Atheism in Typologies
George H. Smith, |
Atheism: the case against God
(Prometheus: Buffalo NY 1979)
This book ... is not a sympathetic examination or interpretation of religious
doctrines; it is a straightforward critique, philosophically and psychologically,
of the belief in a god, especially as manifested in Christianity.
... It is my purpose, however, to demonstrate that the belief in god is
irrational to the point of absurdity; and that this irrationality, when
manifested in specific religions such as Christianity, is extremely harmful.
Atheism is probably the least popular--and least understood--philosophical
position in America today. It is often approached with fear and mistrust ...
Atheism is commonly considered to be a threat to the individual and society. It
is "science divorced from wisdom and the fear of God," writes one philosopher,
"which the world has directly to thank for the worst evils of 'modern war' ...
[A.E. Taylor, 1947] In a recent critique of atheism, Vincent P. Miceli  claims that 'every form of atheism,
even the initially well-intentioned, constricts, shrinks, enslaves the individual
atheist within and against himself and, eventually, as atheism reaches plague
proportions among men, goes on to slave and murder society."
"Theism" is defined as the "belief in a god or gods." The term "theism" is
sometimes used to designate the belief in a particular kind of god-the personal
god of monotheism--but as used throughout this book, "theism" signifies the
belief in any god or number of gods. The prefix "a" means "without," so the term
"a-theism" literally means "without theism," or without belief in a god or gods.
Atheism, therefore, is the absence of theistic belief. One who does not believe
in the existence of a god or supernatural being is properly designated as an
Atheism is sometimes defined as "belief that there is no God of any kind," [Hick,
1963] or the claim that a god cannot exist. While these are categories of
atheism, they do not exhaust the meaning of atheism--and they are somewhat
misleading with respect to the basic nature of atheism. Atheism, in its basic
form, is not a belief: it is the absence of belief. An atheist is not primarily a
person who believes that a god does not exist; rather, he does not believe in the
existence of a god. 7
First there is the familiar sense in which a person is an atheist if he maintains
that there is no God, where this is taken to mean that "God exists" expresses a
false proposition. Secondly, there is also a broader sense in which a person is
an atheist if he rejects belief in God, regardless of whether his rejection is
based on the view that belief in God is false.
- Paul Edwards, 1961
"Atheism" is a privative term, a term of negation, indicating the opposite of
"Theism" and "atheism" are descriptive terms: they specify the presence or
absence of a belief in god. 8