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Home » , » What is Atheism— Definition, Uses & Examples

The term atheism refers to currents of thought that deny or disregard the existence of deities. This term derives from the noun atheist which, etymologically, means “without god”, since its composition integrates the Greek word “theos”, which means God and the prefix “a”, which indicates a negation. Soon atheism denotes the doctrine that brings together all those who doubt or are convinced of the non-existence of gods.

The first uses of the term atheist are identified by historiography as dating from the 5th century BC. At the time, it designated not only those who did not believe that there really were gods, but also those who, in some way, performed actions that were considered disrespectful against places that were believed to be sacred.

Ways of understanding atheism

Currently, the denomination for atheism also fits currents of thought that do not necessarily nullify any possibility of divine existence. Thus, it is possible to speak of three ways of ideologically relating to the lack of scientific proof that a god or gods exist. They are: strong atheism, weak atheism and agnostics.

The so-called strong atheism concerns the group that is entirely convinced that god and deities do not exist. They are strictly against any idea of ​​the existence of superior beings, since there is no scientific evidence to that effect. Some of them even claim that it is possible to prove that belief in the divine is unsupported. Therefore, they have a complete aversion to the ideas of spirituality and are entirely materialistic.

While the so-called strong atheists are more universalist in defending their perspective of thought, the members of weak atheism take a more individual-based point of view. In general, they do not engage in public and open discussions on the subject. They believe that this is an obstacle that must be thought of based on their own options and not collective ones. Thus, weak atheism tends to be more reserved.

The thinking spearheaded by those who identify as agnostic is seen as an offshoot of weak atheism. They consider that just as it is not possible to prove that divine beings do not exist, it is also not possible to prove that they exist. In this way, this perspective does not have a rigid or centered commitment in any of the fields, since it admits the existence of margin for both positions to be possible.

prejudice against atheists

Contexts in which religious belief is based on the existence and activity of divine beings in the universe are strong, people who share the doctrine of atheism may be subject to prejudice. This happens because, many times, those who defend ideals such as creationism mistakenly believe that atheists do not share principles that they consider religious, such as love of neighbor, for example.

In this sense, statements such as “absence of God in the heart” are often used to justify the practice of heinous crimes or mental health disorders, such as depression. In this way, these discourses contribute to the construction of a distorted view of what it means not to believe in the existence of a god. There are countries in the world where publicly claiming to be an atheist can expose an individual to various types of violence. And the scenario is no different even in Brazil, which has a secular state.

The History of Atheism

The existence of people who do not believe in the existence of gods dates back to the period understood as Antiquity. The most classic example is the Greek philosopher Socrates. Among the accusations that led the Council of Five to condemn him to death was that he did not believe in the g

The rational thought preached by anthropocentrism, which began to gain strength during the Renaissance period, in addition to favoring the development of scientific thought, structures atheism. With the Industrial Revolution and the structuring of capitalism, he becomes increasingly present in society, including in philosophical and political-social movements. 


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