Atheism: A Belief System or Knowledge of Nature

Atheists don't have any particular belief system or an ideology of sorts. Recently discussing this with a friend I faced queries like why then was this suffix 'ism' in atheism, or what atheists believed in if there was no belief system in atheism? “That means you don’t believe in anything” was his reaction and then said in a lighter vein, “Nihilist perhaps”.


Atheism to me doesn't mean a strict and codified doctrine of some faith or a divine revelation. It should also not mean to imply an anti-god decree or ‘ism’ - a reactionary phrase in other words. Atheism means non-theism or absence of theism. Theism in itself is not any particular religion but very much part of every organized religion. Theism is a belief in god / gods while atheism means absence of that. The same way atheism can be a part of an ideology or philosophy. For example, Indian philosophy has atheism as an integral part of it.


Similarly, it is not a belief system following any tenets laid down by some god or his prophet. It is not like believing that god finished off creation in six tiresome days and took a well deserved rest on the seventh. Or like this one, contrary to all sensibility, that a virgin gave birth to some god's son. Or that all those non-believers would be put in the fire of hell once their prophet returned to this earth a second time.


Atheism is not an ideology (no holy book, no commandments, no prophet or god, no prayer, no sword, no Kalashnikov). My atheism is a knowledge system based on science and scientific methods of inquiry, experimentation and understanding. I don’t just believe it, but in fact I am a material product of this nature evolved during the continuous process of evolution. I don’t have a, what people call, soul or any other feature within me which isn’t physical or physically caused.


My morality and behavior emerge from a value system which I have developed genetically/biologically and/or imbibed from the environment and natural surroundings that as a human being or social animal I have to adapt to. Similarly, I have no free will to cause any action of my own and all my actions are a result of interaction with the environment around me. This absence of free will doesn’t mean presence of something predestined.


Atheism is a synergy between me and nature based on my behavior and actions in consonance with nature’s unpredictable laws and ever changing environs. The more I synchronize with nature the better I understand atheism.


In short atheism is nature; nothing more nothing less

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Comment by Aggiememenon on March 8, 2011 at 12:54am

"a knowledge system based on science and scientific methods of inquiry, experimentation and understanding." a possible a definition of naturalism, which is a point of view held by many atheists, but I wouldn't preface it with saying "my atheism is... X"

I'm an agnostic atheist, but I'm also a naturalist and an ethical humanist.

Comment by R K Sudan on March 6, 2011 at 10:13pm

Thanks Michael, John, Dennis for your valuable inputs towards better understanding of atheism. While we all agree that this is not a belief system but at the same time nobody is ever without believing into one thing or the other. Agnosticism to me doesn't appear a sustainable idea. You have got to be firm with a conviction. I fully agree that atheism means 'no god'.

I have been checking out the references made in your comments and would continue to follow in order to broaden my knowledge base. That I think is a rational approach.

Comment by Dennis Smith on March 6, 2011 at 3:02pm
What's more, you can say. No, I believe in many things which can be support rationally.
Comment by Dennis Smith on March 6, 2011 at 3:02pm
Just because someone turned rational thought and rejection of the claims of religion into an -ism doesn't make it a belief system. I like Sam Harris' approach. He doesn't call himself and atheist. He says it's like making up a word for not being an astrologist. It's not necessary. All it means is that "I've read the books and studied the claims and rejected them on insufficient evidence". That is not a belief system unless you want to can scientific method and critical rational thinking a belief system.
Comment by John Camilli on March 6, 2011 at 2:06pm

I also agree with your sentiment, but for the sake of consistency of definition, you seem to be more accurately describing agnosticism than atheism which, as Michael said, is a belief that there is no god, not simply a lack of belief that there is a god.


I've been recommending to a lot of people lately to check the philosophy known as Pyrrhonism, which is the precursor to both skepticism and empiricism. It is skepticism without the dogmatic decree that knowledge cannot  be had. It says "I do not know," rather than "I cannot know," which also fits nicely with the idea that reality is determined as it happens. Check it out, if you're inclined (wikipedia has a decent article on it, but I'd check multiple sources because the writing on it there is a bit misleading in places). You might find that it describes your ideas quite well already.

Comment by R K Sudan on March 6, 2011 at 5:47am
Very true and thanks for the comment. I'll be soon checking out your blog posts.
Comment by MCT on March 6, 2011 at 5:41am


Choice is dependent. Freedom and control are relative terms describing relationships between entities. They are not essential qualities of choice. Dependence on causality is. Causality, imo, is universal. I disagree with your statement that there is every reason for atheists not to be deterministic. We both agree that things are non predetermined. But you seem to think that if things are determined then they are predetermined. I do not. Everything, except that which is outside our limit of perception, is deterministic. Maybe, too complex to be predetermined by a singular consciousness, but determined none the less. Every event is determined by the factors that came before. Every decision we make is dependent of the physical state of our brains (memories, personality, goals, even its temperature among other things), and any new perceptions coming in. Thinking is a physical causally dependent process. I also wouldn't call the laws of nature unpredictable. I would only call anything sufficiently complex difficult to predict. I can be at least 99.99999999% certain that the sun will 'rise' here within an hour or two. I can also predict reasonable well what will happen if I let go of a balloon filled with helium in this atmosphere. We can predict with varying degrees of success and never with perfection because things exist when they are fully determined, not before. Check out a couple of my blogs for more on this subject.

Comment by R K Sudan on March 6, 2011 at 4:37am
Sure Michael, non-existence of so called god is an irrefutable premise. As far as determinism is concerned there is every reason for atheists not to be deterministic. What will be, will be but not by any godly interference but by unpredictable laws of nature. I'd also like your views on free will and causality.
Comment by MCT on March 6, 2011 at 3:49am
Atheism is believing there is no God, nothing more, nothing less. Nature is all that exists. But, I share your sentiment. I just like it literal. I totally agree that determinism doesn't entail a predetermined state, but what will be, will be, no matter what.



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