
bullet George H.W. Bush, as presidential nominee for the Republican party; 1987-AUG-27: "No, I don't know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God." 1
 
bullet H. Havelock Ellis: "And it is in his own image, let us remember, that Man creates God."
 
bullet Guy P. Harrison: "...atheism is not a conscious act of turning away from all gods. It is simply the final destination for those who think. ...you will be pleased to discover that the sky does not fall down on your head. ... if you still want to pray, you can (the success rate of your prayers is unlikely to change)." 
 
bullet Doug Jesseph: "As an atheist, I deny the existence of all Gods: those of the Mayans, the Hindu, the Ancient Egyptians, and the God of the Old and New Testaments. If I am right, all of these are fictional constructs invented by clever humans for ... a variety of purposes, ranging from psychological comfort to entertainment." 2

Cartoon re synonyms for the word Atheist

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Overview:

Most Atheists either assert that no deity exists, or lack any belief in God. The term "Atheist" thus contrasts with:

  • "Theist" -- a person who believes in a God, or
  • "Trinitarian" a person who believes in a single Godhead composed of three persons, or
  • "Polytheist" a person who believes in many Gods and/or Goddesses. or
  • "Henotheist" a person who believes in one main deity and a group of sub-deities.

On this site, we define the term "religion" as:

"... any specific system of belief about deity, often involving rituals, a code of ethics, a philosophy of life, and a worldview."

Atheism is not a complete religion in the sense that Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are. Atheism is not generally perceived as offering a complete guideline for living as do most religions. However, Atheists frequently derive their own ethics, philosophy of life, and worldview using their Atheism as a starting point. These beliefs are generally derived from secular considerations, and not from any "revealed" religious text.

Some Atheists, when asked what their religion is, will answer, simply, "Atheist." Others will say that they "have no religion, they are an Atheist." Still others will use terms like Humanist, Agnostic, Freethinker, religious skeptics, etc. This makes public opinion polls almost useless on this topic.

Note that:

bullet Atheism relates to a belief in the existence or non-existence of a deity, or whether the person associates any meaning to the terms "God" or "deity."
 
bullet Atheism can involve the positive assertion that there is no deity; this is sometimes referred to as "strong Atheism." It is the most common dictionary definition for the term "Atheist," and is probably the definition used by most Christians, other Theists, etc.
 
bullet Atheism can be the absence of a belief that there is a deity. This is the belief promoted by the American Atheists and many individual Atheists.
 
bullet Atheists often promote the belief that archangels, angels, demons, ghosts, etc., are also nonexistent entities, and that they are created by humans.

In one way, most North Americans are Atheists or near Atheists. About 3 in 4 adults are Christians. They believe in the existence of the Christian Trinity: God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. However, when it comes to the deities of the Mayan, Hindu, Ancient Roman, Ancient Greek, Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Sumerian, Sikh, and many other ancient and modern religions, they either:

bullet Regard them as entities vaguely like the tooth fairy and Easter bunny: mythical characters that do not really exist but were artificially created by humans, or

bullet They exist as demons, supernatural entities without most of the powers of the Trinity.

Thus, the difference in beliefs about God between a typical Christian and a typical Atheist is numerically small: The strong Atheist believes that none of the many thousands of Gods and Goddesses exist; most Christians believe that one God out of the thousands of deities who have been worshipped by humanity exists, and that he is a Trinity. Whatever the other thousands of deities are, they are not Gods. Although the numerical difference is much less that 0.1%, the philosophical difference is immense.

There exists massive discrimination against Atheists in the U.S.

bullet Part of this may be based on the historical linkage between Communism and Atheism. Most Communists are Atheists. But many people do not realize that most Atheists in North America are not Communists.
 
bullet Another reason for this discrimination is the common belief that a person cannot be motivated to lead a moral life unless they believe in the carrot and stick system: hope for the reward of heaven, and fear the punishment of Hell. In the past, this belief had been codified into law. Conscientious objectors opposed to participating in warfare were thrown in jail if their opposition to killing other humans was not based on belief in God. In the past, many state constitutions specified that candidates for public office must meet certain requirements, including belief in a God. Two states still do, although that requirement has no force in law.
 
bullet Still another cause of discrimination is a widespread linkage between theism -- the belief in the existence of God -- American patriotism, and Christianity.

The American public exhibits high regards for Buddhists. One reason for this may be that Buddhists have been responsible for very few wars, mass murders, genocides, etc when compared to other major religions. However, a majority of Buddhists are Atheists in that they have no concept of God.

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Reference used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. "George Bush: Citizen's quote," at: http://bennyhills.fortunecity.com/

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Copyright © 1996 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-AUG-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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