If we define Atheism and Materialism as follows:

"Atheism: disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods." [1]

"Materialism: the theory or belief that nothing exists except matter and its movements and modifications." [2]

Can an Atheist NOT be Materialist? Or Atheism necessarily leads to Materialism?

A Materialist Atheist is able to explain the Universe's creation using Darwinism; however, how a non-Materialist Atheist can do explain the Universe's creation **without God(s)?**

Please note that the question is NOT "is there a non-Materialist Atheist ?", but also the question is how can a non-Materialist Atheist explain the Universe's creation without God(s)?

[1] https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/atheism

[2] https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/materialism

  • 2
    I am atheist and neither reductionalist/materialist, nor dualist. I actually think both transcendence and positive metaphysics are absurd for the same reason.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Dec 7, 2018 at 19:51
  • Also - see Schopenhauer Dec 7, 2018 at 19:52
  • The realm of the supernatural is not just constrained to gods and deities.
    – ritlew
    Dec 7, 2018 at 20:02
  • 4
    Darwinism does not explain, or attempt to explain, the creation of the universe or even of the earth. It is a theory of the development of life on earth. This is no criticism of Darwinism; explaining the creation of the universe/ earth is not within its remit.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Dec 8, 2018 at 8:55

6 Answers 6


The question infers that the universe was "created" at some point in the past, though offers no proof of such a "creation". Even if such a "proof" was proffered, there is no evidence supporting a definitive cessation to "creation"; that is that such a "creation" is not continuously ongoing right now.

Darwin was attempting to "justify" the appearance on this planet of certain species, namely, the amalgamation of Neanderthal and Denisovan hominids (before the advent of DNA) into "human_kind_"; as distinct from the original humans on this planet. That is, where he came from; while at the same time attempting to place his kind at the top of the food chain as the premiere of "creation".

An atheist does not need to prove that "god" or "gods" do not exist, nor "justify" anything else concerning "creation" or "materialism"; neither to another atheist or an individual who believes in a single "god" or multiple "gods".

The premise that an atheist would attempt to "justify" "creation" presumes that they are in some form of discussion with an individual who believes in "god" or "gods"; though to do so is a fruitless dialogue, if each party truly believes what they profess before the dialogue commences.

Omitted from the question is the concept of "spirituality", which does not rely on the "belief" or definitions "atheist" or "materialism"; certainly not within the scope of those "western" definitions of those terms.

  • +1. Precisely right about Darwin. He was not trying to explain the creation of the earth, let alone the universe.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Dec 8, 2018 at 11:42

Philosophical Buddhism has no belief in gods or of God. It's usually counter-posed to the Abrahamic religions as an atheistic religion.

Nevertheless, it's not a materialist religion. It makes similar ethical claims to the main religious traditions of the West.


Atheism pertains to God or gods. It doesn't rule out any other form of belief. An atheist may well believe in psychic phenomena, for example, or some form of spirituality. (I've known some.) Anything is possible for an atheist to believe except stuff that's specifically divine. Religions like Buddhism and Taoism do not require gods.

Darwin's work was about the origin of species, not the creation of life or the Universe. I found Krauss' "A Universe From Nothing" to be very helpful on how a universe could occur without any sort of creator, in a form a materialist could accept.

Why would a non-materialist atheist have any problems with such "creation" of the Universe? A materialist explanation does not rule out non-materialist stuff like forms of spirituality or psychic abilities.


Atheism is just lack of god, It doesn't imply anything else, now we can say that a lot of atheists are materialists which is common but not a must, anyway it depends on each person philosophy for example I don't think the universe has to be created in the first place, I mean that path (the search of how it was created) is traditionally followed by scientist and non scientist religious and non, but for some people (like me) that makes no sense because we don't believe the universe was created and that also implies (at least in my case) that it won't end.

So I don't have to explain how it was created because for me it was NOT created, it just existed and will exist forever.

Just my way of looking the world, I respect other points of view.


Both definitions are shallow, naive and incomplete from philosophical standpoint

Materialism - everything is matter. But how do you perceive this matter, and does this matter has some attributes to differentiate it from (non-existing) non-matter ? Obviously, Oxford dictionary could be useful for general public, but is for choice for philosophical discussions. Somewhat better definition of materialism would be as theory or view that explains everything by involuntary movement or modification of matter. I.e. matter is everything, it has no conscience or mind (these are just illusions created by moving matter), it moves and changes by certain objective laws and rules. Note that in this worldview there are no sentient beings at all, they are just philosophical zombies that appear intelligent but are just automatons in reality. This worldview is completely compatible with atheism, because there are no beings, therefore there are no gods.

As for atheism, Oxford definition begs the question what is this God or gods we are talking about ? Is it supreme being, or just superior to us (in intellect, power etc..), does it have to be omnipotent and all-knowing , does it have to be creator of our world (universe, multiverse ...) ? For example, if you create a virtual world (game) for certain beings, and they spend large part of their lives in it, would you be some kind of god for them ? Especially if you could do them some favors in your game (give them wealth, power, better looks etc ...) . But if your definition of atheism is restricted solely to negation of all-powerful being, then it is still possible to be non-materialist. There are different religions and philosophical schools that do not have such being in their belief, therefore they could be called atheistic in this regard, yet they are certainly not materialistic.


The only real 'out' for the atheist in regards to the creation of the universe is to believe either the universe is eternal or it came into existence uncaused. Both have their problems.

As for an eternal universe, I think the constantly expanding universe is one of the more well documented and well supported ideas in modern physics. I think holding to a static universe at this point in time would be not in line with the facts. You can even call it unscientific.

As for it being uncaused the problem that youhave then is that concepts of causality are so ingrained into our universe that they are beyond every day. You dont ever see something coming of nothing. We as people have the ability to cause events, but still the concept of of nothing comes nothing is now truer than ever.

Even when the magician pulls a rabit from a hat, the magician is still the cause of this rabbit spontanous existence. If causality even holds to the realms of fantasy than it shows you how ingrained it is in our existence.

You may say that just because the physical universe operates under causality does not mean that universe was created under it, to that I would say what evidence could you possibly have to the contrary? I would rather hedge my bets with the universe as I see it every day.

So then if you find an eternal universe impossible. You also dont have enough faith to believe in uncaused events, then I fear you are left with the unavoidable coclusion that the universe does have a cause.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .