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Austin Cline

Atheists Believe In Nothing?

By July 11, 2004

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One common misunderstanding about atheism is the idea that atheists believe in nothing. Apparently, the absence of any beliefs means that when the government fails to promote Christianity, it must the necessarily be promoting atheism. Make sense? Of course not - itís idiotic, but some people believe it.

Robert Rinearson writes in the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel:

Recently, in a blatant attempt to force a set of beliefs down the throats of the citizens of Marion, the mayor ordered the removal of the Ten Commandments from city hall. This forces all who now enter city hall to have to gaze upon the beliefs of atheists everywhere ó which is, of course, nothing!

So, the absence of the Ten Commandments is the same as the presence of atheist beliefs? To call such a statement absurd would be far too kind. Frankly, itís the sort of thing one could only expect from someone without the slightest understanding about atheism, logic, or even rudimentary critical thinking. That, apparently, describes Robert Rinearson perfectly:

Personally I donít want to believe in nothing. I want to believe in something. Why should I be subjected to having to witness that which embodies the atheist belief on government property? All across this nation, our courts are supporting the atheist religion in removing other religious and historical displays.

Actually, Rinearson should want to learn how to think coherently. The government doesnít put up signs that embody atheist beliefs when it removes signs that promote his Christian beliefs. Thatís just the pathetic whining of someone who canít get over the fact that the government doesnít have the authority to promote his religion.

Itís instructive that Rinearson doesnít even attempt to offer a defense of why the government should be promoting his religious beliefs. Why not? Perhaps because he has figured out that such promotion would be wrong, but of course he canít admit that. No, it would be easier to simply attack atheists by distorting what atheism is and pretending that he actually knows something about the subject.

How can anyone deny that atheism is itself a religion?

Itís easy, Bob: religion is a type of system of beliefs; atheism is the absence of a particular belief (in the existence of gods). Because atheism isnít even a single belief, much less a system of beliefs, it isnít possible for atheism to be a religion. This is pretty simple logic ó but as we have already seen, Robert Rinearson doesnít know the first thing about logic.

If atheists will show tolerance and allow the Ten Commandments a place in the hallways of our government institutions, then Iím sure that traditional religious organizations will in return allow a blank place on the wall next to the Ten Commandments. What do you say?

I say that the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel to even consider publish a column from someone like this. Robert Rinearson is supposed to be a ďProfessional Conflict Mediator Fort Wayne Community Schools,Ē but I pity the children whose conflicts Rinearson allegedly mediates. If Rinearsonís idea of ďcompromiseĒ is for the government to promote his religion while also promoting his distortions about atheism, then I shudder to think about the ďcompromisesĒ he recommends to students.

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Comments
March 16, 2009 at 5:05 pm
(1) FutureEchoes says:

I’m sorry… I’m confused. You began this article to explain why atheists believe in nothing is not true but give no reasoning to support this… its a little misleading.

March 16, 2009 at 5:08 pm
(2) FutureEchoes says:

sorry i meant “I’m sorry… I’m confused. You began this article to explain that atheists believing in nothing is simply not true but give no reasoning to support this… its a little misleading as a title.”

March 16, 2009 at 5:40 pm
(3) Austin Cline says:

sorry i meant “I’m sorry… I’m confused. You began this article to explain that atheists believing in nothing is simply not true

I did? I thought the article was about how silly it is to think that not promoting Christianity is the same as promoting atheism.

but give no reasoning to support this… its a little misleading as a title.”

Since “believe in nothing” or “believe nothing” is absurd on its face, what needs to be said in support of dismissing such a claim?

June 17, 2009 at 9:16 pm
(4) Steven Parker says:

It is somewhat astounding what some Christians let themselves believe in the name of comfort. And of course it is inherent in the dogma that they believe what they are told, so it is no surprise that their arguments are poorly thought out and are in fact usually just the words of some elder, regurgitated to give the impression of actual cognitive effort.
Honestly guys, if you want to believe in a great beard in the sky, that’s fine. Try and inflict your fairy tales on the rest of us, and we will resent it.

Most Australians are not Christian, live with it.

May 5, 2012 at 2:12 am
(5) MyOwn says:

Don’t limit this to Christians, although they tend to be the worst offenders of pushing there beliefs on others and general evilness. Both seem to need validation from others in varying degrees. Having said that, Atheists have definitely been more kind to me than Christians.

January 1, 2013 at 9:39 pm
(6) Shazbot says:

I came here hoping to learn something. Instead, I get a Strawman argument against a particular brand (fundamentalist) of Christianity.
Everyone believes in something, some notion or idea, as true. Why not make this article about what atheists widely believe, or maybe why atheists reject any notion of divinity or higher power beyond, for example, the empirical? That kind of article would not have wasted my time.

January 3, 2013 at 4:13 pm
(7) Austin Cline says:

I came here hoping to learn something. Instead, I get a Strawman argument against a particular brand (fundamentalist) of Christianity.

Then you should be able to point out where that argument appears

Everyone believes in something, some notion or idea, as true.

And?

Why not make this article about what atheists widely believe

There is no belief which all atheists have in common.

or maybe why atheists reject any notion of divinity or higher power beyond, for example, the empirical?

They only lack belief in gods.

That kind of article would not have wasted my time.

So, it wasted your time to learn that atheists don’t “believe in nothing,” as is so commonly claimed? So why read an article with exactly that title?

April 21, 2013 at 4:17 pm
(8) Daniel Person says:

How can you say “There is no belief which all atheists have in common,” and then say that “atheists don’t believe in nothing.” Isn’t that self-contradictory?

April 22, 2013 at 6:50 am
(9) Austin Cline says:

Isn’t that self-contradictory?

No. There is no contradiction between saying that atheists don’t have any beliefs in common and that atheists don’t all believe something. Quite the opposite: the second can only be true because the first is true.

If you think there is a contradiction, why don’t you explain where you think it lies?

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