So you believe in nothing?

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Christians 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 only derived from God.

In a similar way that accusations that atheism is immoral, as it lacks guidelines dictated from a "higher power," this question essentially implies that humans are incapable of independent and complex thought, a concept heavily debunked in numerous examples worldwide. Begin by considering the fact that many Buddhists, despite having complex systems of dogma and spiritual beliefs, are atheists by definition, in that they reject the concept of any sort of god. While some schools of Buddhism differ from this interpretation, there are significant numbers of people practicing what otherwise fits the definition of a religion, while asserting that their beliefs and dogma come not from a divine authority.

How, then, is a "true" atheist any different? Countless schools of philosophy serve as a basis for development of secular belief. Consider (secular) existentialism, which revolves around the concept of self-discovery and finding meaning and value in a way 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 an atheist describes themselves as an existentialist or not, the framework of existentialism shows how, outside of the bounds of any defined religion, one may easily find belief, meaning, and value secularly.

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