One thing that True Believers seem to misunderstand (either deliberately or innocently) is what atheism is and what it most definitely is not. The other day I posted part of a conversation between my husband and a friend of his. The friend said, "I will even state that atheists are people of faith, for they wholeheartedly believe that there is no God. That is an even greater faith than any religion, for even believers can have a lapse of faith while atheists never will."

Really? Does Enoch believe that nonsense? Can you hear my eyes rolling up into the back of my head? This kind of mindlessness makes me crazy. So here are some explanations of what atheism is and is not:

Atheism1 is a lack of belief in a god. It is the absence of belief that any deities exist. That’s it.

  • Atheism is not a rejection of God. You can’t reject something you don’t believe in. Do you reject Santa? No. You just know he doesn’t exist, due to overwhelming evidence (and lack of evidence) and common sense (among other reasons).

  • Atheism is not a belief. Atheism is a lack of and absence of belief. The word atheism is Greek in origin: atheos meaning “without god”. A belief2 is something believed or accepted as true, especially a particular tenet or a body of tenets accepted by a group of persons. When I say I’m an atheist, I am merely saying I don’t believe in gods, I am not making any claim as to what I do believe in.

  • Atheism is not a denial of God. Again, I can’t deny something that doesn’t exist. I don’t deny Bigfoot either.

  • Atheism is not a rebellion against God. How can I rebel against something that I’m fairly confident doesn’t exist? I don’t rebel against aliens from Mars either.

  • It does not take faith to be an atheist. In fact, it’s the opposite of faith. Faith3 is belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. This is the antithesis of how many atheists develop their worldviews. Most of us pointedly go out of our way to look for evidence. That’s why we are atheists. Because there is no evidence. So saying we have faith makes no sense.

If you try to define it in these ways you are poisoning the well4 and not being objective. Just because you might want to define atheism in terms that assume the existence of your deity doesn't mean your god’s existence is a fact.

It’s impossible to prove a negative. I can’t prove that there are no fairies in my garden. That’s just the way it is. But proving God exists also seems to be impossible. Proving that any god exists is impossible. But proving the Christian god exists is also problematic. So no one can definitively say they know God exists or doesn’t. 5

If you call yourself a Christian, you are also an atheist. You don’t believe in Krishna, right? So you lack a belief in the Hindu gods, and all the rest. I am like you, I just go one god further.

Once you get to the heart of what atheism is, you’ll find that each person is individual. For instance, my main reason for being an atheist is that there is zero evidence for deities or the supernatural. This is common among my godless friends. But other atheists have other ways of reasoning to the same lack of belief in gods.

Once someone comes to the conclusion that there are no gods, then that’s where other philosophies and science take over. For instance, many godless people call themselves Humanists. Some don’t like the word atheist, since they can’t know for certain, so they prefer agnostic. It’s very personal and it usually takes a person awhile to figure out what they do believe once they are confident that there are no gods. I talked more about the labels here: Agnostic/Atheist/Skeptic


  1. Atheism

  2. Belief

  3. Faith

  4. Poisoning the well

  5. The Spectrum of Theistic Probability

By the way, this is just a brief list of what I think atheism is and isn't. Feel free to comment below or email me if you have something that belongs on the list!

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