|Atheism is on the rise, especially among Generation Z. Reports show that the percentage of teenagers who identify themselves as atheists is greater than that of the general population / Photo by: Pop Nukoonrat via 123RF|
Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping America and the world, reported that Christians have remained the largest religious group for many years, making up 31 percent of the Earth’s population. This is followed by Muslims (24 percent), Hindus (15 percent), and Buddhists (7 percent). Thus, it is safe to say that a good chunk of the world’s population believes in the concept of a divine being.
However, there are thousands of people across the world who don’t believe in gods: atheists. Atheism, a topic that a lot of religious sectors continue to stigmatize, is a lack of belief in gods or the absence of belief in the existence of deities. What people don’t know is that the population of atheists has been gradually increasing over the years. The Guardian, a British daily newspaper, reported that 52 percent of the people in the UK said that they do not belong to any religion, compared with 31 percent in 1983.
Atheism is on the rise, especially among Generation Z. Reports show that the percentage of teenagers who identify themselves as atheists is greater than that of the general population, with 13 percent vs. 6 percent of all adults. Findings reported that today’s youth are struggling to find a compelling argument for the existence not only of gods but also of demons. Given the growing numbers of nonbelievers, it is important to understand what it means for someone to not believe in any god.
A Rejection of Religious Beliefs
One of the most common misconceptions about atheism is that it is a religion or a belief system. Atheists are not governed by certain commandments or follow a holy book compared to other religions. While atheism is not a religion, nonbelievers are protected by many of the same Constitutional rights that protect religion. This means that their (lack of) beliefs are protected in the same way as the religious beliefs of others.
Atheism not only rejects the idea of deities but also the belief in “spiritual beings.” This means that they not only reject the central conception of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and other religions but also other religious beliefs, including African religions as those of the Dinka and the Nuer. According to the Britannica, a general knowledge English-language encyclopedia, atheists also don’t believe in the transcendental concepts of Hinduism and Buddhism as well as the anthropomorphic gods of Greece and Rome. Generally, it is a denial of God or the gods.
However, this doesn’t mean that atheists are not knowledgeable about all religious beliefs. A Pew Research Center study showed that atheists and agnostics know more about religion than most other religious groups. In the survey, they would get more than half of the religion questions right while those who had a religion would get about a third correct. Also, they are fairly knowledgeable about some of the basics of not only Christianity but also about non-Christian world religions including Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism. Compared to believers who scored an average of about 4.3, atheists correctly answered an average of 6.1 and agnostics got 5.8 right.
|One of the most common misconceptions about atheism is that it is a religion or a belief system. Atheists are not governed by certain commandments or follow a holy book compared to other religions / Photo by: inesbazdar via 123RF|
Why Atheists Don’t Believe in God
Despite reports that theists welcomed atheism into the public square, the presence of nonbelievers has often been met with ridicule, anger, and derision. According to Vox, an American news and opinion website, this has not affected the growing number of atheists. Still, the risk of being misunderstood and stigmatized remains as long as people are not aware of the reasons why these atheists choose not to believe in gods.
One of the reasons why atheists don’t believe in gods is contradictory characteristics of these divine beings. For instance, theists often claim that their gods are perfect beings. However, they also often describe them in contradictory and incoherent ways. For instance, one Christian (strict Calvinism) could define the Christian God as being so all-powerful that free will is nonexistent, which means that who we are and what we do is entirely up to God. Meanwhile, another Christian (Process Theology) could define the Christian god as not all-powerful and one who is learning and developing alongside us.
|One of the reasons why atheists don’t believe in gods is contradictory characteristics of these divine beings. For instance, theists often claim that their gods are perfect beings / Photo by: photochicken via 123RF|
Most of the time, the characteristics attributed to these gods are rationally impossible. According to Learn Religions, an online site that aims to help readers explore the practices of their faith, some gods are nearly indistinguishable from human beings. But, at the same time, they are believed to be divine beings that have a sort of supernatural power. Thus, atheists wonder that if certain gods share so many characteristics with humans, perhaps they were created by human beings in the image of human beings.
Also, religions are founded on the concept of faith, which cannot be justified or defended by logic, reason, evidence, or science. Since there is no concrete evidence that God or gods have existed or are existing, people use faith to justify their beliefs. It is also questionable that while gods are presented in the most divine form, several deities are presented immorally. For instance, some of the gods and goddesses are downright criminals.
Aside from that, some religions believe that there are events that were caused by some sort of spiritual or supernatural realm behind it all. However, evidence often shows that these incidents were caused by purely natural phenomenon. Atheists believe that whatever we believe in is material and dependent upon the workings of the brain. Ultimately, atheists don’t believe in gods in the absence of good reasons for doing so.
Atheists have chosen to believe in the absence of gods not because they just want to, but because they have enough reasons not to. But this doesn’t mean that they are evil people – they are not. They just choose to believe in logical evidence rather than faith alone.