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Atheism is not a Belief

Updated on April 1, 2012
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...because you can not believe in nothing. Or let me express it less ambigously: In nothing one can not believe.

You can not believe in something non-existing (at least in your imagination) as to belief is the “opposite” of to know.1 Atheists just do not believe in god and y can not turn that around by saying ok they do not believe in god but it is the same as if they believe in not-god.

As not-god would also have to be defined we would get stuck pretty soon because god often times is omnipresent hence there is no such thing as not-god. And if god was not too omnipresent [there are so many god-groups out there, it is difficult to do justice to all of these ideas] and the carpet in my room was not-god, being an atheist would not mean that one believes in this carpet just because it is not-god.

1An online etymological dictionary defines:

  • To belief derives from Western Germanic ga-laubon meaning: to hold dear, esteem, trust.
  • To know comes from Old English cnawan meaning: to know, perceive; acknowledge, declare.

Belief is a One-Way Road

Also turning the statement above wrongly around would be like saying “I do not believe in Aliens” is the same as “I do believe in non-aliens” or “I do not believe in miracles” means “I do believe in non-miracles”. Believes turned around do not make any sense as obviously there are many not-aliens and non-miracles around us everyday that can clearly be recognized and therefore can not be believed as they are known for pretty sure. Just touch one of those non-aliens around you and you will know for real.

A non-belief in something can never be a belief in the something’s opposite as believing something is a one-way road and turning around is logically forbidden. For an introduction to logic refer to wikipedia.


What is is, What Isn't Isn't

Also it is impossible to prove that something does not exist but quite possible to prove something exists. Of course depending on it’s size and quantity it sometimes might be more difficult to find that proof yet it still is possible. It is impossible to proof that one never took heroin if there is nothing found in blood or hair as residues vanish after a certain time and time machines are not too popular yet. But of course the opposite could be proven quite easily with the same tests. Also you could never prove that you have never hit your child while the opposite is easily recognizable.

For that reason atheists will never be able to prove that god does not exist. But those who believe should be able to do so but fail or resist. Because knowing and believing are opposites, atheists and christians will never come closer to each other. Any discussion about god’s existence is simply unconstructive and senseless, leading nowhere. The discussion about evolution versus “intelligent” design however might show some fruits as there is an overload of facts and logical conclusions on the evolution-side that usually is pretty much ignored by most “designers”. But that’s another article written by someone else.


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    • denkmuskel profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Schmitz 

      6 years ago from Berlin

      I understand now. I had trouble understanding your quote because I read "calling off" instead of calling "off". I like that. Thanks for that "link".

    • denkmuskel profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Schmitz 

      6 years ago from Berlin

      Fascinating and sad at the same time... just listening to On Point. I will listen thoroughly to it to find the analogy and will post it literally later. But I liked Dawkins quoting a British journalist who stated "I have so much respect for you that I can not respect your ridiculous ideas". See you later

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 

      6 years ago from MA

      Thanks for writing. Did you hear Tom Ashbrook's On Point last week on NPR about the rally of atheists on the National Mall in DC? One of the experts made some great analogies about calling atheism a religion. I may have it wrong, but I think he said it would be like calling off a channel on TV or bald a hair color. Something like that.

      Studies have shown that atheists are one of the most untrusted "groups" in our society and that people are less likely to vote for atheists than practically any other "group" (including people who have been married 3 times or who are over 72 years old). Wow.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 

      6 years ago from Ohio, USA

      "nicomp

      So nicomp .. Do you support the position it is possible to prove a negative? Or put another way, is it possible to prove something that does not exist?"

      Atheists assert/believe/proselytize that there is no God. They cannot possibly prove their position, so obviously they are professing faith.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 

      6 years ago from Ohio, USA

      "By your logic you would have to accept as true EVERY single supernatural claim or creature you were presented with as true until proven otherwise."

      Obviously incorrect. You are ignoring my assertion that since you cannot prove God does not exist, you are obligated to rely on your faith that God does not exist. You don't get to pick and choose.

      If you wish to remain logically consistent, which most atheists do, you must admit that you can't disprove the presence of a supernatural being that you assert is not out there. All you have left is your faith that you are correct.

    • Titen-Sxull profile image

      Titen-Sxull 

      6 years ago from back in the lab again

      @nicomp

      "No, it's reality. You don't have proof that God doesn't exist, therefore you are making a faith-based decision."

      By your logic you would have to accept as true EVERY single supernatural claim or creature you were presented with as true until proven otherwise.

      Fairies would be real until disproved.

      Zeus

      Odin

      Allah

      Shiva

      Santa Claus

      Sirens

      Muses

      Mermaids

      In actuality it works the exact opposite of how you described it. The default position is to disbelieve in all of those things until they are proven to actually exist. It is much easier to find evidence FOR the EXISTENCE of something than it is to rule out the existence of something.

      Even if we went with your version of things many of the well-defined god concepts from religions and myths have been satisfactorily disproved by logic, reason and lack of evidence.

      It does not take faith to disbelieve. A child who discovers that his parents are buying, wrapping and giving him the presents on Christmas does not take up a faith-based position to disbelieve in Santa.

    • Robert Pummer profile image

      Robert Pummer 

      6 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      nicomp

      So nicomp .. Do you support the position it is possible to prove a negative? Or put another way, is it possible to prove something that does not exist?

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 

      6 years ago from Ohio, USA

      "One does not require faith to disbelieve in things, that's absurd. "

      No, it's reality. You don't have proof that God doesn't exist, therefore you are making a faith-based decision.

    • Robert Pummer profile image

      Robert Pummer 

      6 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      denk

      fun utube addition ...

