I was raised Catholic, and part of my motivation for leaving Catholicism was my dislike of any kind of enforced structure. However, to my surprise, it seems like Atheism is also dogmatic. Is this intentional? Is atheism supposed to be only anti-religious or is it more against dogma itself?

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    @CriglCragl Being agnostic about god is "scientifically consistent" in the same sense that being agnostic about climate change is. Only one choice is a highly validated, useful empirical framework based on justified knowledge. Russel sounds like a politically correct atheist, not an agnostic.
    – Veedrac
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 11:19
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    "it seems like Atheism is also dogmatic" How so? Atheism is a description of a person's belief that <such and such probably isn't in existence>. It is not a set of rules telling people what to believe that. That's not a dogma. Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 15:16
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    @rus9384 You're missing a huge portion of the point LightnessRacesinOrbit just made. A dogma is a belief that is prescribed by an authority. You've got one of those three things... a belief. Where are the other two... the atheism authority and their prescriptions?
    – H Walters
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 17:48
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    Also, you really need to define your terms. Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 18:09
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    Dogma - "An authoritative principle, belief or statement of opinion, especially one considered to be absolutely true and indisputable, regardless of evidence or without evidence to support it.". By that definition, all beliefs about whether god does or doesn't exist are dogmas. (The authority can simply be one's own authority.)
    – Pharap
    Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 3:41

19 Answers 19



You don't explain why you get the impression that atheism is dogmatic, but it appears that you mix terms which are not interchangeable.

  • If you leave catholicism because of your dislike of any kind of enforced structure, it means you're antireligious and probably anticlericalist.
  • You didn't say anything about your faith, or lack thereof. It's possible to leave catholicism or any other organized religion while still believing in some kind of god, possibly a different one than the one described in your previous religion.
  • If you still have faith, you're a theist. If you think that the existence of god is not known or unknowable, you're agnostic. If you don't believe in god, you're an atheist. From the short description you wrote, it's not possible to determine which category you belong to.

Is atheism dogmatic?

First, atheists aren't an homogenous group. The vast majority of them is silent, sometimes for security reasons. They often have nothing more in common than simply not believing in god. A famous description is:

"Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby."

Some atheists are certain that there isn't any god, some will try to convince theists that they are wrong. They still don't belong to any official institution or blindly follow principles, though.

Some atheists will try to use science (e.g. Russell's teapot) to "prove" that there is no god. This might be dogmatic, but science at least has the advantage of being falsifiable. As noted by @FrankHubeny in the comments, science never considers models to be 100% correct when describing the universe: they are merely "good enough" for the time being and probably will be replaced in the future.

Finally, the "Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster" has been created as a joke, but could be considered as dogmatic for some hardcore followers. By its own definition, though:

"the only dogma allowed in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the rejection of dogma"

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    +1 Although if an atheist argues with a theist, the atheist is dogmatic trying to teach a dogma to the theist. It is part of modern mythology that science is falsifiable. There may be nothing falsifiable in a scientific theory such as many worlds nor is a scientific theory rejected when it is falsified. It just morphs into something else. For example Einstein's gravitation theory is falsified by the rotation of galaxies. It morphs into asserting the existence dark matter which so far hasn't been found. Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 14:07
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    @FrankHubeny: It should be noted that many worlds is not by any stretch of the imagination a rigorous scientific theory, precisely because it is unfalsifiable. It is unfortunate that Dr. Michio Kaku and various others have made public statements which misleadingly suggest that it is. To my knowledge, there are no published peer reviewed papers in scientific journals which depend on many worlds or use it as the basis for scientific inquiry of any kind.
    – Kevin
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 19:07
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    Occam's razor is not science, it is philosophy. And if an atheist were to use philosophy to convince a theist there is no God, they'd have more success with Russell's teapot than with Occam's razor.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 19:20
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    @FrankHubeny "Although if an atheist argues with a theist, the atheist is dogmatic trying to teach a dogma to the theist". WRONG. If an atheist argues with a theist, it is because the theist is making the active claim that they know there is a divine will and that everyone should follow it (usually accompanied with veiled threats of eternal damnation, being denied ascension into a higher state or similar), and the atheist saying "No, I do not believe you... I do not accept that argument". You have to distinguish between having an opposing belief and rejecting a belief.
    – MichaelK
    Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 9:31
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    @yshavit Forget falsifiability. Science is good at predicting the outcomes. Occam's razor is good at predicting the outcomes. Falsifiability is just an overrated side effect. You can design a rocket using Newtonian physics, but good luck with designing the GPS. I don't know about you, but I do like my GPS nav, so I couldn't care less about some galaxies "falsifying" it (sic).
    – kubanczyk
    Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 13:18

At its core, atheism is not an active position, it is merely a passive position. Two atheists can have nothing in common other than that they do not believe in a god. There cannot be a dogma as there are no teachings or philosophy where things like religions are built around. However, some people tend to take things a bit further and actually establish a philosophy which might be dogmatic.

