Atheism 101: What Do Atheists Believe?

I’ve heard this question a million times. People want to know how we as atheists can believe in anything, since we don’t believe in God. The answer to this question is not a simple one, since all any two atheists have in common is their disbelief in gods, but there are a few common answers. Some of which include “I believe in the goodness of people” or “I believe in people,” “I believe in the beauty of nature,” “I believe we all have different answers to that question,” and “I believe in doing what is right.” But there are any number of answers to this question, because God isn’t the only thing people believe it. We all hold many beliefs. As such, the question “what do you believe?” is a bad question. Atheists have beliefs. We have dreams and desires to. They just don’t involve gods.
However, this is a touchy question for atheists. Most people are willing to give some variation of the answers listed above, but there are two other common answers that are less positive. One answer is that the person doesn’t believe in wasting time worrying about what other people believe. This answer isn’t negative in the sense that it is mean or rude. Rather, it is an answer based on what the person doesn’t believe, not on what they do believe. Instead of worrying about belief, the people who answer in this way they prefer to worry about their own lives and how best to live them. These people generally think that there is nothing logical or worthwhile about theological or religious debates. The other answer is to say that atheists don’t believe anything. Obviously, I disagree with this. However, a lot of atheists think that “belief” is synonymous with “faith.” And “faith” to an atheist generally means “believing without evidence.” Most Atheists prefer to be as logical as possible, so anything that doesn’t suggest evidence is generally mistrusted.
So, as an atheist, what do I believe? I believe that people are neither good or bad. People are people. We all make good decisions and bad decisions. Some people make more good decisions than bad decisions, others make more bad decisions than good decisions, but most of us make around the same number of good and bad decisions. And most of our decisions are simply neutral. I believe that it is important to actively seek out new knowledge. The more true things we know, and the less false things, the better off we are. I believe that it is important to travel. I want to see the world. I believe it is important to help people, but we must be aware of how our actions affect the people we set out to help. Expecting everyone else to be able to achieve what I achieve is ridiculous, because we aren’t all born in a position of equal opportunity. But sometimes, by trying to help others, we actually do more harm than good. I’m a feminist, so I believe that men and women (and everyone else) should be equal. I’m a Socialist, so I believe that it is the governments job to help its people lead comfortable, safe lives. And, of course, I believe there are no gods. In fact, I believe there is nothing supernatural whatsoever. I believe in many other things too, but I think I’ll stop here for now.

My point is, atheists hold many beliefs as is anyone else, we just also happen to not believe in gods.

15 responses to “Atheism 101: What Do Atheists Believe?

  • Avril

    I think what you are doing is important. There is a portrayal of athiest being cold and anti-society. Your presentation is contrary. I am not an athiest–but, I am extremely fluid and I make no claim that what I believe is the only way to believe. I practice traditional yoga meditation and my husband is a Buddhist (which many argue is a form of athiesm), and both of our traditions state you must have experiential knowledge. Mere conjecture and intellectual knowelegde do not count. Thank you for broadening my horizons.


  • Michael

    People are People (so why should it be…) Yes we all have common threads, But life is more that your own and I know you understand this. I do not share the view you hold but everyone has a right to their view of life. Some are right and some are not.And one day we will all see the truth for what it really is. Of course,No one has all the answers. Even in Christian circles there is so much belief in things that are wrong. I am here to love all people and share my beliefs. Why am I commenting here? I do not understand the real reason but as you said… we are all equal!


  • Mallee Stanley

    A thoughtful post.
    Nature has always been my “god” (for want of a better word).


  • ijustgetbored

    I think the Lenin quotation is coming from here: (that looks likely, but any Russian studies were a long time ago– I had to Google that, and it may not be correct). If so, it’s very much a distillation of Lenin’s argument (and I’m not sure it could be translated directly into present-day Marxism-Leninism, at any rate).

    The original poster may be interested to know that, while propaganda has a primarily negative connotation now, that was not always the case; its origin is a Latin word, and its origins lie in the Roman Catholic Church– it referred to spreading the faith. As I would caution any student, check your source material, and screen your terminology in case it’s potentially loaded.

    But: yes, it’s human nature to mobilize language, tone, inflection, presentation, and any other tools we have at our disposal to encourage readers and listeners to see our point of view. Few of us are operating on the level of 1984 or The Handmaid’s Tale, but we are all telling our own small-scale narratives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • hessianwithteeth

      Why thank you, I appreciate this comment.

      Though to give you fuller context Silence has being making these kids of arguments on this blog for months, I’m really only allowing him to post because I feel he can serve as an learning tool for others, and for the less idyllic reason that I do enjoy trouncing his arguments.

      Liked by 1 person

  • silenceofmind

    I have found that atheist beliefs are so similar its as if to become an atheist the mind has to be put into a mass production cookie cutter.

    Vladimir Lenin, founder of the old Soviet Union said that “atheist propaganda” was necessary for the Communist program.

