Wikipedia on atheism:

Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities.

Now what about deities?

A deity is a supernatural being considered divine or sacred.

Supernatural is an ambiguous term. Many people have proposed that if something really affects our world outside of the universe, assuming the universe is not isolated system, then it still could be explained and not be supernatural, therefore.

That means an atheist is the one who does not believe divine or sacred beings exist. However, sacred, as I see it, is subjective: some people may take something to be sacred and not only beings, while others don't. At the same time existence is considered to be somewhat objective.

As for an analogy, we can replace belief in the existence of deities by another belief in the existence. Say, tasty olives. Does absence of belief in the existence of tasty olives even make sense? There, indeed, are people who find olives tasty.

But why did I choose this example? Answer: it depends on a person what is tasty and what's not. At the same time I count the feeling of sacredness to be feeling as well. Some people lack it and others - don't. There are psychological studies to accept this standpoint as meaningful.

Therefore, it points me towards "personal trait" explanation: people just have this feeling or sacredness or not. It really does not make sense to say "I don't believe tasty olives exist". It makes sense to say "I don't believe there are olives I could find tasty". Same, for me, is with sacred beings. Some people consider other really observable entities to be sacred. It does not makes sense to say those people counted sacred really do not exist. It makes sense to say you don't count them sacred. Don't count anything sacred, whether supernatural or not. But it follows from the definition an atheist actually can consider a really existent (observable, not supernatural) entity be sacred and even worship him/her whatever the rituals are involved in this worship. But I did not see an atheist agreeing with this.

And I do not believe people really misunderstand this. It makes me think the definition of atheism provided by wikipedia is flawed. Indeed, there are persons who do not believe in any unworldly entities, those which do not live in our universe. They call themselves atheists on these grounds. I don't know if it makes sense. From the definition it follows they are right, however, the one who believes in "supernatural" beings also can be an atheist if does not consider them sacred (or divine).

Also, I thought that God is a title, not an object. That means under given definition that atheists don't believe the title of "God" exists.

So, therefore, I think better definition of atheism would be "The rejection of anything to be sacred for self". Then it escapes the paradox of a sacred existing human. This would mean disbelief that anyone can have the title of "God". Or, in stronger sense, belief that no one can have the title of "God". But atheist then still could believe in the title of "God".

Have anyone investigated these issues prior to me or am I doing something new, worthy?

  • This is much more indepth and plausible than I thought it would be from the title. I've often considered how I would behave given the sudden overwhelming proof of a divine being and I think that I would wind up considering it in the context of the material universe (i.e. using your terminology, 'not sacred' even with proof) which is interesting that others would react differently. I do not know the answer to your question but it seems like an interesting one.
    – Onyz
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 13:47
  • I edited the title. Does that look okay?
    – Onyz
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 13:55
  • Because the "interesting" side of atheism is the intellectual one, i.e. that about philosophical arguments supporting it. If you do not like olives, this is a fact that has (IMO) no "interesting" issues. Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 13:58
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    Atheism is an "intellectual" stance and not a taste. We discuss in philosophy ideas and not feelings. We "believe" in God; we d not believe in olives. Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 14:15
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    A deity is a supernatural being considered divine or sacred. This definition is quite obviously circular. A deity is something divine; divine is the quality that distinguishes a deity. And if the definition is circular, it follows that "belief in the existence of a deity" is the same as "belief in the sacredness of something". Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 17:15

7 Answers 7


It makes me think the definition of atheism provided by wikipedia is flawed. Indeed, there are persons who do not believe in any unworldly entities, those which do not live in our universe. They call themselves atheists on these grounds. I don't know if it makes sense. From the definition it follows they are right, however, the one who believes in "supernatural" beings also can be an atheist if does not consider them sacred (or divine).

I think you are correct about the confusion in defining Atheists. Here i came across a study in America and giving you a gist- which may help in clarifying the real state of affairs as the terminology get stuck to people-

Atheism can be defined as a mental state of “ A lack of belief in gods”.

It is not an affirmative belief that there is no god nor does it answer any other question about what a person believes.

It is simply a rejection of the assertion that there are gods.

