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Nihilism vs. Atheism

It is often said that "atheists believe in nothing" - that is, that atheists are nihilists. That statement fails for at least two reasons.

First, atheism is not a lifestance, philosophy of life or world view and never was intended to be such. To insist that it be a lifestance is mistaken in the least and dishonest if one ought to know better!

Atheism is either a complete disbelief that any supernatural entities exist (strong atheism) or a belief that there is no evidence that supernatural entities exist (weak atheism). Agnosticism is similar to weak atheism but agnostics are not willing to commit. All atheism speaks to is the existence or nonexistence of God, gods or other supernatural entities. It does not speak to how anyone should live their life and it was never meant to provide that sort of guidance.

That leads us to the next point. While atheism is not a lifestance, it is very rare that an atheist has no accompanying lifestance. Most atheists are either secular humanists, brights, positive atheists or something in addition to only being an atheist. These belief structures provide atheists with the principles by which they live and to accuse them of believing in nothing is MISrepresenting the true state of the thoughts of most atheists.

Furthermore, these various lifestances are quite well developed. These other beliefs are or will be the subject other posts. There are multiple national and international groups devoted to these various belief structures and there are hundreds of local groups throughout the world devoted to various lifestances that do not encompass a belief in a God, gods or other supernatural entities. A simple search on the internet will link you to a vast array of groups devoted to ethical living without supernatural instruction.

And, interestingly, if you analyze theistic ethics and nontheistic ethics, you will find a close similarity. Volumes have been written on the subject, but most atheists believe that ethics are derived from our human nature, brain and culture, not from a supernatural entity in the sky!

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Last revised on March 5, 2024.