What I think you are referring to is the faulty idea of some religious people that science is some sort of religion in itself. However, given that science is built on the basis of falsifiability and correcting itself, a dogma is inherently absent. Nothing has to 'just be accepted' as there is (or will be, in the case of some of the newer theories) justification behind everything.

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    @FrankHubeny No it doesn't. Atheism is the lack of belief in gods. It is not a claim that there are no gods. Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 16:32
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    @FrankHubeny A teaching is by nature prescriptive, but atheism is a descriptive term. If Joe believes that there are no gods with good reason, bad reason, or no particular reason at all, Joe is an atheist. To claim that atheism teaches there is no god is to conflate a description with a prescription.
    – H Walters
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 16:33
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    @FrankHubeny No. "Atheist" means not "someone who believes there are no gods" but "someone who doesn't believe in gods". As Nick Lersberghe said, it is a passive position. Atheism is not a religion with churches, let alone churches with clergy who teach that there are no gods.
    – Rosie F
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 16:34
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    @FrankHubeny No, that's incorrect. It's the exact opposite of a dogma. 'There are no gods' isn't what you have to accept when you're an atheist, you are an atheist because you don't believe in a god. A dogma asserts something. Atheism doesn't assert anything. It only rejects a claim. Hence, no dogma possible.
    – Nick L
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 19:43
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    @FrankHubeny No, atheism is not the assertive claim "There are no gods". A-the-ism is indifference (A-) to faith-based (-the(o)-) doctrine (-ism). In practice it means that whenever some theist comes and says "I know god's will and you should follow it", the atheist simply says "No, I do not trust you on that". An assertive belief that there are no gods automatically leads to atheism because no faith-based doctrine can come from a place where there is no faith in god(s). But you can also be an atheist by simply not accepting the claims of the faithful.
    – MichaelK
    Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 9:07

No, atheism is not just another form of dogma.

Atheism is defined as a certain answer to a particular question. Namely the answer: No, there is no god. The term „atheism“ does not refer to the manner how one expresses this answer.

While dogmatism is a certain manner how to express one‘s own answer to a given question. Expressing a position in a dogmatic way, i.e. as a dogma, means to state a thesis without taking seriously the objections of others.

Of course, everywhere one finds persons who express their atheistic position in a dogmatic way. But there is no intrinsic relation between the position on one hand, and on the other hand the manner how one expresses this position.

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    Or gods. Or divine substance. Or universal being constituted by all minds. Always so focused on monotheisms.. Also anti-superstition.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 9:42
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    @CriglCragl: There are superstitious atheists. There are even atheists who believe in spirits/ghosts, and some undoubtedly believe Gaia theory. Atheism really is just about gods, and doesn't relate to pseudoscience etc.
    – cHao
    Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 15:11
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    @Cœur: Need there be one word/phrase to describe someone who is both?
    – cHao
    Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 17:18
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    As @PhilipK put it "Atheism is rejection of faith-based doctrine"
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 22:00
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    If you're looking for a word for someone who rejects faith, I believe the word is "apistevist".
    – cHao
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 11:50

More complex answer:

It depends on the meaning of the word "atheism"

I know two very different definitions of the word - both used by people calling themselves "atheists":

  1. "Atheism" means that someone does not explicitly believe in god. A person who has never heard that a god may exist therefore must be an atheist because it is not possible to believe that something is correct if you have never heard of it.

  2. "Atheism" means that someone explicitly believe that god cannot exist. A person who has never heard that a god may exist therefore cannot be an atheist because it is not possible to believe that something is wrong if you have never heard of it.

Using definition (1.) it seems to be clear that "atheism" is not a dogma. Especially when looking at the person who never heard of god.

Using definition (2.) it depends on how the word "dogma" is defined. (Or of course the word "religion" if you ask if atheism is just another religion.)

However it may be a dogma in any case. Think of countries where it is forbidden to believe in god. (At least in the past such countries existed!)

