The title is pretty self-explanatory. I had just assumed that after my research and falling out, I chose to be an Atheist. The other day I was speaking to my brother, and he said that to him Atheism wasn't really a choice. And in a way it's true. I don't think I could ever force myself to return to Christianity or believe the things I was taught. I'm kind of stuck, really. So, what do you think? Is atheism a choice?

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Personally, I was not raised Catholic but became one when I attended a Catholic school very early on. However, in my late teens, I turned atheist after learning about philosophy. My transition to atheism started after I watched Christopher Hitchens debate with the Rev. Al Sharpton, a debate which I think Hitchens had in the bag from the outset. After reading and studying philosophy, I find the atheistic world view more logical simply because the theists have no sound, coherent arguments to support their view. Thus, in a way, atheism was a choice for me.

However, I think that the question "Is atheism a choice?" is fundamentally a flawed question. The great Scottish philosopher David Hume once argued that there is a difference between the "is" facts and the "ought" facts. This is known as the "is-ought" problem, more affectionately known as "Hume's Guillotine". I firmly believe that atheism ought not to be compulsory and hence, it is a choice. It seems to me that agnosticism is the most plausible world view because we simply don't know. Like Hume, I am an empiricist, which means that sense data is the most important data to me. In reality, there simply isn't enough evidence to support either theism or atheism. Therefore, unless we learn about atheism or religion, we simply have to maintain the position that we don't know for sure.

I may be misreading your position, but based on asserting that "agnosticism is the most plausible world view" it appears you view agnosticism and atheism as two points on the same continuum, with atheism being the more extreme position and agnosticism being more moderate.

I have to quibble with that definition, though doing so may be attacking a straw man if that's not what you meant.  Atheism is a statement about belief, while agnosticism is a statement about knowledge.  I am both:  Atheist because I lack belief in any of the deities humans have proposed, and agnostic because I cannot be certain.  I consider humans ALL agnostics, whether believers or not.

"it appears you view agnosticism and atheism as two points on the same continuum, with atheism being the more extreme position and agnosticism being more moderate."

Yes, that is indeed what I view agnosticism and atheism as. So you're not attacking a straw man.

"Atheism is a statement about belief, while agnosticism is a statement about knowledge."

Technically speaking you are correct. But that does not mean that my view that they are on the same continuum is wrong. But let's first look at what the definitions of "belief" and "knowledge" are. According to the OED, "belief" refers to "mental acceptance of a proposition, statement, or fact, as true, on the ground of authority or evidence; assent of the mind to a statement, or to the truth of a fact beyond observation, on the testimony of another, or to a fact or truth on the evidence of consciousness; the mental condition involved in this assent" while "knowledge" refers to "acquaintance with a fact; perception, or certain information of, a fact or matter; state of being aware or informed; consciousness (of anything). The object is usually a proposition expressed or implied." If we accept the definition, "knowledge" can be simply summarised as "belief on the basis of strong and/or over-whelming evidence". Thus, it seems to me that you're fundamentally right about atheism being the more extreme position because by definition, "knowledge" is an extreme form of "belief".

Point taken.  To the extent that "knowledge" is never truly certain, any distinction between knowledge and belief may be arbitrary, which would place the two on the same continuum.  I think in practical terms, though, the distinction can be useful.  Thanks for the reply!

Etymologically speaking, there is a distinction between "knowledge" and "belief" to the extent that "knowledge" can be seen as either a "subset" of "belief" or a more extreme form of the latter. However, I think that you are fundamentally right when you say that "knowledge is never truly certain". Much like the great Scottish philosopher David Hume, I am a sceptic first and an atheist second. Thus, putting it that way, I can safely say that my atheism was a choice.

I chose to call myself an atheist, but I'm not sure about choosing to BE an atheist.


For a few years, I went to church with my (now ex-) wife.  My only peer-group at the time was the church.  I read alot of the Bible.  (Do you capitalize "the"?)  I couldn't make myself believe it, even though everyone around me did, or at least SAID they did.  I tried pretty hard.

I find the term as close as anything to describe myself, short version, without explaining all the whys and wherefores. It does not, however, describe me and my beliefs well but shortens the conversation. I have spent a lifetime reading, researching, understanding cultures and religions throughout history and therefore have many views and theories on the entirety of the human experience. As I don't find it necessary to share these with everyone who brings up the subject of god I usually just drop the term atheist and follow the conversation as an outside observer, unless of course someone asks and appears to truly want my opinion.

I chose atheism after I read the bible.

John Aultman

I chose atheism after I read the bible

I read the bible many many years after I became an atheist but once I read it, I relised what it was capable of.

"..this is god's, this is god's.." are the legos from gods too? ha!

Well of course he created legos -how do you think Nimrod built the tower of Babel?

It wasn't a choice that I was aware of but that's pretty biased as I haven't done the research myself. I actually think this question would be more interesting with a poll so we could start collecting some statistics.

I've heard many religious defenders claim to be Atheists or Agnostics at some point, it could just be a lie to try to build credibility of open mindedness but if you take them at face value then you could waver I suppose. Then I wonder if you can go back and forth multiple times or just once depending on how you think. 

It wouldn't suprise me if some people got overwhelmed with the sheer complexity of life created by as best as I can understand given science: "The universe is a chaotic system of fractal geometry and very large numbers". Well, that is basically my view in one sentence.


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