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Philosophy of Atheism


Karlo O. Arayata

Course & Section:

BSIT (IT201)




Sir Jumel G. Estrañero

Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism
is the rejection of belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the
position that there are no deities. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which, in its most general form, is the
belief that at least one deity exists.

The term “atheist” describes a person who does not believe that God or a divine being exists. Worldwide
there may be as many as a billion atheists, although social stigma, political pressure, and intolerance
make accurate polling difficult.

There have been many thinkers in history who have lacked a belief in God. Some ancient Greek
philosophers, such as Epicurus, sought natural explanations for natural phenomena. Epicurus was also to
first to question the compatibility of God with suffering. Forms of philosophical naturalism that would
replace all supernatural explanations with natural ones also extend into ancient history. During the
Enlightenment, David Hume and Immanuel Kant give influential critiques of the traditional arguments for
the existence of God in the 18th century. After Darwin (1809-1882) makes the case for evolution and
some modern advancement in science, a fully articulated philosophical worldview that denies the
existence of God gains traction. In the 19th and 20th centuries, influential critiques on God, belief in God,
and Christianity by Nietzsche, Feuerbach, Marx, Freud, and Camus set the stage for modern atheism.
We can divide the justifications for atheism into several categories. For the most part, atheists have
taken an evidentialist approach to the question of God’s existence. That is, atheists have taken the view
that whether or not a person is justified in having an attitude of belief towards the proposition, “God
exists,” is a function of that person’s evidence. “Evidence” here is understood broadly to include a priori
arguments, arguments to the best explanation, inductive and empirical reasons, as well as deductive and
conceptual premises. An asymmetry exists between theism and atheism in that atheists have not offered
faith as a justification for non-belief. That is, atheists have not presented non-evidentialist defenses for
believing that there is no God.

Not all theists appeal only to faith, however. Evidentialists theist and evidentialist atheists may have a
number of general epistemological principles concerning evidence, arguments, and implication in
common, but then disagree about what the evidence is, how it should be understood, and what it implies.
They may disagree, for instance, about whether the values of the physical constants and laws in nature
constitute evidence for intentional fine tuning, but agree at least that whether God exists is a matter that
can be explored empirically or with reason.

Many non-evidentialist theists may deny that the acceptability of particular religious claim depends upon
evidence, reasons, or arguments as they have been classically understood. Faith or prudential based
beliefs in God, for example, will fall into this category. The evidentialist atheist and the non-evidentialist
theist, therefore, may have a number of more fundamental disagreements about the acceptability of
believing, despite inadequate or contrary evidence, the epistemological status of prudential grounds for
believing, or the nature of God belief. Their disagreement may not be so much about the evidence, or
even about God, but about the legitimate roles that evidence, reason, and faith should play in human
belief structures.

It is not clear that arguments against atheism that appeal to faith have any prescriptive force the way
appeals to evidence do. The general evidentialist view is that when a person grasps that an argument is
sound that imposes an epistemic obligation on her to accept the conclusion. Insofar as having faith that a
claim is true amounts to believing contrary to or despite a lack of evidence, one person’s faith that God
exists does not have this sort of inter-subjective, epistemological implication. Failing to believe what is
clearly supported by the evidence is ordinarily irrational. Failure to have faith that some claim is true is
not similarly culpable.

Justifying atheism, then, can entail several different projects. There are the evidential disputes over what
information we have available to us, how it should be interpreted, and what it implies. There are also
broader meta-epistemological concerns about the roles of argument, reasoning, belief, and religiousness
in human life. The atheist can find herself not just arguing that the evidence indicates that there is no
God, but defending science, the role of reason, and the necessity of basing beliefs on evidence more

All atheists are different. The only common thread that ties all atheists together is a lack of belief in
gods. Some of the best debates we have ever had have been with fellow atheists. This is because
atheists do not have a common belief system, sacred scripture or atheist Pope. This means atheists often
disagree on many issues and ideas. Atheists come in a variety of shapes, colors, beliefs, convictions, and
backgrounds. We are as unique as our fingerprints.