What is Atheism

We explain to you what atheism is, the types of atheism and its relation to agnosticism. In addition, practical and theoretical atheism.

Define Atheism

Atheism is the criticism or denial of all kinds of beliefs metaphysics, mystical or spiritual, that is, is the denial of the existence of a God or deities. The thought is considered contrary to theism, as the name implies.

Those who adhere to atheism are known as atheists. This term that comes from ancient Greek (to-, “without”; theos, “God”), and was used in his time in a derogatory way to refer to peoples who did not revere the pantheon of the Greek Gods.

Subsequently, he was also employed with an almost dangerous connotation for Christianity. In fact, during the middle ages, Atheists were seen as sinners, heretics and unworthy of trust. However, the term was greatly redefined with the emergence of freethinking and scientific skepticism.

Thus it was possible that numerous thinkers of the Illustration from the 18th century they will announce themselves as atheists. Even the French Revolution of 1789 it was considered the bearer of “unprecedented atheism” because it was opposed to what until then was considered the natural order of things: the absolutist monarchy.

There are many arguments for and against atheism, and many ways also to understand and exercise it. It is not always the same to be an atheist than to be non-religious, nor is it the same to be an atheist than to be an agnostic.

In any case, atheists represent 2.3% of the population world (2007 data) and mostly concentrated in East Asia: China (47%) and Japan (31%), as well as in Western Europe (14% on average).

Types of Atheism

There are different ways of classifying and thinking of atheism since there is no official or central institution that orders or configures this type of belief. Some authors propose to think based on opposing categories, such as:

Positive and negative atheism

Also known as strong and weak atheism, they were proposed by philosophers such as the British Antony Flew (1923-2010) or the American Michael Martin (1932-2015), depending on the degree of the vehemence with which the absence of God is assumed. Thus, we have:

  • Positive atheism. He is the one who assumes an active and convinced position regarding the absence of God, assuming as truth the proposition that “God does not exist”.
  • Negative atheism. The most common form of atheism does not consist so much in the belief or conviction that God does not exist, as in unbelief or disbelief in the face of the possible existence of a God.

Implicit atheism and explicit atheism

This other distinction was proposed by the American educator George H. Smith (1949) and is based on the individual’s position against his own belief. In this way, we have:

  • Implicit atheism, when the individual lacks completely theistic beliefs, without professing an open and conscious rejection of them. That is, in your mental order there is no concern about the existence of God because his absence is naturally assumed.
  • Explicit atheism, when the individual has had the opportunity to think and reflect on the existence of God in a conscious and deliberate manner and has ended up assuming his absence as the most reasonable or true criterion.

Atheism, agnosticism and agnostic atheism

We should not confuse the concepts of atheism, that is, the denial of the existence of God, with that of agnosticism, which is something quite different.

The agnostics do not deny the existence of God and of the divine, but they understand it as a matter alien to the experience of the human. That is to say, argue that it is not cognizable nor is it understandable by the humanity, but is on a different and inaccessible level, and therefore should not worry.

However, there is also a variant of thought that constitutes a synthesis of the above, known as agnostic atheism or atheistic agnosticism. This synthesis serves to oppose theistic agnosticism, which claims to have no way to prove the existence of God but believes in it.

So, agnostic atheism part of the impossibility to prove the existence of God, and, using that as an argument, ensures its absence.

Practical atheism and theoretical atheism

Another distinction between the slopes of atheism is that posed by the existence of practical or pragmatic atheism, and a theoretical one, which differs in:

  • Practical atheism. This is called a form of atheism that is implicit in acting, that is, it is not so much a formal statement or part of a debate philosophical, but is present in a way of living life that does not take into account at all the possible existence of a God.
  • Theoretical atheism. Unlike the previous one, it is not a way of acting, but a way of thinking, that is, of reasoning and debating. In this way, it raises ontological arguments about the existence of God or the gods, and fights theistic arguments on a discursive, reflexive and knowledge level.