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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: What Is Atheism?

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Don Stewart

The word atheism comes from the Greek prefix a meaning "no or non" and the word theos meaning "god or God." An atheist is one who believes that God does not exist. Simply put, the atheist has no "God beliefs." The atheist explains all of existence in a natural rather than supernatural manner. When he looks at the world around him he sees it as a product of natural forces. The atheist considers religious belief in a God or gods as without ultimate meaning.

The atheist believes that proof of the non-existence of God is available. They contend that there is convincing evidence that God does not exist. Yet the atheist cannot personally know with certainty that God or gods do not exist.

There Are Only Two Possible Ways That We Could Know God Does Not Exist

This is because there are only two possible ways that anyone could know that God did not exist.

1. A Person Must Have Infinite Knowledge To Know God Does Not Exist

Since it is possible that a God exists somewhere in the universe who has not communicated to us, a person would have to have complete knowledge of everything that is going on in every part of the universe to categorically make the claim that God does not exist. Of course if that person had sufficient knowledge to be able to make the statement that God does not exist, they would be all-knowing and then, by definition, they would be God. Otherwise they could not know with certainty whether or not a God or gods do exist.

2. Special Revelation Could Tell Us That God Does Not Exist

Someone could know that God did not exist if they received a special revelation informing them that there exists no God or gods in the universe. But only God Himself could give that special revelation, so this way of denying God's existence is also ruled out.

Therefore a little proof may show that God does exist, while no amount of proof that humanity can gather can ever disprove His existence.

Thus to state that God does not exist is to commit the fallacy of categorical denial. One should more properly say, I do not believe that there is evidence of the existence of God rather than saying there is no God. On that basis, the atheist can then present their case as to why they think God does not exist, and the theist, the one who believes in God, can counter the atheist's arguments of why they believe that God does exist.

There Are Practical And Theoretical Atheists

We need to make the distinction between practical and theoretical atheists. Practical atheists live and speak as though no God exists. They may hold to some belief in God but for all intents and purposes they live their lives without acknowledging God. God does not interfere with their lives, and they do not acknowledge Him with the way they live.

Theoretical atheists claim to hold an intellectual belief that no God exists. They not only live as though no God exists, they also state their belief. Practical atheists far outnumber theoretical atheists.

There Is No Ultimate Right Or Wrong In Atheism

Of course, the logical result of being an atheist is that there are no moral absolutes - no such thing as right and wrong. Although some atheists have a moral code, they certainly do not have to follow any moral standard. This belief system gives the entire world a reason to act in an irresponsible and sinful manner.

The Biblical Comment On Atheism

The Bible makes it clear what it thinks of atheism.

The fool says in his heart there is no God (Psalm 14:1).


Atheism denies the existence of God. They believe there is no convincing evidence that any sort of Deity exists. Yet there is no way that an atheist can know this for certain. The atheist would have to have all knowledge to make such an authoritative claim. Strange as it may sound, only God, whose existence is denied by the atheist, could have the ability to prove that no God exists!

Atheists can also be divided into two groups - practical and theoretical atheists. There are more practical atheists than theoretical atheists. Practical atheists merely live as though God does not exist while theoretical atheists state their denial. Whatever the case may be, God's existence is denied.

The logical result of atheism is to deny any sense of right and wrong. This opens the door to all types of behavior that threaten the very foundation of human societies. The atheist by denying the existence of God not replaces God with himself.

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