Is Atheism a World View?

A lot of our commenters and even our team members (myself included) have been continually writing and allowing category mistakes. I wanted to write a quick post that I can reference later for future "infractions."

Atheism is neither a religion nor a world view; it is a position on theistic belief.

In the past, I spoke of an atheistic world view because the language was so ingrained in the presuppositionalism I was confronting that it seemed distracting to correct in that context. It has now become such a ubiquitous mistake, though, that I think a short post is in order.

There are four theistic positions. While each of these positions are found within world views, none of them are world views per se.

Monotheism is the theistic position that there is one and only one god. Though there are many world views that hold this theistic belief, it is not, itself, a world view. Christians are monotheists (although weird, Trinitarian ones), as are Muslims, Jews, and many other adherents to various world views. Being a monotheist does not require a person to subscribe to any one, particular world view.

Polytheism is the theistic position that there is more than one god. Though there are many world views that hold this theistic belief, it is not, itself, a world view. Hindus and countless tribal religions are polytheists. Being a polytheist does not require a person to subscribe to any one, particular world view.

Pantheism is the theistic position that everything that exists is god. Though there are many world views that hold this theistic belief, it is not, itself, a world view. Kabalistic Jews and some modern new age groups are pantheists. Being a pantheist does not require a person to subscribe to any one, particular world view.

Panentheism is the theistic position that a god is immanent within everything that exists (as opposed to being everything that exists). Though there are many world views that hold this theistic belief, it is not, itself, a world view. Kabalistic Jews and some modern new age groups are pantheists. Ancient South American tribal religions and tribal religions of South East Asia were panentheistic. Being a panentheist does not require a person to subscribe to any one, particular world view.

Atheism is the theistic position that there is (probably) no theos (i.e. god). Though there are many world views that hold this theistic belief, it is not, itself, a world view. Zen Buddhists, Taoists, many naturalists, and many materialists are atheists. Being an atheist does not require a person to subscribe to any one, particular world view.

*A note about "agnosticism." There is no such thing as agnosticism in the discussion of theistic positions. A person either believes that there are gods or a god or they do not. So-called "agnostics" have simply misunderstood the claims of atheism. Very few atheists say that they can "prove" (i.e. in a universal sense) that a god or gods do not exist. The atheists who do say this are called "strong atheists" (and are, in my opinion, philosophically naive). Weak atheists (which is what consider myself and what I imagine most of the atheists one meets consider themselves) simply say that they do not have theistic beliefs and are, therefore, atheistic (i.e. a-without; theism belief in one or more gods).

From now on, I encourage all of our team members and our commenters to carefully watch for this mistake.

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