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Atheism: Definition, History and Types

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Introduction

All my life I wondered which of the thousands of religions, if any, is the right one to believe in. Do you have to believe in a religion to be considered a better human. The definition of religion means to believe in, worship, and have faith in a higher power. Many religions will worship a god or gods depending on their belief. What if someone chooses not to believe in a god or higher power, does that make you flawed?. People who don’t believe in the existences of gods or gods are recognized as atheists.

The Definition of Atheism

Let’s start off by explaining what atheism is, it’s when a person doesn’t believe in any existence of a higher power, god, or goddess. The word atheism comes from the root word “theism”, which is when you believe in a God, or many Gods depending on the religion, and the prefix “a”, which means “not”. There are no traditional practices of atheism, or a set list of beliefs. To be an atheist one believes whatever they want and basically lives their life without restraints. They base their opinions on what they believe is good or bad, not what they’re told is good or bad.

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The History of Atheism

Many people believe atheism is a newer upcoming religion. However, the religious disbeliefs has a long history, dating back to the fifth century BCE. A famous historian, writer, and a philosopher know as William James Durant, wrote about tribes discovered in Asia, and Africa, who were unlike other tribes. They had no identifiable symbols or flags to represent who they were. There were no deities, and no spirits to worship or believe in. The deceased, were given no special ceremonies. These tribes even lacked common superstitions.

Another historic, and more public time for atheism was in 1729. A French Catholic priest Jean Meslier. He is known for being one of the first people to argue for atheism. Jean died in 1729, and that’s when his work was discovered. His parishioners were going through his belongings, when they discovered a 633 page manuscript known as “Testament”. The entire document was full of his secret thoughts on how he didn’t believe in the existence of god, or loved god. He went on about religion being a form of trickery, and was dangerous. He left his last will and testament to his parishioners, to be published after his death.

Types of Atheism

Just like any religion atheism has many different groups. There are many different types of Atheism, each of them representing something different. Most individuals break them down into groups of followers who lacks belief, are unsure if god exists, doubts god’s existence, and finally those who truly believe god does not exist.

Anti-theist is a religion that is stronger in denial of the belief of god. Unlike atheism, who only believe the nonexistence of any form of a higher power. Anti-theist requires more than just a disbelief in gods, or denying of the existence of gods. They require the belief that religion is harmful to society, culture, and government. They also see religion to be toxic in the form of brainwashing children, faith healing, circumcision, and the discrimination towards homosexuals.

Agnostic, is another type of atheism. The word agnostic means “unknowable”. They lack the concept of god, but don’t want to disrespect or offend anyone. They may believe there could be a god in the future, but until a higher power appears they are questionable.

Freethinker follow beliefs based on logical reasons, and facts, oppose to being faith based and worshiping a higher non-existence power. They firmly believe on science to provide the knowledge of the world.

Humanist is another faint form of atheism. They are not religious, but unlike atheist who focus on there being no god, or an agnostic who focuses on uncertainty of a god. Humanist, like to focus on having a good life, with ethical values. Humanist, are usually individuals who are atheists, but sometimes they can be religious too.

Conclusion

There is still a lot of controversy in society today with atheism vs theism. And it really comes down to a simple question, do you believe in a god, or not?. In the united States, atheists are seen as the outcasts of our country. The distrust and judgment people feel towards atheists is not uncommon. These discriminations went as far as not accepting them to be under oath due there lack of belief. “Today because of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, any government official cannot force an individual into preforming any religious acts. Under this also includes, swearing oaths on bibles.” (American Atheists) One would think, living in a country where the First Amendment, allows us to practice our own religious beliefs, people would also be allowed to practice their lack of beliefs as well.

Bibliography

  1. https://www.atheists.org/activism/resources/about-atheism/
  2. Amandine Barb, « “An atheistic American is a contradiction in terms”: Religion, Civic Belonging and Collective Identity in the United States », European journal of American studies [Online], 6-1 | 2011, Online since 24 February 2011, connection on 04 December 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/ejas/8865 ; DOI : 10.4000/ejas.8865
  3. Morgane Guinard, “The Poisoned Will of Jean Meslier”, 26 September 2017: URL: https://www.historytoday.com/history-matters/poisoned-will-jean-meslier

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