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    Where did you get this definition, the dictionary? Your pets will be atheist too I suppose? Atheism is a reflection of God existing and not someone without belief. A new born child cannot be an ATHEIST.
    – Logikal
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 12:55
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    @Logikal "Your pets will be atheist too I suppose?" Yup, you've correctly stumbled on what atheist means. It's a pretty meaningless term really, just a short way of saying "Not a Christian, also not a Muslim, also not a Jew, also not a Jain, also not a ..."
    – Richiban
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 16:45
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    @Logikal My native language is German - maybe English language uses a different definition. In some German language internet forums there are many atheists who claim that ALL children are atheists until they can speak. Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 20:12
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    Nicely stated pragmatist explanation. It's impossible to answer any question if everyone doesn't agree on what the words in the question mean.
    – barbecue
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 20:16
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    "However it may be a dogma in any case. Think of countries where it is forbidden to believe in god." Even if atheism is a positive claim, to assert a truth isn't synonymous with wanting its rejection criminalised. A theism-prohibiting law would be iffy, but it doesn't make atheism any more or less dogmatic.
    – J.G.
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 19:10

An particular atheist institution might be dogmatic, but I don't see how atheism as a philosophy (or a specific claim-about-the-world) could be considered inherently dogmatic. I don't know which authority would be laying down the dogma for all other atheists to follow - if there is such a group, I've never heard of them!


Many of the arguments against particular religious claims have a basis in science, evolution being a prime example.

As such, you may have heard the same lines of argument from many people. I wouldn't consider that dogma, but an appreciation of the scientific principle leading many people to the same conclusion.

Beyond that, there's no common group or thread that encompasses atheists. There are no leaders and no particular individuals trusted to "interpret" truth.

  • +1 Although I don't think there has to be a common thread for dogmatism to exist. Regarding science it also can be argued as Alvin Plantinga does ("Where the Conflict Really Lies") that atheism (or "naturalism" as he calls the position) has less in common with science than theism. Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 14:20


In short, asking about religion in the context of philosophy without defining your terms does not a good discussion make.

'Dogma' requires definition, for us to tell if atheism has that/is that or not. 'Religion' would probably benefit from definition, given that you ask "Is atheism supposed to be only anti-religious". 'Atheism' most certainly would benefit from definition.

Depending on the definitions you propose, the answer can be quite different. In many cases, atheism has dogma, meaning that it is a perspective or system of belief (and, obviously, has foundational tenets in these cases). In other cases, atheism is a dogma prescribed as foundational for certain systems of belief/perspectives on the world. In other cases, atheism is neither a system of belief nor a belief and thus neither has nor can be dogma. In yet further cases, dogma isn't necessarily entailed by a system of belief, so atheism can be a special unicorn system with no dogma. In still other cases, things are defined unconventionally and anything can happen.



(Wiki): Dogma: "In the non-pejorative sense, dogma is an official system of principles or tenets of a church, or the positions of a philosopher or of a philosophical school such as Stoicism."

So no, because Atheism has no "official system of principles or tenets".

Depending on your definition, Atheism is either the lack of belief in existence of deities or rejection of the existence of deities.

Neither of these fulfill the definition of "Dogma".

That's the formal(ish) answer.

Less formally, as others have mentioned, two atheists may have nothing else in common, other than the lack of belief in any deities. I might say "I don't see any evidence for the existence of a god, so - absent new data - I assume none exists". My friend might say "I categorically deny the existence, and indeed the possibility of existence, of any god".

We are both atheists, but our positions are very different - so what dogma are we following?

Finally, again mentioned by others, everyone is an atheist - at least with regard to most deities!

  • No we are not! Atheism is not A default position. It is a intentional rejection of God. If there is no intentional rejection there is no atheism.
    – Logikal
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 13:19
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    @Logikal Since we do not agree on what thing the word refers to, arguing over what properties that thing might have is a complete waste of time.
    – barbecue
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 22:08
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    @Logikal it is a intentional rejection of which god ?
    – Naoskev
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 15:11
  • @Naoskev, There is no which God. There can only logically be one. Why pray to Some thing that has no power to even grant my prayer? This makes no sense. GOD must be all powerful, all knowing and all present by default.
    – Logikal
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 15:46
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    @logikal "Athiesm is not just lacking belief. Atheism expresses a willful rejection of a God." I'm afraid you don't get to unilaterally define terms. Many atheists, myself included, would accept my definition - as do Wikipedia, the dictionary, and so on. "The alleged Gods worshipped by others are a joke....<snip>" There are what, a billion or so Hindus on the planet? Why is your conception of a god more valid than theirs?
    – Illarion
    Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 18:17

Atheism is rejection of faith-based doctrine

This is atheism in a nutshell

Theist: I know what the higher, divine will is, and you would do best to follow it

Atheist: No, I don't think so

Theism is to use religious faith as a basis for doctrine. It is right there in the name: the-/theo-, from god/from faith, and -ism, simply meaning doctrine.

