Atheism

atheismAtheism is the rejection of belief in God, gods, or deities of any kind.  It comes from the Greek word atheos, meaning “without gods”.  Contrary to popular opinion, atheism didn’t begin with the Big Bang Theory or Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.  Some people in David’s time apparently rejected the idea of a deity.

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”  (Psalm 14:1)

History tells us that atheistic philosophies existed centuries before Christ in ancient India as a branch of Hindu known as Samkhya, and among ancient Greece’s pre-Socratics.  The term “atheist” was originally used in a derogatory sense in ancient Greece to describe people who rejected the prevailing view of those who believed in the gods, or “theists”.  In more modern times (around the 18th century) it became commonly used by naturalists (those who reject supernatural explanations for life, the universe, and how things work) during The Enlightenment to describe themselves.

From the fifth century to the tenth century AD Islam went through its Golden Age in the fields of science and philosophy.  As a result Arab and Persian rationalists and atheists emerged, similar to what occurred in the Age of Enlightenment that followed the Renaissance in Europe.  Still, atheists were looked down on and even persecuted until the late 18th century.  In more recent times atheism has been rampant in the worlds of philosophy, political science, literature, academia, and entertainment as it has become more socially acceptable.

Surveys show that atheism is on the rise.  In 2005 1% of the US population and 4% of the world’s population identified themselves as atheists.  Today it’s 5% in the US and 13% worldwide.  If this trend continues atheists will outnumber theists by 2050.

(In the first video a secular view of atheism is presented as a frame of reference.  In the second video the atheistic viewpoint is countered.) 

 

 


Agnosticism

agnosticism 2Agnosticism is the view that the existence of God or gods is unknown or unknowable.  The term was first used by Thomas Henry Huxley, an English biologist known as “Darwin’s Bulldog” for his advocacy of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, in a speech at a meeting of the Metaphysical Society in 1869 to describe his philosophy.  He offered this definition: “Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle … Positively the principle may be expressed: In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable.”

In 1879 Darwin himself used the word in describing  his views.

“I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. – I think that generally … an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.”

Although the word is relatively new, the view itself goes back to ancient Greece, where many philosophers expressed doubts about the existence of gods as they contemplated the reality of the material world.

The concepts of atheism and agnosticism are difficult to separate at times, because the logic behind both are essentially the same.  The difference appears to be in the degree of certainty.  On a scale of one to ten, with one being theist and ten being atheist, an agnostic could fall anywhere between two and nine.   For that reason there are no hard numbers on how many agnostics there are.

 

 


Deism

deismDeism is the view that there is a supreme being who created the universe, but who has not revealed anything to man other than through what we can discern through our physical senses.  In essence, deists believe that God created everything, and then left it up to us to figure it all out.  They often used the analogy of a divine watchmaker in theorizing that God put everything in motion and there’s no need for him to intervene.  The belief evolved as a result of the Age of Enlightenment’s advances in science and empiricism.

Some of the founding fathers of the United States were said to be deists, including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, George Washington, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson.  (Actually, only Thomas Paine actually fit the generally accepted definition of a deist, as the others accepted Christianity and the Bible to a certain extent.)  Other notable deists were Adam Smith (the father of modern economics), philosopher John Locke, authors Jules Verne and Mark Twain, inventor Thomas Edison, Neil Armstrong (the first man on the moon), and the French militarist Napoleon Bonaparte.

Thomas Paine wrote what many people consider the deists’ creed.

“I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.

I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavouring to make our fellow-creatures happy.

But, lest it should be supposed that I believe many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them.

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.”

 


Apatheism

Apatheism is a relatively new term used to identify a growing number of people who just don’t see the existence of God as relevant.  In surveys they’re often referred to as “nones”, as in “none of the above” in reference to a choice of religious views.  From 2007 to 2014 the percentage of people identifying themselves as “nones” went from 16% to 23% according to a Pew Research Center study.  That’s 1% per year, which means that in 27 years (2042) half of our population will identify themselves as nones if the current trend continues.
A number of factors have contributed to the increasing number of apatheists.  Unlimited sources of entertainment, an educational system that essentially promotes secularism, and parents who have focused on materialism and failed to instill faith based values and a biblical world view in their kids.  As those kids grow up and become leaders in business, education, and government they will likely implement their secular views into all aspects of society unless the church awakens and makes Christianity relevant again.

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