General Question

squirbel's avatar

What does it mean to be atheist?

Asked by squirbel (4292points) March 2nd, 2008 from iPhone

There are many belief systems in the world; I am looking for thoughtful input. Expound with your personal life journey if it helps!

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18 Answers

delirium's avatar

For me, it means that i’m not religious. That I don’t recognize a god. However it is CONSTANTLY misinterpreted as anti-theism.

The word itself means simply Not Theistic. I am a scientist. I am a Secular Humanist.

Atheism For Me springs from how amazingly weak of a base that religion is. I have studied a Lot of theology, and find it anthropologically fascinating, but I don’t think that it has any right in the secular world.

Belief systems are based on Authority of the supernatural. Science doesn’t have that flaw. Science differs from other belief systems because it requires all statements to be tested. It encourages skepticism and doesn’t ask for you to accept scientific conclusions blindly. I can’t respect being a sheep. Science is self-correcting in that we don’t mind corrections, we think that they’re necessary. Science is also transparent. All experiments must be reproducible. We don’t hide how we arrive at information. Science has very strict rules to keep it realistic. For something to be considered scientific it must be: Observable, Testable, Refutable, Replicatable.

I believe that most people who reject evolution are uneducated about what it actually is. 99.999% of GOOD scientists agree with it.

Is Science Compatible with Religion?
Science and Religion address different phenomena; they require different standards for validity. Problems start when scientists attempt to invalidate religious statements and religious practitioners try to use religion to invalidate scientific data and theory. Intelligent Design is a good example of this—why is that? Because its not testable or refutable.

I believe that strong atheism is built from scientific belief. I don’t think it should be a ‘bad word’. This country was NOT built on christian beliefs. God is not necessary to have morals. Its something that I am very passionate about. The more educated and intelligent someone is the most likely they are to be atheistic. Yet they’re also the most hated group in the world. That doesn’t make sense to me.

I believe that religion is fine for people who need that crutch, but for some of us it only stands to get in the way of Science.

—that bounced around a lot more than i wanted it to, and I apologize for that. I hope my meaning isn’t lost in it… I do respect religion for what it is. I just get very snappy when it interferes in the secular world.—

djbuu's avatar

it means when you die, you die. Nothing more.

lozza's avatar

Now that was an awesome answer.
Couldn’t agree more or put it any better.

fortris's avatar

Umm, I agree with delirium. I don’t think I could, in any way, put it better. But since I don’t want my answer to be just tat, I would say any person that does not believe in a god or celebrate religion and dosent believe in any form of afterlife.

Breefield's avatar

To me Atheism, or in my case, being Agnostic is about not falling to said crutch of faith. I can’t live a life based on beliefs and rules that just don’t add up to me. I don’t understand why I need a higher power to set down these rules for me to follow in order to be a better person, I’d rather just being able to do that myself. Like delirium said, just because someone is Athiest doesn’t mean they don’t have morals.
Something I can’t stand it when my dad asks me to define things like right and wrong to him, because he’s hardcore Christian. I doubt he could even do that, so I never give him an answer.

Really that’s about it. I don’t need religion to function. But also I don’t really think there is a god, but as things go, I’m not sure about that.

PupnTaco's avatar

It means Nothing.

cwilbur's avatar

Just as all Christians wind up associated with the few loud nutcases, atheists are associated with the few loud atheists who are stridently and evangelically anti-theist.

Atheists believe that there is no God. Some of them are quiet about it; others are not.

squirbel's avatar

Thank you all for the answers!

What I am looking for is more of a list (short or long) of what you believe. It is widely known that atheism is not organized, and is rather full of independent thinkers. Each person has different experiences and I am looking for more info!

Thanks again!

thegodfather's avatar

Sorry, but the word “atheism” in the English language does have a definition regardless of what individual atheists may claim. Now, an atheist may also be a scientist or a secular humanist, but that doesn’t mean that the definition for atheism must include science or secularism. An apple may have a worm in it, or may be green, or may be yellow, and these do not change the definition of an apple.

So, to answer the question, the accepted definition from the Oxford English Dictionary is “the theory or belief that God does not exist.” Simple.