A-theism is indifference to such doctrines. Anti-theism is active opposition against such doctrines.

So there is no dogma here at all, it is just that the atheist is not swayed by religiously inspired arguments.

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    That's a broader definition of atheism than I've heard before. Note that it excludes non-theistic religions. Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 18:02
  • It's broad enough to be false, particularly considering the word's Greek origins. Spoiler alert: the root word, theos doesn't mean "faith". It means "god".
    – cHao
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 18:56
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    @cHao There is no requirement that words maintain the original meaning from their roots. If that were true, any person hiking through the woods would be a planet.
    – barbecue
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 20:23
  • @barbecue: There is, however, a requirement that if your definition of a word deviates from that implied by the roots, that your definition be one accepted by the listener. Otherwise you're just trying to define your way out of being wrong. This meaning is not accepted by anyone i've ever heard of.
    – cHao
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 20:32
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    @chao There's no requirement that either party even know what the root is. Words change meaning, and what is important is that both parties are using the SAME definition in order to have productive dialog. Whether the definition matches some ancient etymology is irrelevant.
    – barbecue
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 20:46

Atheism is the absence of belief in God. While such absence can be based on dogmatic principles, it doesn't have to. One can be atheist by simply ignoring the whole category of divinity, just like people who aren't interested in math or CS don't believe that P=NP.

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    I suppose your house or apartment is also atheist, your car is atheist, your pets are atheist, etc. The dictionary definition is not sufficient.
    – Logikal
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 13:05
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    Sure it is. I, along with nearly all atheists I associate with, follow this definition when describing ourselves. We're also agnostic. The notion that non-sentient objects would have a position on god-belief is not really helpful.
    – isherwood
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 18:23
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    @Logikal Anyone old enough to have heard of other gods is an atheist towards them. I don't know a single Christian friend of mine who also believes in Thor, or Zeus, or any other god you want to pick, apart from the one they worship. That means they actively reject those gods and in contrast to some of your other comments, are actually atheists. It is a false equivalence to ask what inanimate objects or animals believe, so we will ignore them. As far as children and people in general go, if atheism isn't the "default" position, what then is?
    – Tyler
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 22:25
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    @Logikal Where is your proof there is only ONE god? I'm not redefining anything. I realize people have different beliefs and worship different gods. Some of these are polytheistic religions. Just because you believe there can only be one god, until you can prove that, it is only your opinion. The thing is, there isn't a strict definition. This isn't similar to a triangle at all, which I agree, does have a strict definition. I'm willing to accept that I could be wrong, but as evidenced by this entire question, it seems these concepts are still being debated.
    – Tyler
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 15:05
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    @Logikal It is not worth talking about this with you. You are closed minded and set in your ways. It is understandable, years of brainwashing does that to people. I personally don't see the point in worshiping any "god" or gods since there is zero proof of any existence, and I can guarantee you it has never answered any of your prayers. If you think so, you are delusional and definitely lacking logic. Good luck in life buddy.
    – Tyler
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 18:18

I think one should consider dogmatism as an epistemological problem, as that's what it is treated as in philosophy.

About the definition of dogmatism

I would like to link dogmatism with scepticism, as it is commonly depicted as one of the answers to the Agrippan Trilemma. The following reasoning can be read in

Franks, Paul (2009): Ancient Skepticism, Modern Naturalism, and Nihilism, In: Frederick C. Beiser: The Cambridge Companion to Hegel and Nineteenth-Century Philosophy, Cambridge, MA: CUP, pp. 58-60

with corresponding sources.

The Agrippan Trilemma gives three possible ways to face sceptical objections about knowledge:

  1. Circular Reasoning
  2. Infinite Regress
  3. Arbitrary hypothesis

Dogmatism, Hegel argues, essentially means taking the third option in stating something finite/relative as absolute, i.e. stating something as an absolute truth that in fact is (logically consistent) open to objection:

The essence of dogmatism consists in this that it posits something finite, something burdened with an opposition (e.g., pure Subject, or pure Object, or in dualism the duality as opposed to the identity) as the Absolute (Hegel, GW, 4:219; T-WA, 2:245; RSP, in BKH, 335 as per Franks, p. 60, fn. 20)

Mind, this whole discussion is about knowledge claims.

