A Case for Atheism: Outline and Introduction
II. There are good reasons to be SKEPTICAL about religion and religious beliefs.
III. There is no good case for the belief that God exists (THEISM).
IV. There are good reasons for rejecting the belief that God exists (ATHEISM).
I am going to make a case for atheism. In order to be clear, the first thing that I need to do is to DEFINE some key terms.
There is a strong and a weak sense of the term theism:
strong-sense theism: the belief that God exists.
weak-sense theism: the belief that at least one god exists.
In order to understand “weak-sense theism” we need to know what the word “god” means:
A god is a person who has at least one supernatural power or characteristic.
In order to understand “strong-sense theism” we need to know what the phrase “God exists” means:
God exists IF AND ONLY IF there is exactly one person who is (a) omnipotent, and (b) omniscient, and (c) perfectly morally good, and (d) eternal, and (e) bodiless, and who is (f) the creator of the universe.
A person who is a strong-sense theist must ALSO be a weak-sense theist, because the belief that “God exists” logically implies the belief that “at least one god exists”. But a person who is a weak-sense theist need not be a strong-sense theist, because he or she might believe only in finite gods, gods who are less than omnipotent, less than omniscient, and/or less than perfectly morally good.
A strong-sense theist believes that there is ONLY ONE person who is omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly morally good, etc. But this does NOT mean that a strong-sense theist must believe that there is ONLY ONE god. This is because it is possible to believe that there is exactly one god of the infinite sort (omnipotent, omniscient, etc.), while at the same time believing that there are other gods of a finite sort (less than omnipotent, less than omniscient, etc.). In other words, a strong-sense theist could be a polytheist. Believing in an infinite god does NOT mean rejecting belief in finite gods.
Now that we have defined “theism”, we can define “atheism”:
atheism: the rejection of theism.
An atheist is a person who has rejected theism. Some atheists reject theism because they believe that the available evidence shows that theism is FALSE. But other atheists reject theism because they think the available evidence is NOT SUFFICIENT to show that theism is true. Still other atheists reject theism because they think that theism doesn’t make a factual claim that could be either true or false, so no amount of evidence either way could ever resolve the issue. There are many different reasons why atheists reject theism.
But I have previously pointed out that “theism” is an ambiguous term. There are at least two different meanings of “theism”. Therefore, there are at least two different meanings of the word “atheism”:
atheism-type1: the rejection of the belief that God exists (i.e. rejection of strong-sense theism).
atheism-type2: the rejection of the belief that at least one god exists (i.e. rejection of weak-sense theism)
A person who is a type2 atheist must ALSO be a type1 atheist, because if there are no gods at all, then clearly there is no omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, eternal, bodiless, creator-of-the-universe sort of god. However, a type1 atheist is not necessarily also a type2 atheist, because rejecting belief in an infinite god (who is omnipotent, omniscient, etc.) does not logically imply rejecting belief in all finite gods (who are less than omnipotent, and/or less than omniscient, etc.).
I am going to make a case for atheism, but since the word “atheism” is ambiguous, I need to clarify which sort of atheism I will be defending: I will be making a case for atheism-type1. I will be arguing that we should REJECT the belief that God Exists; we should reject strong-sense theism. I also believe that we should reject weak-sense theism, but I will not be arguing for that view here.