Atheism – A General Summary of the Religion
Author: William Bailey
Atheism is a rejection of the existence of any type of deity. Depending on what dictionary you read the definition of Atheism varies, for example older dictionaries define it as a belief that there is no God, or a complete denial of any deity. Other dictionaries define Atheism as sinfulness, paganism, heathenism, or even wickedness. The Greeks define Atheism as “without gods”. The Universal Life Church Monastery states “There are no universally known scientific tests for disproving the existence of spiritual things; therefore, atheism is a religion based on faith.” The 1998 edition of Macmillan Information New Encyclopedia: World Religions states that Atheism is neither a belief system nor a religion. It may however be an individual’s religious belief, thereby making it a non-religion.
In the 18th century the criticisms of religion combined with society’s skepticism, created the perfect atmosphere for Atheism to flourish. Atheists are generally extremely skeptical of the supernatural or spirit world due to the lack of proof. Atheists have defended their beliefs by pointing out the various differences within numerous other religions. They figure that each religion and denomination makes whatever rules and rituals benefit themselves the best. Atheists believe that religions are a made up system that society clings to when they don’t have an answer to their questions, or solutions to their problems. They also believe that religions do more harm than good, referring to the numerous religious wars and the more recent religious groups that organize horrific disasters that take thousands of people’s lives.
Practical Atheism, apatheism, and pragmatic atheism, are three ideologies that refer to the same religious concept of a godless society. Natural phenomena’s horrific destruction is explained by anything other than a divine’s interaction however, the existences of deities are not disputed. The absence of motivation and interest in all religious activities are two of many forms that practical Atheists can take.
Two arguments of Theoretical Atheism are Ontological and Epistemological. Ontological arguments are specifically explicit arguments against the existence of all gods. Plato and Averroes, known philosophers that have publically announced their theories and arguments for the existence of God, are prime examples that Theoretical Atheists argue. Theoretical Atheists are in all actuality Physical Ontologists, which are people who believe that everything that exists is only the equivalent of its physical properties and nothing more.
The Epistemological arguments deal with Agnostics and Theological noncognitivism. Agnostic Atheism logically has the combined characteristics of both Agnosticism and Atheism. Agnostics believe that there has not been any evidence that a deity exists, therefore they don’t believe in a deity. An Atheist simply doesn’t believe in a deity whatsoever. An Agnostic Atheist is an Atheist because they don’t believe in a deity and they are an Agnostic because they claim there is no evidence that a deity exists. Theological noncognitivism has a basic logical approach to religion, no proof no existence. For example, George H. Smith (verificationist) believes the word “God”, carries with it absolutely no meaning or concept. He insists that “God” has mainly contributed negatively to society, making the almighty “God” inconsequential.
Well known Philosophers Ludwig Feuerbach and Sigmund Freud believed that religion was a matrix. For those of you who have not seen the movie “The Matrix”, the movie was about the wool being pulled over the eyes of man, blocking man from the real world. In this case the wool is society’s invention to make sense of, and act as, an emotional buffer. This invention and buffer I speak of is religion. It is used by some who need some sense of structure in their spiritual lives. It is used by some to make their life bearable from the horrors they have seen, have caused, or are currently living. It is used by some by denying it (religion) exists. The bottom line, religion is used by everyone. Some believe that God is a creation by governments and organizations to enslave mankind, and others believe he exists as the creator of all things great and small.
Axiology is the study of right and wrong, and beauty and harmony. It also favors humanity over any existence of gods. The belief in gods simply weakens a person’s motivation to solve their own problems. By seeking out salvation and believing that God will provide for those who follow his ways and simply believe in him will ultimately shift man’s motivational trouble shooting skills into neutral. Jean-Paul Sartre, a French philosopher categorized himself as an “atheist existentialist”. He concentrated his concerns with man’s efforts rather than denying God’s existence. Sartre’s efforts were solely concentrated with positive efforts and motivational tactics for man to get off of his ass and “save him from himself”.
The difficulty in calculating accurate worldwide atheistic demographic statistics lies within the problems of specific definitions between the faithless religions. A published survey in the Encyclopedia Britannica of 2005 puts the world’s Atheist’s numbers at 2.3%. This percentage didn’t take account for atheistic beliefs within other religions. A poll in late 2006 published in the Financial Times gave rates for Atheists in six countries, Spain 11%, Germany 20%, Great Britain 17%, France 32%, Italy 7%, and the lowest was The United States at 4%. Other various polls showed that approximately 64% of Japanese are non-believers, agnostics, or atheists. Other non-believers, Atheists, and Agnostic polls show the following numbers: Finland 60%, Denmark at a high 80%, Sweden at a higher 85%, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania staggered in the low single digits.
Criticism of atheism obviously stems from its disbelief in God. Where the theist and deist critics believe their arguments are more than sufficient, the atheists see them as unbelievable and fanaticized. The atheists are not alone in their beliefs. Believe it or not, the religion of Agnosticism also backs the theist and deist critics. They believe that the jury is still out and the evidence doesn’t quite support that god doesn’t exist. Philosopher Blaise Pascal gives atheism the benefit of the doubt by stating “Atheism shows strength of mind,” however he also points out their faults in their theories by adding ” but only to a certain degree”, he then continues to point out other faults by saying that atheists don’t seek the truth and refuse to recognize the signs of God. It is believed by numerous religions that atheism has had a very bad effect on those who believe in life after death, another of Pascal’s points of negativity on atheism. To add to the list of criticisms on atheists, Christian author Alister McGrath stated that studies have shown that the belief in God has benefited people’s health, and happiness. That said, atheist Gregory Paul adds that developed countries that have a larger percentage of atheists within their society have a better overall financial picture.