Wednesday, September 6, 2017
No, Atheism Is Not a Belief System
One common claim that some theists like to make is that atheism is some sort of “belief system,” presumably to compare it to their own belief system and to imply that both systems are therefore equally valid. Atheists usually respond by saying this is ridiculous since atheism is a lack of belief and therefore cannot possibly be a belief anything, let alone a belief system. Now, it’s certainly true that calling atheism a belief system is ridiculous, but the reason is slightly more nuanced than simply “a lack of belief can’t be a belief system.”
As mentioned above, most atheists like to claim that atheism is nothing more than a lack of belief in God, while many theists like to claim that it’s actually an affirmative belief that God doesn’t exist. And, depending on the atheist, there’s actually some truth to both views, as I discuss here:
Which is to say that, no matter how much some atheists want to deny it, there are atheists who strongly believe that God doesn’t exist to the point where they are willing to claim that they know — as surely as they know anything — that God doesn’t exist.
Whether an atheist lacks a belief in God or whether they believe God does not exist, there is no way at all that this represents any sort of “belief system” whatsoever. There is simply no system involved, and it does not make up any sort of worldview.
Theists tend to have a belief in God as their foundational worldview, the lens through which they view all of life. Where did we come from? From God. Why are we here? God put us here to worship Him. Where are we going after this life? It depends on whether we obey God’s will or not. Where did the universe come from? God did it. Why is there suffering in the world? God has His reasons. Why is nature so amazingly beautiful? Thank God (“How Great Thou Art”)!
As a result, theists naturally assume that atheists must also have some sort of foundational worldview, some sort of lens through which we view all of life. And, since their worldview is based on a belief that God exists, our worldview must be based on a belief that God does not exist.
Except, this just is not the case.
If you ask atheists where did humans come from, they may have an answer based in current scientific theories or they may have no answer at all, but they won’t just say, “We didn’t come from God” as if that explained anything.
If you ask an atheist why we are here on earth, they may or may not have an answer, but they won’t just say, “we weren’t put here by God” as if that explained anything.
If you ask atheists what happens after death, they may or may not have an answer, but they won’t just say, “it depends on whether we disbelieved in God” as if that explained anything.
If you ask atheists where the universe came from, they may or may not have an answer, but they won’t just say, “God didn’t do it” as if that explained anything.
If you ask atheists why there is suffering in the world, they may or may not have an answer, but they won’t just say, “because God doesn’t exist” as if that explained anything.
And if you ask atheists why nature is so amazingly beautiful, once again they may or may not have an answer, but they won’t just say “God didn’t do it” as if that explained anything.