Atheists believe in nothing

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Theists often respond to assertions of atheism with the question, "So you believe in nothing?" Such a question not only patently mischaracterizes the nature of atheism, but it betrays one of the inherent problems in Christian doctrine: the potential for development of a type of "Christian nihilism," in which adherents see all meaning and value as derived only from God.

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Guidelines not needed

This question is similar to accusations that atheism is immoral since it lacks guidelines dictated from a "higher power." Therefore, asking this question essentially implies that humans are incapable of independent and complex thought, a concept debunked in numerous examples worldwide. Consider the fact that many Buddhists, despite having complex systems of dogma and spiritual beliefs, are atheists by definition because they reject the concept of god in any monotheistic sense. While some schools of Buddhism differ from this interpretation, there are many Buddhists practicing what they view as a rich and complex religion, while asserting that their beliefs and dogma come not from a divine authority.

Secular atheism

How, then, is a secular atheist fundamentally different from a non-theistic Buddhist who doesn't believe in God, yet clearly doesn't believe in nothing? Countless schools of philosophy serve as a basis for development of secular belief. Consider (secular) existentialism, which revolves around the concepts of self-discovery and finding meaning and value relevant to one's own life and worldview. Many philosophers and self-described existentialists have written works detailing quite complex systems of epistemology (in a sense, "What can we know?"), morality, and more, without ever involving God.

Whether or not atheists describe themselves as existentialist, the framework of existentialism shows how one may find belief, meaning, and value in a purely secular way, outside the bounds of any defined religion.

Theistic responses

Theistic Response: Atheism anticipates Relativism

A theist could respond by saying that any attempt at finding belief, meaning, and value apart from the existence of God will inevitably result in a vicious relativism, where meaning and value are contingent and are not necessary or absolute. Although this line of reasoning does not necessitate belief or direct knowledge of a transcendent Christian God, it does raise the issue of the lack of objective, absolute determining criteria for meaning and value. Even within the framework of existentialism, one must either consent to the existence of an absolute being (i.e., God) even if one does not adopt a particular religion, or one must concede all absolute, objective and necessary values and meanings.

Christianity as contingent

Incidentally, Christianity is a contingent belief system and Christian morality is a contingent moral system because different Christians, different Christian sects, different Christian cultures, different Christian nations, Christians at different times in history, etc., have interpreted matters of faith and morality differently.

Another way of putting this is that Christian beliefs and Christian morality are contingent on individual interpretations or on the interpretations of any given sect, culture, nation, time in history, etc.


v · d Common objections to atheism and counter-apologetics
Personal   Why are you trying to tear down other people's faith? · Why can't everyone just have their own beliefs? · What are your qualifications? · Atheists believe in nothing · You are a communist · Why do atheists inspire such hatred? · That's not my God
Religious   That's not in my Bible · They're not true Christians · You just want to sin · Atheists know there is a God · It takes more faith to disbelieve than it does to believe · God doesn't believe in atheists · Science is a faith · Atheism is a religion · Atheists worship materialism · Hypocrisy of celebrating religious holidays · Atheism is based on faith · Religious belief is beneficial
Science and logic   You can't prove God doesn't exist · Science can't touch god · God can't be defined · So you think we came from nothing / pondsoup / monkeys? · If God didn't create everything, who did? · That might be true for you, but its not true for me · Religion is another way of knowing · God is trying to trick you with dinosaur bones · Satan is trying to trick you with dinosaur bones · Tides come in, tides go out
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