Atheism is a Philosophical Denial of the Existence of God


A more active stance affirms the nonexistence of God, and proposes positive belief rather than mere suspension of disbelief

Materialism (the disbelief in the spiritual realm), naturalism, the theory of evolution, and humanism stem inexorably from this world view. Atheism is a rejection of claims for the existence of God. A more active stance affirms the nonexistence of God, and proposes positive belief rather than mere suspension of disbelief. Atheism is derived from the Greek word “atheos” – “a” meaning no or withoutand “theos” meaning God.

Ancient history of atheism tends to begin with the Hellenistic period ushered in by Alexander the Great, and is of general prominence within the history of atheism. The epicurean historian of various philosophical schools Philodemus (110 to 35 BC) recognized essentially three schools of thought. Firstly those who did not know if gods existed (agnosticism), those who explicitly denied gods existing and then the implicit yet still clear denial. It is this classical time period, as it is labeled, that shows a type of soft atheism. The sketch during antiquity later drawn out and developed after the middle ages.

Anaxagoras (ca. 500–428 b.c.) settled in the heart of intellectual life in Athens, Greece and actually challenged the divine presupposition the Greeks had about nature. In other words Anaxagoras challenged the Greek view that the Sun was divine and essentially theorized it was molten metal. It may not sound like much but within the history of atheism it is an astonishing turning point toward atheistic philosophy.

During the twenty-first century a new type of atheism is being characterized by prominent and popular spokesman, philosophers and scientists alike. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens, to name a few, are the most vocal. They often refer to themselves in mocking terms as the four-horsemen of the new atheism. What specifically sets new atheism apart from atheism of antiquity or twentieth century atheism even, is that new atheism is undiplomatic in approach. The new atheists are very anti-supernatural, and thus anti-religious, considering scientism the only means to knowledge. As an epistemology scientism is propped up by new atheists to differentiate between knowledge that is just a belief or true belief and what is justified true belief. It is from this vantage point the new atheists tend to rail against religious and theological language as lacking any substantive meaning because it does not contain meaning that can be empirically verified. Maintaining a consistently hostile and militant tone within writings and debates against Christianity specifically and theism more generally the obvious metaphysics of new atheism is usually that of strict materialism and naturalism.

In addition, recently there have been a number of attempts by the new atheists to redefine the meaning of atheism in order to shift the burden of proof in relation to the question of the existence of God. However they may define the burden of proof, philosophically speaking the burden of proof is clear for a successful defense of atheism…


image credit: Anderson