    • Robert Pummer profile image

      Robert Pummer 

      6 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Letting those last straws loose when the desire for fact outweighs the promises of faith is not easy, but there is relief when a person realizes no answer is better than a presumption ...

    • denkmuskel profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Schmitz 

      6 years ago from Berlin

      Wikipedia is repelled for scientific purposes with good reason. But the layman, that is sneaking around here, it provides with further links and literary sources. Therefore my recommendation. About the no-thing-ness I have said what I had to say and leave further discussion to others. Thank your for contributing to the discussion. Have a good weekend.

    • Titen-Sxull profile image

      Titen-Sxull 

      6 years ago from back in the lab again

      @ Nicomp

      One does not require faith to disbelieve in things, that's absurd. You don't believe in Santa Claus, fairies or Zeus do you? Yet you wouldn't say you have FAITH that there are no fairies to believe in, or that you require faith to hold no belief in Santa.

      Faith, in the sense used here, is for claims that are SUPER-natural, as in additional to the natural world (the parts of reality that are undeniable or well understood). Saying that an atheist requires faith to not believe in God is like suggesting someone needs faith to believe in the natural world.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 

      6 years ago from Ohio, USA

      "...because you can not believe in nothing. Or let me express it less ambigously: In nothing one can not believe."

      Yeah, you can. You can believe there is nothing. You believe there is no theism to believe in.

      You can't prove there's nothing, so you have faith in nothing being there to believe in.

      Quite simple, actually.

      "For an introduction to logic refer to wikipedia."

      Please, don't. Wikipedia is not an authoritative source on anything.

    • denkmuskel profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Schmitz 

      6 years ago from Berlin

      Thanks Pal -_-,

      I will have to let your comment sink in a bit. I know I feel pain in my lower rips right now and that feeds my believe that they might be a bit broken or worse, bruised. But as soon as my xray comes back I will know and do not have to believe anymore. Hence the opposite-conclusion. But as far as thesises are concerned I have to agree with you. What we know feeds or contradicts what we assume. Then on the other hand I would still differenciate between assumption and belief but that may be a bit to painstaking... Thanks for your contribution.

    • Paladin_ profile image

      Paladin_ 

      6 years ago from Michigan, USA

      A good hub, denk.

      I can only add that I somewhat disagree with your observation that "knowing and believing are opposites." As a skeptic and an atheist, I propose that what we KNOW should inform what we BELIEVE -- and NEVER the other way around, as is far too often the case with religious believers.

    • denkmuskel profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Schmitz 

      6 years ago from Berlin

      Hi Chasuk,

      there is no proposition that god does not exist but just the mere default situation as Titen-Sxull put it there is no-thing that can be believed here. A proposition is something you make up because of some evidence or phenomena. The believe in god is coming from the interpretation of phenomena that people couldn't explain otherwise in early times. No phenomenon, no thesis. And today most things attributed to god -even all so called miracles- can be explained quite well by science. I will add my favourite video to my hub after this discussion. Have a good day.

    • Robert Pummer profile image

      Robert Pummer 

      6 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Right on, Hammer of Thor ...

    • denkmuskel profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Schmitz 

      6 years ago from Berlin

      Nicely put Titen-Sxull. I was about to write a reply myself and will still do so although I think your comment put it down nicely. Let's see if I can take some complexity out of it. I also understand your tiredness. Sometimes it feels like certain people want to drag you on their side ignoring your arguments on why you better stay where you are.

    • Titen-Sxull profile image

      Titen-Sxull 

      6 years ago from back in the lab again

      @Chasuk

      I have to disagree.

      Basically put your definition is: "Atheism is the belief that gods do not exist".

      There is a difference between believing that gods DO NOT EXIST and not believing in any gods. Atheism is not necessarily asserting a position of it's own, it is a null hypothesis, a default position.

      Not all atheists are asserting that god(s) do not exist, particularly agnostic-atheists, so much as they are withholding belief due to lack of evidence. Rejecting the assertion that "one or more god(s) exist" is not the same as accepting as true that "no god(s) exist".

      The issue is, of course, nuanced to a great degree, even among individual atheists. I myself would even profess knowledge (to the degree that we can know) that some Gods simply do not exist (Yahweh for example), but for other Gods, such as deistic watch-maker gods or nebulous pantheistic gods I wouldn't go that far and remain an agnostic-atheist.

      I think that atheism, really, is just non-theism, the absence of belief in deities, everything else after that is tacked on as additional.

      The issue really isn't very clear however and honestly just in typing this response I'm reminded of how tired I am of the constant debate about labels and what we atheists are and should call ourselves. It's almost reminiscent of the No True Scotsman fallacy theists pull, with some definitions of atheism being very exclusive (like when Christians try to say Mormons aren't Christians) and others being very inclusive (like when Christians try to lump Protestants, Mormons, Catholics and all denominations together for strength in numbers).

    • profile image

      Chasuk 

      6 years ago

      All that belief means, in ordinary parlance, is "to accept as true." Therefore, to be an atheist, one accepts as true the proposition that God or gods do nor exist.

    • Titen-Sxull profile image

      Titen-Sxull 

      6 years ago from back in the lab again

      I do think that some god concepts can be disproved to a certain degree, but only those that are defined well enough to be falsifiable. If religion makes testable claims and we disprove those claims we can discount their version of God. Of course there will always be god concepts that cannot be disproved.

      That being said you are absolutely right that atheism is not a belief, it's the absence of belief in deities. Anything else is ADDITIONAL to it, such as agnostic-atheism, gnostic-atheism, etc.

    • Robert Pummer profile image

      Robert Pummer 

      6 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Interesting spin on this subject. Keep up the good work.

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