Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, January 19, 2012 15 comments

Last week the Word of the Week was agnosticism, which is the term for doubting that God exists. This week we take that one step further into the idea of atheism, which is complete denial of the existence and reality of god. Atheism is from the Greek word “atheos”, which is from “a” meaning “without” and “theos” meaning “god.”

Typically, atheists are skeptical of anything having to do with the supernatural - whether it be the God of the Bible or any other supernatural being. Their reasoning for this belief is a lack of empirical evidence, that is any evidence based on data. They also cite reasons of the problem of evil - why does a God who claims to be good allow suffering in the world; inconsistent revelations between the various holy books of the world’s religions; the claims of the Bible about the destiny of unbelievers; and that a god who wants people to believe in him would do a better job of gathering followers.

In this blog we have tackled some of these issues. The post on theodicy tackles the problem of evil. Universalism discusses the destiny of unbelievers and why God doesn’t just save everyone. The posts on grace discuss what we need to do to be saved. Perhaps we’ll tackle some of the other claims in the future.

Even though atheism sounds like a fairly simple concept, there are different forms of it. Practical atheism involves living as if there is absolutely no god of any sort, and there are no “acts of god” in this world either. Gods are determined to be unnecessary and useless and do not need to influence daily life. Theoretical atheism is when an individual specifically argues against the existence of a god, rather than just simply living as if there is none. These atheists respond to arguments of Christians (and others) that God exists and provide their own arguments as to why there is no god.

Similar to last week’s writings on agnosticism, we cannot fundamentally be atheists as Christians. If a person considers the Bible to be their source of authority, they cannot help but believe in the God described throughout its pages. However, many in this world do not hold the Bible as an authority for their lives. This is when beliefs such as atheism can creep in and they end up living God-less lives.

As Christians we need to encourage those we know who are atheists (and agnostics too). We need to love them as our brothers and sisters, even though we do not agree with their beliefs. We need to pray for them that the God we believe rules the universe will reach out and touch their lives so that they cannot help but acknowledge Him with their lives.


Robert said...

Hi Katie, I'm an atheist, and I can tell you that your understanding of atheism is wrong. Your view that it is a "complete denial of...god" is contradicted by your own identification of atheism's etymology: "without god". This can mean a few things, but most atheists take it to mean "without a belief in god or gods".

Also, while it's true that not regarding the Bible as an authority can lead to atheism, in the overwhelming number of cases, it simply means you hold some other revered book as an authority. It would be interesting to see you tackle the problem why Christianity appears so similar to religions that have come before and after it.

Cuttlefish said...

Katie, do the bloggers here read the posts and comments of other bloggers here? Robert (comment #1) is correcting you on the same thing I corrected Logan on in his Monday post. You might want to look through the comments there.

Katie said...

Thank you both for your comments!

Robert - How would you define "atheist," considering y consider yourself to be one? I myself have never held such a view, so I appreciate your insight. From the research I did, there were a lot of different types of atheists and all do not necessarily believe the exact same thing.

To address your other comment, yes Christianity can be perceived to be similar to other religions. However, ere are significant differences. One main difference is that Christianity is the only religion whose God is still alive and active in our lives, and that makes all the difference in the world to me personally! :)

Cuttlefish - Logan and I write our blogs without reading each other's, and they are both written before the first one gets posted. I have read through the discussion you had with Logan on his post, and I appreciate your insights!

I think all of your comments reflect the need we all have to understand one another better through discussion.

Robert said...

Robert - How would you define "atheist," considering y consider yourself to be one?

I would define atheist as an individual who lacks a belief in a god or gods.

One main difference is that Christianity is the only religion whose God is still alive and active in our lives

Actually, this is a general commonality among most religions, as evidenced by their adherants' prayers and supplications. Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Baha'i, Wicca, and many others.

Is there anything else you regard as setting Christianity apart?

JD70 said...

Robert, I actually have to chuckle when atheists make this claim, "I would define atheist as an individual who lacks a belief in a god or gods." yet say the following is incorrect, "without god". She took this meaning from the Greek word "atheos". Are you saying that her interpretation from the Greek is incorrect? If you are then I assume you can read and understand Greek. If you can great. I know Katie asked you to define atheist and that's all fine and dandy but regardless, you seem to be splitting hairs to me.

