What do Atheists Believe?

While discussing Atheism, faith, and personal beliefs with my youth group this past week the question came up “what do Atheists believe in”.  The Evangelical response would have been “they believe there’s no God and we all came from monkeys”.  But I don’t want to be “that person” and I don’t want my youth group to be that closed minded either.  After all the time I’ve spent trying to understand Atheism, what they actually do believe is one question I really hadn’t asked.  The focus when I’ve interacted with Atheists has always revolved around God, religion, and science.  Like many discussions (with religious and non-religious people) there’s rarely a point of quiet listening to answer the “who am I” question.  It’s unfair really.  The tough thing is that Atheists don’t have an organized dogma with a common set of beliefs.  The only thing you can say defines Atheism is that they believe there is no god.  So I took some time to look online to find out find what Atheists do believe.  Any Atheists who come across this, I’d love for you to share your personal beliefs as well, but please be positive and enlightening.

From American Atheists

Atheism may be defined as the mental attitude which unreservedly accepts the supremacy of reason and aims at establishing a life-style and ethical outlook verifiable by experience and scientific method, independent of all arbitrary assumptions of authority and creeds.

Materialism declares that the cosmos is devoid of immanent conscious purpose; that it is governed by its own inherent, immutable, and impersonal laws; that there is no supernatural interference in human life; that humankind — finding their resources within themselves — can and must create their own destiny. Materialism restores dignity and intellectual integrity to humanity. It teaches that we must prize our life on earth and strive always to improve it. It holds that human beings are capable of creating a social system based on reason and justice. Materialism’s “faith” is in humankind and their ability to transform the world culture by their own efforts. This is a commitment which is in its very essence life-asserting. It considers the struggle for progress as a moral obligation that is impossible without noble ideas that inspire us to bold, creative works. Materialism holds that our potential for good and more fulfilling cultural development is, for all practical purposes, unlimited.

From Hemant Mehta Atheist Author, Teacher, and Blogger via The Friendly Atheist (2009)

I believe in the goodness of people, I believe in nature, I believe we all find different ways to answer that question, I believe in the Golden Rule, etc.

From Richard Carrier Atheist Advocate, Author, and Blogger via Infidels.org (1996)

I believe in many things. I believe in the potential of humanity, in the power of reason, in the comfort of love, and in the value of truth. I also believe in the beauty and joy of human experience, and the nearly unlimited power of the human will to endure almost any hardship or solve almost any problem.  I believe that faith can mislead people into falsehood, and that we need reason and doubt as necessary checks against our capacity for error. I believe that we need to allow our fellow human beings to make choices for themselves and to live the life they wish to, in mutual peace and goodwill.  I believe that political negotiation and compromise — fuelled by an honest measure of respect for different opinions, beliefs and lifestyles — is the only way the world will find universal peace and goodwill, and that using the scientific method is the only way the world can arrive at an agreement on the truth about anything.  I believe that it is better to preach the gospel of “be good to your fellow man, and love each other as life itself,” than to preach the gospel of “believe in our religion or be damned.” For it is better to be good to each other and to build on what we all agree to be true, than to insist that we all think alike.

From Madalyn Murray O’Hair founder of American Atheists

An atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An  atheist believes that deed must be done instead of prayer. An atheist strives  for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered,  poverty banished, war eliminated.

From Wikipedia

The strictest sense of atheism does not entail any specific beliefs outside of disbelief in any deity; as such, atheists can hold any number of spiritual beliefs. For the same reason, atheists can hold a wide variety of ethical beliefs, ranging from the moral universalism of humanism, which holds that a moral code should be applied consistently to all humans, to moral nihilism, which holds that morality is meaningless

From Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (I added this one just because it was stereotypical of what most Christians will say Atheists believe)

There is no God or devil.

There is no supernatural realm.

Miracles cannot occur.

There is no such thing as sin as a violation of God’s will.

Generally, the universe is materialistic and measurable.

Man is material.

Generally, evolution is considered a scientific fact.

Ethics and morals are relative.

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4 thoughts on “What do Atheists Believe?

  1. “they believe there’s no God and we all came from monkeys””

    Actually, we don’t believe in a god or gods. Science tells us that monkeys and we share a common ancestor, and most atheists believe that.

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    • So for someone who’s not an Atheist, can you explain the difference between “they don’t believe in God” and “we believe there is no god”? I think we’re saying the same thing and its just a matter of phraseology.

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      • One implies a level of knowledge that isn’t necessarily being claimed.

        For example, to change this to something that you might feel the same about: I could say “I don’t believe Bigfoot exists” or I could say “I believe Bigfoot doesn’t exist”.

        Now, being casual, I might say either and mean the same thing.

        However, saying the second one (I believe Bigfoot doesn’t exist.) implies that I have absolutely knowledge and there is no possibility that Bigfoot is real.

        The first one (I don’t believe Bigfoot exists) is simply the negative position and implies one is open to all the available evidence.

        So, given all the available evidence, I currently do not believe a god or gods exist.

        I know it’s a subtle difference, but the difference is there. I am not making a claim about the existence of Bigfoot or a god. I am merely looking at the claims that those things do exist and saying I don’t believe them.

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