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Atheism is the philosophy that there are no gods ("a" = without, "theos" = god)

The simplest argument for atheism follows from Occam's Razor: from different equivalent explanations, choose the simplest one. If we cannot explain more things by postulating the existence of God than we can without, then we should prefer the theory without. The fact that this principle is not sufficient to prove that God does not exist, is not very relevant. After all, nobody can prove that unicorns, flying toasters or 23-legged purple elephants do not exist, but that does not make their existence any more likely. (see also: Occam's Razor as justification of atheism)

This assumes that the existence of God does not explain anything. However, the most typical argument for the existence of God is that creation by God is needed to explain the complexity of the universe around us. Apart from the fact that that same complexity can already be explained by straightforward principles of evolution and self-organization, the introduction of God does not in any way contribute to explanation, since it just pushes the phenomenon to be explained one step away. If God explains the existence of the universe, then what explains the existence of God? Since the concept of God is neither simpler nor more intuitive than the concept of the Universe, explaining God's origin is not in any way easier than explaining the origin of the Universe. On the contrary, since God is in principle unknowable, we cannot even hope to explain His coming into being. On the other hand, although the Universe may never be grasped in its totality, there are definitely many aspects of it that are observable and understandable, and lend themselves to ever more complete explanations. In conclusion, postulating God as an explanation does not only make the theory unnecessarily complicated, it even obscures those phenomena that might have been explained otherwise.

One must note that atheism is not in contradiction with religion. In its original, Latin sense, religion means "that which holds together", implying a kind of overarching philosophy and system of ethics that guides society as a whole, without necessary reference to God. Also in the more practical sense, several "religions", including Zen Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, lack any idea of God, and thus may be properly called "atheist religions". Also the different emotions that typically accompany religous experiences, such as the feeling of being part of a larger whole, can very well be experienced by a atheists, leading to what may be called "atheist religiosity".

See also:

Copyright© 1999 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

F. Heylighen,

Nov 22, 1999 (modified)
Aug 1993 (created)


Metasystem Transition Theory



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