Atheism is too often defined incorrectly as a belief system. To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

Older dictionaries define atheism as “a belief that there is no God.” Clearly, theistic influence taints these definitions. The fact that dictionaries define Atheism as “there is no God” betrays the (mono)theistic influence. Atheism is not a belief system nor is it a religion. One can find some religions that are atheistic (e,g, certain sects of Buddhism), that does not make it a religion. Though atheism is protected by many of the same Constitutional rights that protect religion.

Some groups may use words like Agnostic, Humanist, Secular, Bright, Freethinker, or any number of other terms to self-identify.

Don’t use those other terms to disguise your atheism or to shy away from a word that some think has a negative connotation.

If you call yourself a humanist, a freethinker, a bright, or even a “cultural Catholic” and lack belief in a god, you are an atheist. one may not shy away from the term. Embrace it.

Agnostic isn’t just a “weaker” version of being an atheist. It answers a different question. Atheism is about what you believe. Agnosticism is about what you know.

In recent surveys, the Pew Research Center has grouped atheists, agnostics, and the “unaffiliated” into one category.

The so-called “Nones” are the fastest growing “religious” demographic in the United States. Pew separates out atheists from agnostics and the non-religious, but that is primarily a function of self-identification. Only about 5% of people call themselves atheists, but if you ask about belief in gods, 11% say they do not believe in gods. Those people are atheists, whether they choose to use the word or not.

A recent survey from University of Kentucky psychologists Will Gervais and Maxine Najle found that as many as 26% of Americans may be atheists. This study was designed to overcome the stigma associated with atheism and the potential for closeted atheists to abstain from “outing” themselves even when speaking anonymously to pollsters,.

Even more people say that their definition of “god” is simply a unifying force between all people. Or that they aren’t sure what they believe. If one lacks an active belief in gods, you are an atheist.

Being an atheist doesn’t mean you’re sure about every theological question, have answers to the way the world was created, or how evolution works. It just means that the assertion that gods exist has left you unconvinced.

Wishing that there was an afterlife, or a creator god, or a specific god doesn’t mean you’re not an atheist. Being an atheist is about what you believe and don’t believe, not about what you wish to be true or would find comforting.

All atheists are different

The only common thread that ties all atheists together is a lack of belief in gods. Some of the best debates we have ever had have been with fellow atheists. This is because atheists do not have a common belief system, sacred scripture or atheist Pope. This means atheists often disagree on many issues and ideas. Atheists come in a variety of shapes, colors, beliefs, convictions, and backgrounds. We are as unique as our fingerprints.



  • With me things are much more interesting. I believe in the opposition between One-Who-Is-Always-To-Be-Obeyed and Common Sense. Both have been called "God", but Common Sense never thinks anyone must obey him. He is open to any dialogue. He does not give commandments. Doesn't even has a name to be desecrated. I have a myhtology of my own describing how has the opposition occured, though I'm suspicious it's just a speculation and in my book I just write "Cannot say it is a real story. But at least it's a beautiful story".
    – rus9384
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 11:00
  • @rus9384...interesting and I just looked up my 'position' its perhaps on those lines..only the 'nature' has been added attraction...
    – drvrm
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 11:59

How about distilling the definitions/characteristics of relevant terms? Suggestions:

belief = commitment to a concept which is not provable within the context of common human reality

deity = individual or group entity that can change reality at will, in any way or every way, for anyone or everyone, anywhere or everywhere, at any time or for all time

theism = belief in deity

atheism = belief in no deity

agnosticism = no belief in deity AND no belief in no deity

sacred = believed to be both worthy and demanding of respect

Based on the above suggested definitions:

(1) The mere lack of belief in deity is insufficient to define atheism, just as theism is not merely a lack of belief in no deity.

(2) That which is considered sacred need not be deity. For example, one might believe that personal spiritual boundaries are themselves sacred, such that disrespecters of those boundaries are effectively trespassing onto others’ private property.

(3) Both theism and atheism simply describe an individual’s or group’s belief. Neither term implies disrespect toward, or even conflict with, the other — in contrast with antitheism and antiatheism, both of which imply conflict and disrespect.

