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An atheist is a person who does not believe in any gods. Atheism is the corresponding philosophical position. This commonly used definition does not assume any positive claim of the nonexistence of a god.


Types of atheism

Strong atheism

Main article Strong atheism

A "strong" atheist is one who positively asserts that "there is no god". Strong atheism is the form of atheism that most theists reference in debates, since most don't know the distinction between strong and weak atheism, however strong atheists are rarer than most people think.

As a general concept, god is very vague, with specific incarnations being very well defined. Well defined gods are easy to disbelieve, it's the claim that god as a concept is false that separates strong atheists from most weak atheists.

For the above reason, strong atheism is sometimes criticized for "requiring faith." But this is not necessarily true. One could argue that it depends on how you define god. If by god you mean an infinite being, then you have certain logical contradictions. The omnipotence paradox for example. If you mean a finite being, the strong atheist may deny its status as a god, as it could be surpassed, and may only be very advanced extra terrestrial life.

Weak atheism

Main article Weak atheism

A "weak" atheist is one who doesn't claim that there is no god, but instead simply lacks belief in a god. This form of atheism is the most common, and is sometimes called "agnostic atheism" (see our discussion of atheist vs. agnostic).

Weak atheists often argue that theirs is the only rational position, as both theism, and strong atheism make positive claims.


Apart from not believing in any gods, there is no official atheist doctrine. There is no atheist pope, no atheist church, and no atheist rules to live by. This does not mean that atheists do not also follow societal and legal rules, but it does mean that there is nothing specific about atheism that tells you how you should live. However, there are comprehensive philosophical positions that include atheism as a part of the overall philosophy, secular humanism being the most well-known example.

Other views

Not everyone (not even all atheists) agree with the definitions above. For instance, the authors of Evil Bible seem to define atheism as denial of the existence of any gods, or the (positive) belief that there are no gods. Richard Dawkins, author of the God Delusion, does reserve the terms theism, agnosticism and atheism on a Spectrum of Theistic Probability from 1 (I know that a God does exist) to 7 (I know that a God does not exist). In other words, that "atheist" is synonymous with "strong atheist", above.

See also

v · d Atheism
Terminology   Etymology of the word atheist · Weak atheism · Strong atheism · Agnosticism · Atheist vs. agnostic · Tenets and dogma
Contemporary literature   The End of Faith · The God Delusion · God: The Failed Hypothesis · Letter to a Christian Nation · God Is Not Great · Irreligion · 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God
Classic literature   Why I Am Not a Christian
Atheist and secular groups   Atheist groups · Secular charities · How American Non-Atheists view Atheists
Contemporary authors   Richard Dawkins · Daniel Dennett · A. C. Grayling · Sam Harris · Guy P. Harrison · John Allen Paulos · James Randi · Victor Stenger
Internet non-believers   Reginald Vaughn Finley · PZ Myers
Writers and philosophers   David Hume · Robert Ingersoll · Friedrich Nietzsche · Bertrand Russell · Carl Sagan · Voltaire · Jean-Paul Sartre · John Stuart Mill · Karl Marx · Heraclitus
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