Is Atheism Anti Theist?


Due in no small part to the atheist renaissance that has taken place recently due to authors such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, Atheism as a belief has become part of the public eye. While such publicity is helpful in the sense that it provides opportunities for awareness and discussion, it also causes unfortunate misunderstandings to be easily propagated throughout society.

One such misunderstanding is the idea that atheism is naturally anti-theist as opposed to merely the absence of theism. At times like this, it helps to go to the fundamentals, in this case, that means the word itself.

When one examines the word “Atheist“, there are two essential segments of the word that provide its definition: the “a-“and “-theist.” Obviously, the suffix refers to the belief in a god, but the prefix “a-“does not refer to a specific belief or even a denial. It merely refers to an absence of something; a lack, not the opposite.

Though not all connotations directly correlate with their linguistic meanings, this definition helps to understand at least the surface complexities when dealing with any belief system.

It is not completely unheard of to have different degrees of belief in any belief system: after all, one glance at all of the different sects or denominations of faiths around the world show that people can believe the same premise while disagreeing on the details.

While atheism is not a religion, there are still different segments of the population that have differing opinions.

In fact, the very fact that atheism is not a religion fosters such difference: a lack of creed allows each person to come up with their own personal belief and moral code.

It is true that some atheists take the position of anti-theist: that there absolutely cannot be a god, or that they are opposed to the very idea of religion. Nevertheless, the majority of atheists become atheists due to placement of value in the ideas of rationalism, science, and logic; this causes the absolute denial of any belief to be at best impossible, and at worst as dogmatic as the very religion that is being deemed foolish.

Therefore, most atheists take the position that is often known as “weak” atheism: that although a god may possibly exist, they will take the position of passive disbelief. In other words, they will not believe in any god while also not denying the possibility that they could be wrong.

The belief system that religion propagates

Just as religious doctrines can be discussed for hours, days, and weeks with no certain conclusion, so do atheists frequently discuss the intricacies of the belief system that religion propagates. Regardless, it is patently incorrect to describe atheists as people who are actively opposed to religion. It is an unfortunate attempt to box everyone into categories of “for” and “against,” with people on opposing sides being upset or angry at the other.

It is time to move away from such black-and-white positions and acknowledge the vast, beautiful world of gray areas that our society enjoys, whether in religion or simply the experience of life itself.

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