Katie said...

Robert - Another key difference in Christianity is that it is all about what God has done, is doing, and will do. All other religions (to my knowledge) are about what people have done, are doing, or will do. For example, Islam... the religion is focused around the prophet Mohammed, and to be a Muslim there are many rules you must follow. To contrast that with Christianity, yes we as Christians have rules to follow as well, but there is God's grace and forgiveness available to us to erase our mistakes, because of what God has done. No one can follow all of the laws perfectly (except Jesus, who is God), but we still can receive salvation because of Jesus' death and resurrection - what God did, not what people must do. Does that help?

For another person's somewhat more in depth answer on this, check out

ohiosnuccadoc said...

I'm with JD70. I don't actually see a difference in what was written and the "correction." I do feel I have a lack of understanding, however, since I've not held a belief that there is no God, god, or gods. I believe there are several large differences between Christianity and most of the "religions" of the world. We'll late Katie take it as she seems to be listing 1 at a time.

Robert said...

JD70 wrote,
Robert, I actually have to chuckle when atheists make this claim, "I would define atheist as an individual who lacks a belief in a god or gods." yet say the following is incorrect, "without god".

If you re-read my initial reply, you'll see I said that the etymology of atheos doesn't lend itself to her definition of atheism meaning "complete denial...of god".

I did not say atheos means "without god".

Katie said...

Robert, again since I am not nor have ever been an atheist, I was relying on research I did to provide me with a definition. Please see this or this for a couple brief examples.

Etymologically speaking, adding the prefix "a" to a word in Biblical Greek indicates the opposite of the word without the prefix. For example, theos is God; atheos is no God or without God. You can add "a" onto any Greek noun and do something similar. But, simply that does not result in a complete, full definition; hence why I looked into other sources to add on to that. I used web sources such as those listed above as well as my own theological dictionaries.

Would you agree that if a person is "without" God that they are also "denying" God? To me these are very similar. If I do not believe that God exists, then I deny Him and I live my life as though I'm without Him.

It appears to me from your comments that we agree on general idea but not necessarily on a particular word choice; am I correct in this assessment?

Robert said...

Katie, Islam isn't focused on the Muhammed, but on Allah. Also, to become a Muslim, there is a phrase you speak "with sincerity and conviction":

I bear witness that there is no deity worthy to be worshiped but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger.

In Islam, you can offer up a certain kind of prayer when you need guidance.

Finally, Islam does talk about what Allah will do.

Cuttlefish said...


You are conflating "a-" with "anti-". "Without god" is a simple lack--there is no need to deny something that does not impact one's life. Christians may well deny other gods, because they are commanded to, but a lack of belief is not the same as an active "complete denial".

A request may be assented to or denied, but if no request is made, no denial is necessary. A believer may deny her god's will, but a non-believer has no need to.

NightWatcher said...

Cuttlefish - While one definition for denial is indeed "refusal to satisfy a request or desire", another definition (a little farther down in Merriam-Webster) is "refusal to acknowledge a person or a thing." Thus, Katie's statement that a(lack, without)theism(belief in God/a god) is a denial of the existance of God is logically and idiomatically (linguistically) sound.

Cuttlefish said...

Yes, it fits one of the dictionary's definitions. But attending to that definition is what leads to her initial misunderstanding; the definition the majority of atheists use does not lead to that problem.

Her misunderstanding comes from the definition she uses. To continue to use that definition, after atheists point out that it is not the one they use, is to deliberately choose to misunderstand.

Anonymous said...

This video will tell you everything you need to know about what atheism is, how it's defined, why it's not a "belief" in anything, but rather a "lack of belief", why it's not dogmatic, and why it is the default position, in ten minutes.

JD70 said...

Your video link is all fine and dandy but has much to be desired. Here's just one point as to why, it makes the assumption that when a child is born "the lack of belief in god's is the default position." This is not necessarily truth or a fact. This is an assumption. It's what this person uses as a foundation to build up their argument for "lack of belief in god's or God" of any kind.

It's a nice try though.