  • I think in (1) you wanted to say that theism is more than presense of belief in a deity. But, BTW, I asked about any authors recognizing problems with such concept as atheism. I know there are debates, weak atheism, strong atheism, but my analysis shows they are both nonsensical or ill-defined.
    – rus9384
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 10:32
  • What I meant is that "no belief in deity" doesn’t distinguish atheism from agnosticism. A complement is needed: either "belief in no deity" (which defines atheism), or "no belief in no deity" (which combined with "no belief in deity" defines agnosticism). Similarly, "no belief in no deity" doesn’t distinguish theism from agnosticism. I agree re "weak" & "strong", & emphatically so re "Point in definitional activity…". I’ve yet to come across any author who discusses theism & atheism with equanimity, let alone analyzes the social impact of pitting unprovable beliefs against each other.
    – user34765
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 12:45
  • Your answer is no belief in a deity as in a chair has no belief. Is a chair, cat or a roach capable of being atheist?
    – Logikal
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 13:42
  • For focus and simplicity, I specified "within the context of common human reality".
    – user34765
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 13:56
  • Why does your domain only apply to humans? The etymology does not indicate only humans apply as the prefix a simply means without. Why are you adding stuff? So dead people are atheists?
    – Logikal
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 7:32

The clue is in the name. A-theism. The Latin prefix 'not' or away from.. theism. Theism is usually defined as belief in a 'tinkering' deity. A god or god's who interfere in the running of reality. As opposed to deism which is largely the belief in a benign or absentee creator. I am an atheist who is potentially a deist for example. I'm open to the idea that the universe was created.. but not really to the idea of a god that had opinions on menstruation... For example.

  • Well, then I'm not an atheist, since I believe immaterial entities are affecting our world right now - playing it - and the creators created it as a game. But the idea of veneration, worship, pray, etc. is alien to me.
    – rus9384
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 0:29
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    Like simulation theory? If you believe that the creators of the simulation aren't just running it and checking periodically on progress.. but are dropping in as an avatar and having random sex.. the yes you are a theist.. not a deist. But theism generally had the connotation of mainstream, organised religion. Your religion is more like modern classical Greek pantheism. Where Zeus would just pop down and have sex with a bull for kicks.
    – Richard
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 0:42
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    That is a literal read translation. You sticking to such a strange definition of a word that has changed over time is problematic. Are dead people atheist? I suppose so with your definition as the dead people are without religion.
    – Logikal
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 7:25

The definition listed in Wikipedia is not reliable. The concept of atheism is NOT a "the absence [lack of belief] of belief in a diety." All material objects such as chair, tables, computers would fit that broad definition. When one expresses atheism one means a sentient being like a human being in the first place. But wait a minute that can't be the only requirement as new born infants are human beings and ARE NOT atheists. Atheism is clearly a choice a sentient being makes and is not forced. People are not forced into a label like atheism because they lack a belief. A new born infant lacks all beliefs and is not conscious of choice nor does it even care. Someone who doesn't even care if deities exist can't be an atheist by definition.

The proper non psychological definition of the term atheist expresses when a sentient being has the DENIAL or the rejection of a belief in a deity. This separates the new born infant from a teenager or an adult making a conscious choice that there is no God or the possibility of a God is next to impossible. A new born infant can't make a conscious choice to believe or disbelieve at the infant stage. Emotional people have entered there feelings into the definition where it does not belong.

You can't say a cat is an atheist or other animals other than humans are atheist. Other animals dont have the consciousness of choice or higher conceptual knowledge we can measure. So cats and other non human animals would fit in the "I dont care" category as the infant humans.

Non sentient beings also can't be atheist because they are not capable of thought and choice. So we can narrow the term atheist only applies to humans so far. Not just any human beings are atheist. Those who believe in a deity are called THEIST. The prefixes "A", "im", "un" , "non" in front of base words often represents the denial of the term that follows it. So take the term impossible does it mean the lack of possible or does it mean that x is impossible? Where u am from it means x is NOT possible. In logic the tilde expresses the same thing as those prefixes I mentioned above. Tilde does not express a lack of x. Tilde expresses "it is not the case . . . "

Is it ironic that people who lack a belief in a deity also believe they can just define things anyway they feel? The deity can't do whatever but these individuals can with definitions.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 17:48
  • Just like the word amoral means without morals, atheism is without theism. The irony here is that this post does for atheism what theists do for theism - demanding a preferred use of term, an aesthetic. Whether or not atheism is a "choice" has no bearing on the description of a state of affairs: the lack of belief in deity. The term applies trivially to the non-conscious and illiterate. Tho very common, use of "atheism" to describe "anti-theism" is misnomer - same as the use of "philosophy" to describe a solicitations to agreement with a way of looking at things.
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 17:49
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    @Mr Kennedy, you are only using literal etymology definitions instead of current and relevant definitions. O highly doubt you will get rational human beings to support your view. The minute you explain cats are atheist, cars are atheist, trees are atheist and best of all dead people are atheists. Many will walk away from your gathering once you directly state those claims. Amoral means NOT MORAL by the way.
    – Logikal
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 17:56
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    @Mr Kennedy, no it doesn't. Very few words in English still mean what the etymology meant. For instance the term " virgin" never referred to sexual experience as it does today. So even if you are correct some of the time with your way of thinking it is clearly false in other contexts. This makes fallacious thinking and is unreliable.
    – Logikal
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 18:18
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    My favourite example is "world" which etymologically derives from "old man" or "age of man". There are many examples. Mr. Kennedy's continued insistance on etymology as a strict method for deriving meaning primarily shows a misunderstanding of how language works.
    – user2953
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 19:16

Supernatural, above or outside nature. Hume in On Miracles nails the atheist view on this. It is a fundamental difference in perspective, the idea things can happen that are inexplicable just once, and it has never been captured reliably by an impartial observer ever. Because if it was it would become integrated with the causal explained world.

Sacred, from to sanctify, which has the same root as sanction - which used to mean not penalties, but to make binding. Atheists might have many things they hold sacred, human life, human rights, free speech. Things that are put beyond question. Even though they are put there by a process of reason.

The feeling of sacredness can be seen expanded to pathological levels, in some schizophrenics, or obsessive-compulsive people. There is a whole argument that direct human relationships with gods were the result of different brain structures: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicameralism_(psychology) Feeling sacredness is not a reliable or useful guide how to behave, even if it is personally and socially interesting to experience.

  • I would not say that god worship (and worship in general) is due to bicameralism. Have you seen how kids puts their parebts to auhority? A kid can ask any question and a parent can "invent" the answer even if it is not in an agreement with science, but a kid would be sure the parent is correct and it may become hard to admit that parent is just a human and not a substantially different being. Same with gods, many theists have obsession with an idea of authority, it's a form of juvenilization, maybe.
    – rus9384
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 9:53
  • @rus9384 This is about religion driven by a sense of sacredness. You clearly aspire to a massive oversimplification.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 21:46

I wish i could provide a better answer, but what i can provide might be useful context for someone Else's answer.

Popular atheism really clings to the idea of a "state of unbelief". When discussing my christian faith with new atheists it is common to hear something along the line of "Atheism is not a belief system, its just non-belief in God"

This sentiment is an echo of popular atheist personalities like Sam Harris who like to point out the prefix "a" in "a-theist" to be of similar use as "a-moral". (IMO the atheist is really agnostic but oh well)

In my experience, those who identify themselves as atheists, do not enjoy being told what they believe. Who does? So you wont get very far telling an atheist that they really believe in "The rejection of anything to be sacred for self"

But in the case of God, claiming that God does not exist has some consequential beliefs that the atheist has to accept.

In order to shut the door on God forever, the popular atheists have found themselves married to a Darwinist naturalism. This has led them to a more broad belief that the supernatural does not exist.

This has become a problem, as you analyzed in your OP. Placing our reality solely in the physical world means the metaphysical does not exist.

There are many metaphysical concepts such as the concept of "sacred" that science can't ground in the physical world...yet. This is where the current battle is it think. The atheist who consequentially became a naturalist, is consequentially be forced to explain away the "meta" out of metaphysical.

I think this is why science and philosophy are clashing. Science has become arrogant in its atheism and is seeking to explain away philosophy.

TO answer your question. No i have not seem this concept explained in this way before, and yes i think it is worthy. I think it is worthy because it right in the middle of the current atheist battlefield against the metaphysical.


Maybe I am missing the point of the controversy of the various answers, but from my point of view, the answer is a mere agreement of definitions.

Atheist - doesn't believe that GOD exists.
Theist - believes that GOD exists.

With these definitions, it is clear that it does not matter what GOD is (or not), theists believe in It and atheists do not!

So yes, atheism is about the existence (but more exactly about the non-existence) of Deity(ies).

Your new definition only exacerbates the existent confusion.

  • But God is a title, not an object, that's the problem, in short.
    – rus9384
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 4:51

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