“Atheism Is Not A Belief”


[Update: I updated and republished this material on August 14, 2013)

“Atheism is not a belief,” atheists often say, “it’s just a lack of belief in a God.” Today it came up in this form:

And, in addition, I would point out that atheism is not my ideology. It simply refers to my not subscribing to a particular belief (theism). It makes no more sense to treat my being an atheist as my ideology than it does to treat your being a non-Muslim as yours.

What I AM is a humanist.

This is disingenuous at best. To say that atheism is just “not subscribing to a particular belief” is to deny everything that atheism entails (requires as part of its package).

Atheism entails that the universe is impersonal and amoral.

Atheism entails that there is no ultimate good (though some atheists will allow for contingent, local, or particular goods).

Likewise and with the same kind of condition attached, atheism entails that there is no ultimate meaning, no ultimate morality, no ultimate beauty, no ultimate purpose for anything.

Atheism entails that the end of physical life is the end of existence.

Atheism entails that all human experience is neuronal/electrical/chemical; and though some atheists have proposed ways to rise above that (some kind of epiphenomenalism, for example), they have never been able to explain it.

Atheism entails the same specifically for human consciousness and rationality.

Atheism entails that if any sense of meaning or purpose is to be found in human life, it is found in the contingent and accidental experience of humans—for even the existence of humans is contingent and accidental.

Atheism entails that what I do today will not matter for very long, a few generations at most.

Atheism entails that every religion is wrong.

Atheism entails that the universe will one day be empty.

Atheism entails that humans and animals and plants and bacteria and rats and pigs and dogs and boys (google the last four) are ontologically the same thing.

Atheism entails that if one chooses humanism as one’s form of atheism, that choice is made for entirely contingent reasons, probably related to one’s nation and culture of birth and upbringing, and that there is no better reason than that to choose humanism as one’s ideology, since atheism provides no reason to choose humans as having any particular value.

So to David Ellis who wrote the quote above, I say go ahead and claim your humanism, but please don’t try to tell me your atheism doesn’t carry any ideological freight with it.