About the definition of atheism

Merriam-Webster's defines as follows regarding philosophy:

a philosophical or religious position characterized by disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods

Bringing the two together

A dogmatist, you can be regarding basically every single knowledge claim conceivable. Atheism, in particular, can be dogmatic. But it does not have to be. A lack of faith [faith is a subspecies of belief] in God is a matter of fact, it does not need justification. Faith is strongly linked to religious feelings and we have to distinguish between the claim of someone having faith [=holding a particular belief] and the claim of his faith being an accurate assumption about reality [=having knowledge]. As soon as atheism as a knowledge claim comes into play, matters lie differently: Knowledge needs some justification, all kinds of knowledge do.

But atheism as a knowledge claim is but one version of atheism. A dogmatic one, indeed. Just as theism/religion as a knowledge claim instead of (purely) a matter of faith. That is why agnosticism (the view that one cannot have knowledge about something) regarding God potentially can very well both be on theist's and atheist's side, although the former surely is uncommon considering the subjective certainty a conviction of faith carries.

As you can see in this answer, even the quite prolific New Atheists (Dawkins in particular) shy away from labelling their view as dogma and consider themselves agnostic instead.

  • Atheism is not a "religious" position; it's a position devoid of religion or religious nature. Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 20:00
  • @AgiHammerthief Merriam-Webster's seems to disagree. If I had to decide, I'd side with reputable sources at any time.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 22:08

According to the OED, δόγμα is

that which seems to someone, opinion, belief, doctrine, decree < δοκεῖν to seem, to seem good, to think, suppose, imagine

spec. a tenet or doctrine authoritatively laid down, esp. by a church or sect

Dogmatism is

A system of philosophy based upon principles dictated by reasoning alone, and not relying upon experience

Atheists deny cosmological proofs of God's existence (e.g., St. Thomas's) based upon sense experience (e.g., that change exists in the world). What are atheists' proofs of God's non-existence, based upon the sense experience, besides that evil exists in the world? And what is evil besides a privation of the good? And what is good without an Absolute Good? Thus, it seems atheists are dogmatically opposed to theism, just like relativists are dogmatically opposed to absolute truths.

(cf. Edward Feser's The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism, which speaks of "dogmatic fiat" etc., and his Five Proofs of the Existence of God)

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    I don't think you can extrapolate any of your claims to all atheists. Many atheists merely don't believe in god. They don't claim there's no god and surely don't try to prove its non-existence. Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 9:39
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    Do you also claim it's impossible to have a moral compass without god? Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 9:42
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    Ah, apparently agnostic atheism does exist as a term to refer specifically to the non-dogmatic / non-believing of anything part of the spectrum. Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 18:06
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    @PeterCordes One particular article I read broke it down along 3 different axes. Thiest/athiest (I believe/don't believe), gnostic/agnostic (it is possible to be certain or prove my viewpoint/it is not possible to be certain), strong/weak (this will never change in the future/this may change in the future). By this classification the majority of "scientific" athiests would be weak agnostic athiests, but apparently everyone uses these terms differently...
    – mbrig
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 21:41
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    @isherwood: I was commenting on the existence of the term, not the philosophical position. Indeed, it's frustrating that people spend their time arguing against positions that most atheists don't hold, partly because of a lack of good terminology. Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 21:45

Seeing as there are many answers here that claim to the contrary, I'd like to attempt to present an answer where I find atheism to be as dogmatic as theism (or maybe, in a slight change of definition, "non-dogmatic"-I'll show this in the end of the answer), but first let's set up the terms properly (note- all definitions are my own, and I'd be happy to argue about them in the comments):


A state of mind where the subject would reject any evidence (empirical*, logical) that objects his view, without positively considering it.


A personal view of belief in "God" (I won't go into that definition, but you should note that it may change the entire conversation).


A personal view of belief that there is no "God".

I don't want to start going through agnosticism, as it isn't as relevant to this question, so I'll set this one aside.

Now let's digest our subjects. I'd like to state that both theism and atheism, by definition, are not dogmatic, only that under certain circumstances (highly subjective) they can both arrive at dogmatism.

Looking at our definitions (which considers a personal subject, rather than a group of people, so I'm not considering "theism"/"atheism" as an organized group but rather as the personal faith) we can see that a theist person, while believing in a divine force (and sometimes in its commands) isn't necessarily "dogmatic", meaning he wouldn't necessarily object any sort of evidence against his view - he might accept it, he might contemplate with it, and yes, he might also completely reject it. On a personal note I'd like to add that I've seen all of these cases in Judaism.

