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This lesson introduces the concept of atheism, the belief that the world is literally "a theos," without god.

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Welcome to this tutorial on atheism. Atheism is quite simply the belief that there is no God. Atheism used to be regarded as a term of abuse. And it was actually quite a dangerous term to lob at someone for millennia. But in recent years has gained more of a following, especially since the French Enlightenment and in the 20th Century. And atheism has become quite an intellectual movement.

The word atheist comes from a theos. It just means no God. We should differentiate atheism from agnosticism. Agnostics believe that they can't really have any knowledge about God one way or the other. It's simply beyond human understanding. So agnostic comes from the word gnosis, having no knowledge about God one way or the other.

Some reasons for not believing in God. Well, first of all, God is imperceivable. So from the perspective of a sort of empiricist theory of knowledge where we rely on the senses to tell us what we should believe about God, it's simply makes no sense to believe in something that you can't see.

Next, what about evil? This has especially been a problem in the 20th Century since we had two world wars and the Holocaust. God comes to look like, I don't know, a sort of cruel child who's sort of torturing ants with a magnifying glass or something like that.

God is at the very least, an innocent bystander if God has the ability to do something about the evil in the world and chooses not to do anything. Next, what about all these differing world religions? All of them claim to have a sort of an absolute truth. All of them disagree with each other.

So in a sense, these different world religions cancel each other out. And we can just say that they are all untrue. Finally, what about scientific explanation? So just like people like Galileo and Copernicus overthrew the idea that the Earth was at the center of the universe, in the 20th Century more scientific developments have come to challenge the theistic, creationist world view.

Especially Darwinian evolution. Which seems to do go away with the need for a creator god. And we can have life emerge from nonliving matter just by a sheer random sorting process. So it seems to do away with the need for a god.

So what about atheism as a religion? We could say that atheism becomes a religion when it sort of becomes an all encapsulating world view. So take a look in the religion section in your bookstore, and you'll see several recent books about atheism in the religion section which I think is quite funny.

And some atheist thinkers do seem to see the need to almost evangelize for atheism. And this is a relatively recent development that is becoming more and more popular every year.

Just to recap. We said that atheism is the belief that God does not exist. And this can be differentiated from agnosticism which says that human beings simply cannot know about the existence of God. We gave some reasons for atheism. The fact that God is imperceivable, that evil exists in the world, that there are differing religious accounts of God, and that scientific explanation does away with the need for a god.

Most recently in the 19th and 20th Centuries, Darwinian evolution has challenged a belief in God with its idea that the idea of creation can be replaced with a simple blind sorting process. Thanks for watching.

Terms to Know

Either the belief that the existence of god(s) has not been proven, or the belief that the existence of god(s) can never be proven.


The belief that god does not exist.


The natural philosophy of Charles Darwin, most often associated with the theory of evolution.