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Basics About Atheism & Agnosticism: What They Are and Are Not


Never has such a simple concept provoked so much misinformation, myths, and bigotry. Atheism is just the absence of belief in gods - nothing more, nothing less. Beyond that atheists may believe or disbelieve absolutely anything.
  1. What is Atheism?
  2. What is Agnosticism?
  3. What Do Atheists Believe?
  4. Myths About Atheism & Atheists
  5. Why Do Atheists Debate Theists?
  1. What if You Are Wrong? Aren't You Afraid of Hell?
  2. Bigotry Against Atheists
  3. Fundamentalist & Militant Atheism
  4. Revealing Your Atheism
  5. Advice for Atheists

What is Atheism?

It is strange that atheism would be so difficult to understand, but it must be - otherwise, there wouldn't be so many arguments over what it means, what it entails, and what significance it has for society. Atheism is just the absence of belief in gods.

What is Agnosticism?

The term agnosticism is used primarily for a single issue: do any gods exist or not? Those who disclaim knowledge of gods or even that such knowledge is possible are labeled agnostics.

What Do Atheists Believe?

People become atheists for many different reasons. Being an atheist isn't a choice or act of will - like theism, it's a consequence of what one knows and how one reasons. Atheists are not all angry, they aren't in denial about gods, and they aren't atheists to avoid taking responsibility for their acts.

Myths About Atheism & Atheists

There are many myths and misconceptions about what atheism entails and who atheists are - not surprising, since even the basic definition of atheism is so misunderstood.

Why Do Atheists Debate Theists?

People might legitimately wonder why atheists debate religious theists over the validity of both theism and religion. Why do they care? Atheists care because religion and theism affect them as well.

What if You Are Wrong? Aren't You Afraid of Hell?

One common logical fallacy is argumentum ad baculum, which literally translated means "argument to the stick" and which is commonly translated to mean "appeal to force." With this fallacy, an argument is accompanied by the threat of violence if the conclusions are not accepted. Many religions are based upon just such an tactic: if you don't accept this religion, you will be punished either by adherents now or in some afterlife. If this is how a religion treats its own adherents, it's not a surprise that arguments employing this tactic or fallacy are offered to nonbelievers as a reason to convert.

Bigotry Against Atheists

Godless atheists are the most despised and discriminated against minority in America. They face bigotry in a wide variety of ways and when it's known that they are godless or secular, their views on various political and social views may be immediately dismissed.

Fundamentalist & Militant Atheism

More and more people are responding to atheist critiques of religion or theism by labeling the person a 'fundamentalist' atheist. Atheists are told that they are 'intolerant' when they criticize religion and that they should show more respect to religious believers. In reality, these complaints are more about how atheists are ceasing to be deferential and obsequious towards religion and religious beliefs.

Revealing Your Atheism

Many atheists hide their atheism from friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family because they are afraid of the reactions of others if they find out. So many religious theists, especially Christians, are intolerant of atheism and atheists that atheists are forced to hide their true feelings. It would be better if more atheists could and did come out of the closet, but they need to be prepared.

Advice for Atheists

People have a lot of questions about atheism and atheists, but such questions don't just come from theists. Atheists also have questions - not only about the nature of atheism and what other atheists think, but about how they should deal with theists, how to deal with telling others about their atheism, marriages, funerals, children, etc.

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