Now, what might be difficult to address it the reason why atheism can be dogmatic as well, but I'm sure that if you've carefully read my terms it shouldn't be a problem. See, atheism, very much like theism, can be mostly considered a faith just as much as theism - it's simply a negative faith. I'd argue that anyone that claims he's an atheist but would not accept to see his view as faith, but rather as "lack" (more precisely, passiveness) of belief, is agnostic. The atheist (although he obviously wouldn't agree to look at it that way, because he's against faith and all of its implications, which is absurd on a different level that doesn't belong to this question) would actually believe that God doesn't exist, and hence will have all implications of possible dogma as much as the theist.

*The problem often rise when people think that it is obvious that the evidence points towards atheism, and that's a common theme with popular atheists. It happens mostly when people mix up empirical advancements and metaphysics, when they don't realize that empirical evidence cannot even be asked for questions such as "Does God exist". When they manage to mix them, they often take scientific theories such Big Bang and Evolution and say that they prove God doesn't exist.

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    I'm not a big fan of your definition for Dogma. That said, I think the vast majority of atheists would revise their position in the light of incontrovertible evidence. We could quibble about what would count as "incontrovertible evidence", but it doesn't matter - there would exist some evidence that would be sufficient for (the great majority to) break your "reject any evidence" definition of Dogma.
    – Illarion
    Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 16:26
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    @Illarion which will define them as agnostics. If you'd call them atheists then how would you distinguish between them and agnostics? Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 16:58
  • Well, it all comes down to definitions. "Agnostic" is more correctly defined as "the belief that the existence of God(s) is unknown and unknowable" - but it's commonly misused to mean just "I don't know". If we went with that definition, then I would say a rational person would be both agnostic and atheist. That is to say "I don't know for certain that God(s) do not exist, but since I see no evidence, I assume they do not unless such evidence appears".
    – Illarion
    Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 13:45
  • The scientific method does not deal in disproving things - strictly, scientific observation will never disprove God. But there are other routes than observation to determine the existence of God though. A logician might prove it to his satisfaction with logic, say, and therefore be atheist but without being agnostic.
    – Illarion
    Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 13:48
  • @Illarion so, you're saying that (theoretically) the one who'll be open to "convert" (hate that word) is more likely the atheist than the agnostic, as, given an evidence, the atheist would accept religion while agnostic will say it doesn't matter? I still try to find the practical difference between the two definitions you use. Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 15:17

Atheism is just another alias. The same reason that leads people to adopt religious beliefs is the same that leads people to atheism. It was Otto Rank who first showed that non-religious dogmas are no different from religious ones. It's therefore right to say the secular religion, the communist religion and the consumerist religion, even the atheist religion is a dogma.

To be clear, i am referring to 'atheism' as a concept which is debated, attacked and justified.

Since it is in question, therefore it's being conceptualized as a stand-alone concept not just a nil.

  • Anthropologically, but not in terms of any in-group self descriptions. I think we need to look a lot more atvwhat religious behaviour does for people, like Yuval Harari in Sapiens
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 21:58
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    But atheism isn't a religion. Atheists have no principles to live by, there are no requirements for someone to be considered an atheist except that they don't believe in a god. I don't believe in a god, so I am an atheist. It doesn't really affect my life beyond that. I get out of going to church, I get to apologise to evangelists for not being able to believe, etc. Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 2:41
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    @HWalters I didn't mean that atheists have no principles in general. I meant that atheists have no prescribed principles due to their being atheists. I thought that was obvious - sorry. Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 6:32
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    'The secular religion'. There is no such thing. A religion would require an active set of beliefs, which are absent in atheism. To quote Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi: "Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong.".
    – Nick L
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 11:14
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    The fact that dogma exists in both religious and non-religious contexts is not proof that atheism is dogmatic. And your definition of the word "religion" is deeply at odds with that used by most people.
    – barbecue
    Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 20:56

Dogma(tism) is not primarily about the contents of the dogma – objective – but about the attitude of the view-holder – subjective.

Belief-in-God vs non-belief-in-God is one axis.

Dogmatic-ness vs open-mindedness is another orthogonal axis. And the choice of where one lies essentially depends on whether one reaches one's belief(s) thorough a philosophical journey or by blind assumption.

So, it is about calm, quiet search or blind assumption.

