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Myth-Defining Atheism: Common Myths About the Definition of Atheism

Religious theists and apologists often have a lot invested in false definitions of atheism. Many of their arguments in defense of theism and against atheism are dependent upon misrepresentations of what atheism is, so it's not hard to imagine why they would be desperate to find some basis for rejecting the truth when atheists explain to them what atheism really is. As a consequence, a number of myths about the definition of atheism have developed; fortunately, they are easy to refute.

Myth: A Lack of Belief is Still a Belief, so Atheism is a Belief in No God
When religious theists are informed that atheism is not 'belief that God does not exist,' as they previously assumed, but rather that atheism is really defined as the 'lack of belief in the existence of any gods' or simply 'disbelief in gods,' many get defensive. Perhaps they cannot accept being mistaken about something, or perhaps they realize...

Myth: Atheists Cannot 'Lack Belief in God' After Learning About God
Christians' objections to defining atheism as simply the absence of belief in gods can extend to blatant misrepresentation of what should be a simple concept in order to divert attention from what atheism really is. In the case of this myth, we find that people will inexplicably distort the simple nature of "not believing the truth of a proposition" in order to pretend that it's not possible to merely lack belief in the truth of someone's claims. This makes the myth easy to refute.

Myth: Defining Atheism as a 'Lack of Belief in God' is a Cop Out
I've written a number of articles about how religious theists, but especially Christians, try to argue against the broad definition of atheism as simply the absence of belief in gods. This myth explains why this is so important to some theists: if atheism is just the absence of belief in gods, then it's not making any claims that all atheists...

Myth: Agnosticism is the Suspension of Belief; Atheism Asserts a Belief
One popular tactic used by religious theists (usually Christians) is to confuse the differences between agnosticism and atheism in order to insist that atheists aren't 'really' atheists, but agnostics. There seems to be the hope that by misrepresenting both as two points along a continuum with theism, then atheists can be convinced that they are...

Atheists Define Themselves By What They are Opposed To?
Because atheists are so often involved in criticizing religion, sometimes very strongly, theists can develop the perception that atheism is a belief system characterized by being against everything: against religion, against theism, against Christianity, against God, etc. That people would develop this perception is understandable, but it's...

Myth: Atheism is Defined by the Dictionary as a Religion
Some say that atheism because the definition of religion is a 'cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.' This definition of religion, however, refers to systems that are metaphorically religious, like sports or hobbies, and not actual religions like Christianity.

Myth: Atheism is Incompatible with Belief in Souls or Spirits
Since atheists don't believe in any gods, does this mean that atheists cannot believe in anything supernatural or paranormal, including souls or spirits?

Myth: Believing Something You Can't Know or Prove is a Religion
Is atheism a religion because atheists cannot prove that no gods exist? Some claim that religions are defined as beliefs that cannot be proven or known to be true, but this is false.

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