What is Atheism Talktorial

Our first Talktorial for 2014, Tuesday the 4th of March

What is Atheism

Atheism is often described as ‘the belief that no gods exist’ however this is a common misunderstanding.  It is often described this way so as to make it a position of faith and to shift the burden of proof.  The basic definition of atheism is reflected in the latin roots of the word. 

A meaning (without), and Theism (the belief in a god or gods)

So the basic definition of atheism is ‘lack of belief in god/gods’, it is a middle ground occupying the indeterminate position of insufficient evidence to be convinced to form a belief either way on the existence of a god /gods. 


Statement X

 (Does God exists)





(not exactly known or determined)



This ‘middleground’ is often thought of as agnosticism because of its common assumption of being a ‘sitting on the fence’ position. However Agnosticism and Gnosticism are actually a position of knowledge not belief and are compatible with both atheism and theism. Agnosticism is the view that nothing is or can be known of the existence of a proposed phenomenon, while Gnosticism is the view that that something can.

From these two terms we get the two types of atheism. Below is a diagram showing the relationship between belief and knowledge.

Weak atheism: is the combination and atheism and agnosticism. Atheist because they lack a belief in a god or gods and Agnostic because they don’t claim to know there is no god or gods. This is the basic ‘lack of belief’ position that most, if not all atheist are.

Strong atheism: is the combination of atheism and gnosticsm. Atheist because they lack a belief in god or gods and gnostic because they claim to know there is a god /gods. This position explicitly denied the existence of a god/gods, and so becomes a positive assertion. At first this looks just as dogmatic as theism, however that depends on the definition of god/gods.

·         If someone defined God as “a single supernatural being that created the universe”.  Weak atheism would be the appropriate position, because we have no way demonstrate the existence or non existence of such a being.

·         But if someone defined God as “Omnipotence (all powerful), Omniscience (all knowing), Omnibenevolence  (all good) and Omnipresent” Gnostic  atheism would be the appropriate position because the characteristics attributed to that being would make it logically impossible.

Eg Problem of Evil (those qualities conflict with reality) or the Omniscience – Omnibenevolence paradox (how can god know what it like to want to sin and be all good?)

Some /sects/branch/movement category’s of atheism are (and I totally didn’t Wikipedia this)

Antitheism:  Antitheism is active opposition to theism. It first requires the belief that theism is harmful to the believer, harmful to society, politics etc. Secondly that theism should be countered in order to reduce this harm. Antitheists not only argue for the end of belief in god or gods because it is mistaken and irrational, but because they believe it are detrimental to humanity. Not all atheists are antitheist, and not all those who are, aren’t anti theist all the time or about all subjects.

New Atheism: is a social and political movement in favour of atheism and secularism and with the view that religion should not simple be tolerated but should be countered and criticised whenever possible, as well as push for secularism. The New Atheist movement was inspired by a collection of modern atheist writers such as Christopher Hitchins, Richard Dawkins, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennant. It has resulted in the increase of debate on the subject as well as an upsurge in atheist groups, student societies, publications, blogs and public appearances to do with atheism.

Atheist Plus: dedicated to promoting social justice along with skepticism and critical thinking, and countering misogyny, racism, homophobia/biphobia/transphobia, ableism and other such bigotry inside and outside of the atheist community. It is a newer movement of atheism that was started in response to the sexism problem in the modern atheism movment that was highlighted but the sexual harassment and misogynistic backlash of boobquake and Elevatorgate. We will be giving a talktorial on this later in the semester.

So to recap:

  • ·         Weak atheism: I lack of belief
  •       Strong Atheism: I can prove shit
  • ·         Antitheism: down with theism
  •           New Atheist: actually, I think you’re wrong
  •       Atheist plus: check you’re privelage!

So, this all being said, atheism, by itself is completely uninformative of what atheists DO believe, it is a label about what they do not.  So that’s enough for what atheists don’t believe, our next few talktorials will be about things that many atheists do derive their beliefs from, such as scepticism, secularism and humanism.

Our next talk on Skepticism will be on Tuesday, 11th March at 13:00-13:45, Alexander LT (G.57, Arts) – https://www.facebook.com/events/697582240292055/

Hope to see you all there!

Lawson Regan, UASS President


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