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What the Ism? Atheism


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Atheism, particularly in the US, is often the subject of hot media debate amongst Christian groups. It made the headlines when the Westboro Baptist Church attacked those who were not "god-fearing", and warned that they would be punished according to Christian fundamentalist belief of hell in the afterlife.

TNS takes a look at what Atheism truly means - "Disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a god."

Of course, this is generally singled down to the Abraham God in Christian and Judaism.

Atheists cite many reasons for a disbelief in God. They do not consider that the world came into creation by a God, but that it can be explained in scientific terms. Another reason is the theory that the world is so full of evil that there cannot be an omniscient God, which originated from the Greek philosopher Epicurus. Others may have lost their faith, or consider that religion has originated many wars. Others are simply disinterested in religion and cannot feel it connects to their lives.

So there is not just one kind atheist. Some people are religious and atheist, such as Buddhists. Buddha did not class himself as a God, but a teacher. Jainism and to some extend Hinduism, which does not identify with one God, accept atheism. There are also agnostics, those who show an interest in religion, but who are not certain if they believe in God or not.

One of the most vocal and well known Atheists is Richard Dawkins, an Oxford academic who has produced many works on the subject of atheism, the most famous being The God Delusion. Dawkins believes that the term atheist is misused, as it is important to point out that many people do not believe in certain religions. He has said: "We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further."

Dawkins believes Religion can be explained as a matter of circumstance and upbringing, such as where one is born and what one's parents believe in, and therefore is a construction we use to explain things we would not otherwise. He is critical of so called personal experiences and miracles as a way of explaining religion, as he believes these are illusions of the mind. Dawkins is a believer in the practically and application of science and considers that "faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence."

Whilst he considers that religion has caused much evil in the world, he recognises its positive movements such as the feminist movement and the abolishment of slavery, but discredits religious belief as their motivation - because whilst a passage of the Bible may suggest slavery is wrong, another can be read as supporting it. To live one's life and make choices based on a belief in scripture and God, whether it has a positive or destructive outcome, is to Dawkins "irrational".

Atheism comes in many different walks of life, and cannot be categorized as one individual.  Before forming an opinion of one's morality and ethos based on their non belief, it is important to look beyond a religious label and understand their view.

Did you know...?

Famous Atheists include Sigmund Freud, John Lennon, George Orwell, and Ernest Hemmingway. Hemmingway said:"All thinking men are atheists", whilst Freud believed that religion was a human construction.


62% of the UK are atheists and agnostics.

With 95 % of people classed as religious, Malta and Turkey are the highest populated believers in Europe.

It is estimated that 2.3% of the world's overall population are atheists.

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