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I do not believe in God. This is not a belief. I have seen the assertion that atheism is a belief system, but no evidence. Is this an unsubstantiated assertion by theists, or is there any philosophical foundation?

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    See the previous question philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/61156/…
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 15:15
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    I disagree that this is a duplicate of this because that's about faith, which this question doesn't mention at all.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 19:02
  • Sundar prashan (beautiful question). It is a belief system.
    – Hudjefa
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 2:37

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Not necessarily, no

Theism is doctrine / school of thought / belief system ("-ism") that claims authority from revealed — or otherwise religiously sourced — knowledge or ditto belief ("the-").

Atheism is the rejection of / indifference to theism.


Now, some are already heading to the comments to say "no, theism is the belief in a god and atheism is belief there is no god".

Well, then define to me what "a god" is, and what "belief in" means in that context. Note: that was a rhetorical question, you will not succeed.

So I will pre-emptively reject that argument, because thinking something exists is not — on its own — sufficient to be an "ist" about it. You are not a "gravityist", a "santaist" (*) or "Moonist" for thinking gravity is real, that Santa Claus exists, or that you see Luna in the sky. Thinking a supernatural reality-bending entity exists, is not enough to make you a theist.

No, in the words of Christopher Hitchens...

a theist [is] someone who says "God cares for you; knows who you are; minds what you do; answers your prayers; cares which bits of your penis or clitoris you saw away or have sawn away for you; minds who you go to bed with and in what way; minds what holy days you observe; minds what you eat; minds what positions you use for pleasure"

...or in other words: someone that promulgates doctrine, as the theist claims to know a deity's will / a higher truth / some revealed knowledge / the actual meaning of the holy texts, and from this claims authority in the open discourse.


With that meaning in mind, an atheist is someone that tells the theist to go fish.

This refusal to give the theist special consideration does not demand any kind of belief system. A simple "Non serviam" will do, without justification.


So, to summarise: no, atheism is not a belief system in and of itself. Atheism is the rejection of theism, with or without a belief system as personal motivation for that rejection.


(*) You that read wrong (**)

(**) That too.

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"Belief" just means something you consider to be true.

If you consider it to be true that there are no gods (hard atheism), that would be a belief.

Soft atheism (lacking a belief in a god) is a bit more complicated. A lack of belief is not, in itself, a belief. Although if you consider the existence of a particular deity, there are 3 positions you can take: true, false and I don't know (agnostic). The agnostic position of "I don't know" wouldn't carry a belief with it*. If you don't take that position, and you aren't a theist, then you would logically believe that said deity doesn't exist.

* One might make the case that even if you take the agnostic position, if you aren't dedicating your life to a particular deity (that would come with eternal consequences if they exist), then you probably believe that they don't exist (even if you're unsure about it). Although there may also be some middle ground where you just really have no idea one way or the other.


"Belief system" is a somewhat more nefarious claim.

If someone says that, I'd ask what they mean.

Atheism is just a position on a single issue that doesn't really say much about what else you belief.

Theists, on the other hand, tend to believe in the existence of a particular deity, which tends to include beliefs about morality, the origin of life and the universe, human history, and maybe the afterlife. These things vary greatly from one theist to the next, but a particular god claim often carries all of that along with it. The same can't be said about atheism.

So I wouldn't say atheism is a "belief system" in the same way theism is.


If instead they mean atheism is something that's believed without sufficient justification or based on "faith", that's a different question, which has presumably sufficiently been addressed in Asserting that atheism and theism are both faith-based positions.

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Negation is not transitive between parts of speech (subject phrase, verb phrase, prepositional phrase, object phrase, etc). Not-belief that X is not belief. Belief that not-X is belief.

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Atheism is commonly understood as : non-acceptance OR rejection of theism.

As philosophers of all times, one way or another have interacted with the concept of God, so do we; we all have a thesis about this. This thesis is our belief system.

"I do not believe in God" doesn't just come out of nothing, it comes out of a belief system: it could be that God is a non-needed hypothesis, or that naturalism is enough, or whatever, but still it is a belief system.

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  • +1. The statement "God exists" has two possible responses: True or False and a belief system is required for a response. To state that answering True requires a belief system and answering False requires no belief system is simplistic and wrong. Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 16:52
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Atheism (as practiced by Richard Dawkins and all)is a belief system. It rules out God because of lack of evidence. It demands a public evidence and a public reassurance of God’s effectiveness(like technology does). However there remains a possibility that God gives personal evidence and guides the life of its followers at a very intimate level. Atheist believe that private evidence is not an evidence of God.

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Typically the alternative to theism is not atheism, but positive assumptions like naturalism, physicalism etc. Many of those do not necessitate any god and thus would also be classified as atheist.

The main philosophical question is not what religions want to force: "Is there a god or not?" but "How do we interpret both objective and subjective reality?" Atheism in itself is not a stance that answers that main question, it is a trait of all systems which do not use some god to explain some observations.

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