    Propaganda may be defined as a hair ball of logical fallacies, personal opinion masquerading as fact, and falsehoods all globbed together in order to persuade someone of something.


    • hessianwithteeth

      People have the horrible tendency for only making note of what they want to see and not the true variety around them.

      Maybe Lenin said that maybe he didn’t I’m certain he is misquoted more then anything else. Besides what does it matter what one of the founders of a failed system of government said about propaganda? Everyone used it back then and governments of all kinds still use it today.

      You seem to be trying to paint all atheists with the colour of propaganda, but I shouldn’t be surprised you do love to be the kettle who calls the pot black. Worse is when your the kettle calling the silver wear black, but in this instance I’ll grant that everyone makes use of propaganda to some extent. It’s in human nature to make those sorts of fallacies.


      • silenceofmind


        Your argument consists of a denial fact and a personal attack.

        That is an example of atheist propaganda.

        It comes natural to you because you are an atheist and propaganda is all you have to offer.

        That why brutal genocidal regimes find atheism so essential and useful.


        • hessianwithteeth

          Silence a personal attack is only a logical fallacy, an ad hominum, when it has no bearing on the argument at hand. With that said, given your history on this blog and your staggering inability to see the faults in yourself and your own arguments. Often going so far as to even refuse to admit even the possibility of flaw. It is not a fallacy I’m committing, but an honest critique of your ability to make sound arguments, and be self critical. Certainty I’m not being charitable, but you have already worn out your welcome here. So there is no problem in lacking charitably either.

          Now moving on to your argument, it seems that I had guessed right (it seems I do know your arguments quite well) Your argument that brutal regimes are somehow atheist by nature or by majority. But Silence. History simply will never back you up on that. Yes Stalin was anti-theist, but that was due in large part to the fact that the religious organization which he eventually prosecuted (early on he got their support to rise to power) was, because those institutions threatened his power and as you should know Stalin was immensely paranoid.

          Though this not help your argument, because you don’t need to evoke atheism to explain any of it, in fact atheist\m doesn’t actually make any sense as a reason. “What? because someone doesn’t believe in gods now let’s all go be horrible?” That point has been so repeatedly refuted at this point that the fact you still think it’s a valid argument only shows how pig headed and bigoted you are. Though perhaps your a Poe. Sigh, we will probably never know.

          Sometimes religion gets in the way of despots. Guess what despots do when something get in there way? They try their best to crush it. This is a problem of despots not with atheists. Certainty an atheist who also happens to be a despot will be horrible, but the key term here is despot. The same is true of a Christian despot or a Hindu despot. They are horrible because they hold immense power with little to no accountability for their actions. as the saying goes. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

          Though the final nail in the coffin shall continue to be that while yes in recent times there have be anti-theistic regimes, most notably the cults of personality supporting Mao and Stalin. You, SilenceofMind, do regularly forget to mention the horrific things done by the Christian churches, most notably the Vatican both to one another and people of other faiths. Not to forget the regimes in the middle east who atrocities are made possible by the fact they are theocracies.

          Over and over you call atheists the evil doers pulling apart the foundations of civil society, yet you ever ignore the backyard of history except for when if supports your preexisting positions.


  • The False Prophet

    No matter what ist or non-ist you are, here’s a nice little quote from Pete,’ Hey, I tell you what is. Big city, hmm? Live, work, huh? But not city only. Only peoples. Peoples is peoples. No is buildings. Is tomatoes, huh? Is peoples, is dancing, is music, is potatoes. So, peoples is peoples. Okay?’
    And there you have it.

    Liked by 1 person

  • ijustgetbored

    I live in a part of the country where “belief” is synonymous with “(religious, almost exclusively Protestant) faith.” I agree it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of terms for anyone, atheists included, to categorize the word “belief” as a word connoting religious principles. Because of the way “belief” is often used culturally (not only in Christian popular media, but also as a quasi-accusative word in some outlets: turn on FOX news, and their pundits will have you know that some splinter extremist group has done X because of their “radical beliefs”), it can be difficult for an atheist to to claim belief in moral, cultural, etc. precepts that to not originate in a religious text or similar (again, my regionalism is coloring my response).

    Reading the list of beliefs covered here, I did wonder if a difficulty in accepting such a response could be that they may not seem “grounded” or “centralized” (please note scare quotes). I see commonalities, but, if you are a religious interrogator, you’re likely used to being able to refer your beliefs back to a core text or texts: source material. If I tried to do that, I’d stand at my bookshelves and pull down nonfiction, philosophy, novels, poetry, and more until the floor was littered; I don’t have a core group of textual containers. It seems (to me) that this actually represents a somewhat different (perhaps similar to what you allude to when you mention seeking out knowledge?) mode of thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

  • butchcountry67

    even though I am not an atheist, I do respect their beliefs or non beliefs, I generally do not question them, nor do I try to convince them of something different than what they already think, I simply accept and respect them as fellow human beings, what a person chooses to believe or not believe matters not to me .

    Liked by 1 person

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