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10 surprising facts about atheism

Atheism is the absence of belief that God, and other deities, exist. It is difficult to ascertain how many of the world’s population are atheist as surveys don’t tend to differentiate between the irreligious and atheist. However, it is clear from polls that Europe and East Asia are the regions with the highest proportion of non-believers. In 2015, over 60% of people in China said they were atheist in a survey. It is also clear that numbers of atheists are growing across the world. How much do you know about this belief system? Julian Baggini, author of Atheism: A Very Short Introduction, tells us the ten things we never knew about atheism:

  1. The name is an historical accident as atheists have to be defined as contrasting to our historically theistic culture.
  2. ‘A’ is not ‘anti’; not all atheists are anti-religion.
  3. Atheism is not necessarily dogmatic.
  4. Being an atheist means that you believe the balance of evidence shows that God does not exist. This is not the same as saying that you are 100% certain God does not exist.
  5. Atheists are found in the clergy.
  6. Atheists believe morality is independent of God.
  7. It is a myth that the Soviet Union was a completely atheist state.
  8. It’s factually untrue that most people on their deathbed turn to religion.
  9. Atheism is not the same as Scientism.
  10. There are still around a dozen countries where atheists can face death for their beliefs.

Featured image credit: “Clouds”, by Ana_J. Public domain via Pixabay.

Recent Comments

  1. Ian Cooper

    “3. Atheism is not necessarily dogmatic.”

    Not “necessarily”? It’s absolutely not dogmatic. There are no principles in atheism that are laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.

    The introduction itself proves that number 4 is false. The absence of belief in a god or gods is NOT the same as a belief that gods don’t exist. Atheism is NOT a belief.

  2. StupidAtheist.com

    “Being an atheist means that you believe the balance of evidence shows that God does not exist.”

    = = = = = = = = =

    Not necessarily.

    “Not believing god[s] exist” is not the same as “Believing god[s] do not exist”…

  3. Chris Weiss

    Ian and others, what is the functional difference between someone who does not believe gods exist and believing gods do not exist? The result is the same: people who do not worship or support the existence of any god.

    Moreover, what is dogmatic about making the *empirical* claim based on the evidence that gods do not exist?

    The equivocation of atheism and religious belief is a false one usually put forth by believers who think they are being looked down upon by atheists. While it is impossible to “prove” that any god does not exist, no one balks at people saying unicorns don’t exist or leprechauns or invisible turtles in my basement. These are reasoned empirical judgments just like the decision most atheists make after looking religious dogma and making the judgment that it does not support the existence of any god.

  4. Gerald Moore

    “How much do you know about this belief system?”

    That’s a strange question. What system of beliefs would that be referring to? The article started by saying atheism is an absence of a specific type of belief.

  5. Vorpal

    Julian Baggini doesn’t know much about atheism.

  6. Sstephen Kahn

    Hi. I was an atheist at the age of 10. I am now 72. While billions of words have been penned and typed about religion, it boils down (IMO) to “I don’t want to die” Life is not fair” and “we are social creatures and talking about Santa Claus (or whatever). All we can do is try to amuse ourselves doing more good than harm until we die. Unless you are a psychopath [turn yourself in] or insane. Actually, probably our entire species is crazy because we know we will die.

  7. Mike Foss

    The most interesting fact about atheism may be the following suggestion. It’s worth considering that it would be beneficial to the atheist cause if we shifted our attention from defending the past of atheism, and started looking towards the future of atheism. Such consideration is imperative considering man-made yet physics-governed global warming, including all other unsustainable man-made pollution, resource depletion, and environmental destruction. The past of atheism has dealt with the novelty of foothold acceptance, including cultivating a PC definition that will be tolerated by the authoritarian church-state, including modern conceptions of the diversity-democracy status quo, including the rabbit hole of postmodernism and other philosophy. The fact is however, that the study of atheism has developed and evolved through increasing scientific information – specifically through reductionism to physics, evolutionary biology, and logic – to the point that we can now make a science-based systems-based case verging on an axiomatic case. Atheists are now armed and dangerous enough to flip the equation on religion and the church-state. Atheists are poised to require that the institution of science now enjoy the penultimate position: one of requiring the state – an institution capable of vast wisdom and leadership – to defend the highest quality information of science over the past lesser information of primitive instinctual evolutionary church-state tribalism.

  8. Joe Cogan

    “How much do you know about this belief system?”

    For a start, I know that it’s not a belief system. It’s the absence of belief in deities, and carries no other tenets, dogmas, or philosophical implications.

  9. Michael Glass

    I think one reason that atheism is growing is because religion is so much on the nose.

    Whether it’s sexual abuse among the clergy, persecution of the Palestinians, the mistreatment of Rohingya Muslims by Myanmar Buddhists, we all know that there is a religious dimension to the conflict. And, of course, there’s the Isis contribution to love, joy and peace.

    It’s no wonder that people are turning away from religious beliefs that are far too often outmoded and downright cruel.

  10. dfgsdf

    My only logic to don’t believe in any god was because god was defined as infinitive, and, AFAIK, infinity can’t be achieved,so, god can’t be achieved.

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