When encountering individual atheists, it’s important to recognize their individual cosmologies, because with such a broad definition for atheism, there are bound to be varied beliefs within atheism. It’s too general to assume that all atheists will believe in evolution, but we can say that all atheists believe that God does not exist, otherwise it’s not atheism.

squirbel's avatar

@thegodfather: I understand that there are so many variances: that is why I asked. I am not looking for an umbrella definition.

delirium's avatar

thegodfather: I do know what it means (in the dictionary), but I also know what it implies to most people… and I know what it implies for me.

Noon's avatar

Just to add a bit to the discussion, but I would also like everyone to contemplate the concept of ignosticism. Where as atheism presupposes the concept of “god” does exist, ignostics don’t believe you can talk about “god” existing or not existing if none of us agree on what the word “god” means.

Looking at it from a scientific perspective, how can you really say god doesn’t exist, if you don’t actually know what god is to say he doesn’t exist in the first place.

personally I’m an Ignostic Discordian.

lozza's avatar

Here’s a list:

- I believe in evolution.- I believe Life IS God in some way that we can’t really define.

- I believe science will gradually explsin & uncover everything but the further we go, the more complex it will all become.

- I don’t believe in any God that has been defined before now.
– If the human race is going to progress, we need to forget about religion and take some responsibility for our actions. Religion is no excuse.

scamp's avatar

I did a little googling and found this:
Secular humanism describes a world view with the following elements and principles:[2]

Need to test beliefs – A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted on faith.
Reason, evidence, scientific method – Commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, in seeking solutions to human problems and answers to important human questions.
Fulfillment, growth, creativity – A primary concern with fulfillment, growth, and creativity for both the individual and humankind in general.
Search for truth – A constant search for objective truth, with the understanding that new knowledge and experience constantly alter our imperfect perception of it.
This life – A concern for this life and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us.
Ethics – A search for viable individual, social and political principles of ethical conduct, judging them on their ability to enhance human well-being and individual responsibility.
Building a better world – A conviction that with reason, an open exchange of ideas, good will, and tolerance, progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and our children.
A Secular Humanist Declaration was an argument for and statement of belief in Democratic Secular Humanism. The document was issued in 1980 by The Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism (CODESH), now the Council for Secular Humanism (CSH).

Relationship to other concepts

It’s not for me, but you won’t find me typing for hours and getting angry at people that don’t have the same beliefs I do. I would much rather listen to other’s views, possibly discuss them without argument and maybe learn something new. so I guess what I am saying is if you want me to hear what you are saying, tell me in a polite way. I promise not to try and ram my beliefs down your throat, after all, you are free to believe what you choose, just as I am. Now, with that said, can anyone tell me if secular humanism and atheism are the same thing? I am curious about this.

delirium's avatar

no. Not all atheists are humanists but one can be both.

El_Cadejo's avatar

“An atheist is just someone who feels about about God just the same way as any decent Christian feels about Thor or Zeus. As it has been said before we are all atheists of most of the gods humanity has believed in. Some of us just go one god further. ”

delirium's avatar

Hahaha. I have that on my wall, batman!

Critter38's avatar

What does it mean to be an atheist? Not a lot. The term clarifies only that which it denies. Frankly the term sucks, about as informative as being an a-astrologer, or an a-fairies at the bottom of the garden.

I suggest, the process by which one becomes an atheist matters far more than the outcome. I only say this because I imagine that for people of faith, the outcome matters far more (Christian, Muslim, Hindu), than the process by which you get there (family, culture, choice). I think this is an important distinction.

To say it again from another post, an atheist who is so because his parents are atheists, or because their nations communist dogma promoted this view etc… is not the same as an atheist who gets to this endpoint through critical free thought. it is that priocess that really tells you what it “means” to be an atheist… For example, I may have as little in common with an atheist who didn’t believe in religion because Mao’s little red book said not to, as I would with a Christian who believed Jesus was the son of god because the bible said so.

From Scamps question, secular humanism tells you more about the values a person espouses than the term atheist if you are trying to get to the heart of someone’s worldview. For instance, I learn more about delirium from knowing that she is a secular humanist, than if she just wrote that she was an atheist.

I would also imagine that agnostics are not uncommon amongst secular humanist..depends on definitions to be honest. So as delirium pointed out some atheists are not humanists…I would also suggest that some humanists are not atheists (probably most, but not all).

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