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Myth: Atheism is a Denial of God That Requires Faith

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Misunderstanding the Definition of Atheism:

The most common misunderstanding about atheism involves the definition. Many people insist that atheism is really the denial of the existence of God, but there are two errors here. First, it pretends that atheism is exclusively about their god, the god common to Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Second, it focuses on a narrow sub-set of atheism and atheists to the exclusion of all others. Standard dictionary definitions list "denial of God or gods" second; first comes "disbelief in god or Gods." Disbelief is not the same as denial, it's either the absence of belief or the presence of skepticism.

What do Dictionaries Say About the Definition of Atheism?:

Comprehensive, unabridged dictionaries use "disbelief in God or gods" when defining atheism. When we take a closer look at "disbelieve," we find two senses: an active and a passive. In the passive sense, "disbelieve" simply means "not believe" - thus a person who disbelieves a claim may simply not accept the truth of the claim without going any further, like asserting the opposite. This broad definition of atheism is not new: atheists have been using it since at least the mid 18th century and dictionaries have been using it since at least the late 19th century. Dictionary Definitions of Atheism...

What's the Difference Between Belief & Disbelief?:

Is disbelief in an idea the same as believing that the idea isn't true? No: mere disbelief in the truth of a proposition is not equivalent to the belief that the proposition is false and that the opposite is true. If you make a claim and I disbelieve it, I am not necessarily saying that your claim is false. I may not understand it well enough to say one way or the other. I may lack enough information to test your claim. I may simply not care enough to think about it. There are a variety of reasons why I might disbelieve something and the most basic meaning for disbelief is to simply lack belief. Belief & Disbelief...

What's the Difference Between Atheism & Agnosticism?:

Once it is understood that atheism is merely the absence of belief in any gods, it becomes evident that agnosticism is not, as some assume, a "third way" between atheism and theism. The presence and the absence of a belief in some sort of god exhaust all of the possibilities; thus everyone either has or lacks such a belief. There's nothing in the middle. Agnosticism is not about belief in god but about knowledge — it was coined originally to describe the position of a person who does not claim to know for sure if any gods exist or not. Atheism vs. Agnosticism...

What’s the Difference Between Strong Atheism & Weak Atheism?:

The more common understanding of atheism among atheists, "not believing in any gods," is often called "weak" or "implicit" atheism. The popular misunderstanding of atheism as the denial and explicit rejection of gods is often called "strong" or "explicit" atheism. The division is not absolute: many people may be weak atheists in general, but strong atheists when it comes to specific gods. Few people are weak atheists with all possible gods; not many more are strong atheists with all possible gods. Much more common is a mix of the two, with each being adopted based upon circumstances. Strong & Weak Atheism...

Atheism Requires Faith and Atheists Are as Dogmatic as Theists:

Often theists will try to place atheism and theism on the same plane by arguing that while theists cannot prove that god exists, atheists also cannot prove that god does not exist. This claim often relies upon the erroneous assumption that all propositions are created equal and mistaken ideas about the definition of atheism. Disbelief in gods does not require faith and disbelieving in the existence of gods does not make a person dogmatic. Atheism Does Not Require Faith...

Atheism is a Not a Religion, a Philosophy, an Ideology, or a Belief System:

Because of atheism's long-standing association with freethought, anti-clericalism, and dissent from religion, many people seem to assume that atheism is the same as anti-religion. This, in turn, seems to lead people to assume that atheism is itself a religion - or at least some sort of anti-religious ideology, philosophy, etc. This is incorrect. Atheism is the absence of theism; by itself, it isn't even a belief, much less a belief system, and as such cannot be any of those things. Atheism is Not a Religion, a Philosophy, an Ideology, or a Belief System...

Why Are There Misunderstandings About Atheism?:

Misunderstandings arise because many theists imagine that all atheists fit a narrow, limited concept of atheism. Reliance on dishonest apologists and cheap dictionaries can easily exacerbate the problem. It is also possible that some theists feel that since they are claiming the existence of their god, then anyone who does not agree with them must be claiming the exact opposite — a serious misunderstanding of not only basic logic but also how human beliefs or belief systems operate. Misunderstanding Atheism...

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