  • 1
    I feel you are saying something significant. But I'm not sure that I'm getting your meaning. I've edited the answer to put in more standardized English what I get as your meaning (below the horizontal line). Please re-edit as you find appropriate. And below a second horizontal line are some brief comments of mine
    – Rushi
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 6:23
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    Needless to say you are free to delete my comments (and even my suggested edit)
    – Rushi
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 6:30
  • @Rusi-packing-up thanks, that's exactly what I want to say.
    – salah
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 10:26
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    Much better @salah! But I still don't get what you are saying in the last para: "properly basic belief"
    – Rushi
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 15:33
  • @Rusi-packing-up I mean some people don't accept the idea that atheists could be exist naturally, so they may consider atheists as Dogmatic non believers. Thanks, again, Rusi.
    – salah
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 15:46

Atheism itself is neither dogmatic or non-dogmatic. Some atheists are dogmatic about the non-existence of the supernatural, others are not.

Non-personal dogmas always require an organization to define them, but there is no church of Atheism that could define such dogmas for atheism. There is no central scripture or other universally accepted source of truth relevant to atheists.


You are asking multiple questions and you would do well in the future to define what you mean when you ask them.

Is atheism just another form of dogma?

The answer is easily and clearly "no." It is no because you could have spent your entire life from birth to death as an atheist and never thought even once about the validity of the position or any logical component to atheism. Atheism is an absence of a belief. It is not an intellectual stance. Agnosticism is the absence of knowledge, which is closer to reasoning.

This does not mean that becoming an atheist wasn't thought about, it just isn't a requirement. Dogma requires reasoning.

I was raised Catholic, and part of my motivation for leaving Catholicism was my dislike of any kind of enforced structure. However, to my surprise, it seems like Atheism is also dogmatic.

Either these sentences are irrelevant, or they need material expansion to explain how they relate to the questions. Your personal discomfort or your direct experience are irrelevant to the question at hand.

Is this intentional?

Is what intentional and by whom? Atheists are a heterogeneous disaggregated group. Although there are small groupings of atheists here and there, they primarily exist due to discrimination by the larger group. Buddhists are a group; Catholics are a group. Atheists are not a group in the same sense that aunicornists are not a group.

Indeed, atheist is defined relative to another group, theists. It is non-membership, but it is not mere non-membership as "heretics" are also not members, but heretics are still theists.

Is atheism supposed to be only anti-religious or is it more against dogma itself?

Atheism isn't anti-religious but religious perceive it as such because religions are groups and members leaving a group endangers the survival of the group. Theists view atheists as anti-religious. Some are. Some are not. Most do not care about religion at all. If you like joining the group in its tribal headgear, chants, ritual and maybe even dance, go for it. Just don't expect everyone who is an atheist to think you are fully sane.

Atheism isn't for or against dogma because atheism is a description. A dogma is a belief arrived at through reason alone. People make dogmatic thoughts quite a bit and nobody cares. For example, it is dogma that people do not invest money with the intention of losing it since they could simply consume their resources instead. That fits the definition of dogma. It doesn't require any evidence at all. It might be nice if evidence were collected, but it isn't required except for confirmation. Science would require confirming evidence, but dogma does not.

The Pythagorean theorem would fit the definition of dogma, for that matter.

For your next question, you should consider looking carefully at your definitions, how your personal experience is driving this question, and what you really want to know. You should probably post it in a social sciences wiki instead, though.

Atheism is an extremely conservative position, intellectually, in that it requires the fewest assumptions about the world. The claim of a god or goddess, kami, spirits or leprechauns is a perilous assertion of logic unless grounded in an axiomatic system which presumes their existence or there is commonly accepted data to support it. As an example, there is no dispute that Pluto exists. There are disputes as to its classification. The existence of Pluto is not in doubt and so it requires no assumption, other than that nature is real, to assert the existence of Pluto. It may be perilous to assert that it is a planet.

As a disclosure note, I believe that Pluto is a planet because the alternative is that Mrs. Smith, my third-grade teacher, was wrong and that is too devastating a possibility for me to consider. The IAU was wrong and I stand on the authority given by the State of West Virginia to my school teacher. To assert that I may have been misled, that Mrs. Smith may have been misled, or the West Virginia Education Department may have been misled is beyond contemplation.

Take the answers posted here and contemplate both your motivation, your experience and what you really want to know. I think you probably need to ask another set of questions, but I think the questions will probably belong to another type of forum as my guess is that there is little that philosophy can provide. The primary and most profound thing that philosophy provides most people is clarity of thought. Once the thoughts are clear, those thoughts usually belong in the domain of a science or one of the humanities.


We use the word dogma to mean two different things, I will only talk about the use of this term in philosophy.

In epistemology, Dogmatism is the opposite of skepticism. Skepticism is to say that knowledge (or at least some kind of knowledge) is impossible in principle.

