Is Atheism a Belief System or Perhaps Something Else
I think here are perhaps five ways to think about this question–and I think here are five reasons to think of it as a belief system :
What makes an atheist an atheist? Its beliefs or non-beliefs….but those non-beliefs are still beliefs.
What is their why? What do they stand for? What do they stand against? Philosophy has lots of belief-systems that are anti-thetical to something (for instance in political philosophy you have both the anarchists and the anti-federalists and BOTH are belief systems).
Atheism is a way of seeing and interpreting the world. Its a perspective. Its a lens. One of those beliefs is that it is better than its alternatives. Moreover, Atheism an ideology. All ideologies have assumptions about the way they view the world. (ultimately, its an “ism” and it stands against other “ism”) Being anti-doesn’t make it unique….all of the other “isms” like feminism are against something else (ie sexism and the like)
The ability to have a conversation about it…..suggest it is a belief system. Its those taken-for-granteds is where you pick up and have a conversation. If Atheism wasn’t a belief system…there would be no need to hold conventions or write books or have debates. Moreover, it wouldn’t have a direction, it wouldn’t have a mission, and it wouldn’t be an identity or label that was meaningful. In order for it to do all of those–its becomes a belief or ideological system.
Please also realize, the attempt to define it as non-belief is a rhetorical or semantic move….not a truly substantive one (in my humble opinion). You have the same rhetorical move in relativism. It assumes that it isn’t an ethical system….but it is an ethical system, just an ethical system which assumes we don’t have a need for common standards.
Certainly it may be that each person adapts it to themselves…but the same thing happens in liberalism where you have a split between republicans and democrats….and libertarians and others.
I would also echo much of what Daniel Lowe already said, as his answer is very on-point.
Ultimately, anti-belief systems still have beliefs and ideologies embedded in them.
Anarchy is a belief system. Anti-capitalism is a belief system. Anti-patriarchy is a belief system.
Negative numbers are still numbers.
I hate X….I dont believe X is a belief. For instance, I don’t believe in the primacy of chocolate donuts….thats a belief. Not a very important one…but a belief.
Everyone has beliefs and acts on beliefs. We can’t have a debate……with ANY meaning without the two sides having beliefs.
If you don’t have conscious beliefs….you can still have unconscious ones.
Not to mention, you now apparently have a belief….that you can deny your belief and your belief system. So there’s that.
Perhaps by reframing…even by trying to stay out of the belief business entirely…..you end up with assumptive defaults (ie cultural, environmental, family, personal, etc…)
Plus, on both legal and political level…atheism claims to be a belief system.
Also, did you read the extensive answer I wrote in the actual answer? Atheism is defined in terms of beliefs. You might be able to call it a negative belief versus a positive belief (ala negative and positive rights)….but you are fundamentally stuck with it….its a belief.
People that work in history or antropology and try to edit history or anthropology (even taking away parts) would still be called historians and anthropologists as long as they.
Philosophers study ideas and belief systems. And all ideas that are true/false are belief or belief systems.
So do you not believe in Atheism? What exactly do you believe in? Also, if you don’t believe in something….you’re certainly taking leaps of faith….actually you’re taking leaps of faith either way perhaps…..but thats a different debate–and one that I think I would be glad to have.
My buddy Daniel L who is in theology school/seminary wrote this:
A few reasons:
1) If you put an “ism” on the end of any word, it generally becomes some sort of belief. Once things have labels, they are usually beliefs. This is just general language usage. If things are meaningful enough to have a label, there is usually content behind the label.
2) Traditionally atheism has been defined as believing that god(s) do not exist. Only recently has that definition begun to change.
Human beings are believing creatures. Human beings are essentially thinking beings. You cannot think without thinking something. Therefore even if you argue that atheism is not a belief, you are still thinking something. There are beliefs and there is a belief system behind your non-belief. Which leads me to coherentism. Belief and non-belief are not isolated. Every thought in your mind forms a coherency web. Therefore for you to have non-belief, it must fit within your other beliefs. Belief is not a religious thing. It’s a very very basic mode of thought. Once you’ve taken a position, even in contrast to something else, it becomes a belief.