Atheism: Definition, Detailed Explanation and its History


The best place to start is with the definition of Atheism.

Atheism: Linguistically atheism means ‘not a theist’; in other words, someone who does not believe in a God or gods.
The prefix “A” means none or not, and “theism”, coming from the word theos, denotes a ‘belief in the existence of an intervening God or gods’.
Both come from Greek, but relying on the literal meaning is not enough to explain the implications of the term.

So,

  • What does disbelief in a God or gods imply?
  • Does it indicate that the one who describes himself as an atheist has positive arguments in favour of atheism?
  • Does it mean that they are currently not convinced by any theistic arguments?
  • Does it mean that they just do not believe in any gods?

Academics have not reached a consensus on a definition for atheism, but my concern is not with philosophical hair-splitting. This article will focus is a practical one.

Let’s address the first question that may arise.

Does it indicate that the one who describes himself as an atheist has positive arguments in favour of atheism?

Does an atheist have positive arguments in favour of atheism?

In this sense, an atheist is someone who makes a knowledge claim—that there is no God. Nevertheless, such a claim requires justification. The claim is a positive assertion, and it requires some sort of argument to back it up.

Therefore, this type of atheist must provide evidence for their position.

This leads us to the second question:

Does it mean that the atheist is currently not convinced by any theistic arguments?

This seems to be far removed from atheism and is entering into the realm of agnosticism. Holding such a position would imply that if a good argument were offered for God’s existence, they would have to accept it.

Finally, we have the question:

Does it mean that an atheist person is someone who just does not believe in any gods?

If an atheist disbelieves based on mere choice, in the absence of any rational investigation, then how does that differ from any other belief, whether it is the belief in fairies or astrology?

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