Dogmatism on the other hand is the claim that some knowledge (or all knowledge) is possible, in principle, even if we do not currently have such knowledge. Dogmatism (dogma in general, in philosophy or day-to-day use) can be described as a claim, a positive statement about knowledge.

Now, what is atheism?

Atheism is the absence of belief in one or more deities. An atheist does not claim nor deny the existence of God.

Since not every atheist claims that God does not exist, it then follows that "denying God's existence" is not the appropriate definition of atheism.

Suppose I claim that it is possible to know whether you wear a red shirt now. This is dogmatism , and if I claim that it is impossible to know, this is skepticism.

And if I say that you wear a red shirt , and I know it, and nothing can change this, this is dogma as the term is more commonly used in daily our daily life.

Atheism on the other hand is a very different subject. Three kinds of people I can think of now : Those who believe that you wear a red shirt, those who believe that you do not wear a red shirt, and those who believe neither, they just suspend judgement.

Which ones are a-redshirt-ists here?

The ones that believe you wear a red shirt are believers.

The ones that don't are all a-redshirt-ists including those that just do not believe.

If I say that I am an a-redshirt-ist, it does not mean that I believe you wear another color (blue, green or yellow..etc) , it just means that I do not have any good reason to believe that you wear a red shirt.

This is not a claim (remember, we said that dogma is a claim).

It is contradictory to have one thing be a claim and not be a claim at the same time, therefore : Atheism is not a dogma.

So, this is not a claim that I have knowledge or that knowledge is possible as covered by the philosophical and common definitions of the word dogma.


I have seen people converting to Atheism by simply pledging to the belief that there is no God. No other requirements but only a dogmatic belief in the non-existence of God. But as a mature person one would want a philosophy in addition to atheism to deal with the problems of the world. Atheism does not offer any such philosophy by default. I personally tried to adopt scientific atheism. It turned out to be dogmatic when I saw it refusing the cases of rebirths of people as genuine. It turned out to be dogmatic when I saw it refusing to recognize free-will as a formless property of Universe.I personally found it dogmatic when scientific atheism insisted on consciousness as an emergent property of matter (matter+chemical juggling= consciousness). In short as much as I have grown as a scientific atheist I have found that there are dogmas within the scientific community. Why is that case ? Because Science creators started with a belief system which challenged God and then tried to become God by converting men into Atheism. Atheism relies heavily on the dogmas of science to prove or make belief that there is no God.

  • 4
    I don't get this at all. When have you heard anybody lay down "matter+chemical juggling= consciousness" in a dogmatic way? Or the other things you have mentioned. They are just speculations that scientists have for how it might turn out. I don't think it's agreed upon as "undeniably true", which is the definition for dogma. For that matter, there is no thing that is accepted as "undeniably true" in science (imo)
    – BlowMaMind
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 13:01
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    "matter + chemical juggling = consciousness" is surely open for debate. But the problem is debates in science don't work the way they work in philosophy. In philosophy, internal consistency and logical rigor is essential. But, in science on the other hand evidence is essential. So if future evidence shatters the idea "matter + chemical juggling = consciousness", then imo scientists will surely adopt a different route. But for now a physicalist approach has seemed to work for science; so they are continuing with that for now
    – BlowMaMind
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 13:33
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    "Converting to Atheism" seems to be full of problems in itself. Atheism isn't something you convert to, because it's not something you believe in, and atheism-with-a-capital-A, and for that matter science-with-a-capital-S aren't things that need capitalisation. That's only there to poison the well. Your answer seems to make a lot of claims about the world which atheism is entirely unconnected - consciousness? Rebirth? Free will? Atheism has nothing to say on those subjects - it has no dogma, which is what the question is asking.
    – moopet
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 19:38
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    This is not an answer to the question. This is a personal account of how you tried to conform to an ideal, but were disappointed when this clashed with certain beliefs you have. -1 for ranting about that instead of answering the question.
    – MichaelK
    Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 9:26
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    Science is the systematic pursuit of knowledge; a method for how to find objectively provable facts. Science is not a collection of beliefs, nor a set of ethics or morals. So you are entirely wrong: atheism is not dogmatic, because rejection of a claim is not dogma. And calling scientifically derived knowledge "dogma" just because it clashes with beliefs that you want to hold, that is not just wrong, it is also petty and small-minded. I am sorry that you are disappointed that you did not find reality to be that which you wanted it to be. But reality is what it is whether you believe it or not.
    – MichaelK
    Commented Mar 25, 2018 at 10:06

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