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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K002-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 16, 2024, from

Article Summary

Atheism is the position that affirms the nonexistence of God. It proposes positive disbelief rather than mere suspension of belief. Since many different gods have been objects of belief, one might be an atheist with respect to one god while believing in the existence of some other god. In the religions of the west – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – the dominant idea of God is of a purely spiritual, supernatural being who is the perfectly good, all-powerful, all-knowing creator of everything other than himself. As used in this entry, in the narrow sense of the term an atheist is anyone who disbelieves in the existence of this being, while in the broader sense an atheist is someone who denies the existence of any sort of divine reality. The justification of atheism in the narrow sense requires showing that the traditional arguments for the existence of God are inadequate as well as providing some positive reasons for thinking that there is no such being. Atheists have criticized the traditional arguments for belief and have tried to justify positive disbelief by arguing that the properties ascribed to this being are incoherent, and that the amount and severity of evils in the world make it quite likely that there is no such all-powerful, perfectly good being in control.

Citing this article:
Rowe, William L.. Atheism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K002-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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