An Atheist's Creed

    I quite deliberately used the indefinite article "An" in the title for I in no way intend to speak for all atheists. As I've mentioned before on this site, I was raised a Christian, and that has no doubt influenced my worldview. If I were to create a creed for all atheists, it'd simply be, "I do not believe that gods exist." That is what is sometimes referred to as weak atheism (no insult intended). It is the type of atheism that animals and babies have, and that some adults claim to have (I'm skeptical about that). Strong atheism is the belief that there are no gods. Some people have a hard time distinguishing between those two statements, but the former is a lack of belief in gods, and the latter is a belief in the lack of gods. For those who use this terminology (and it's definitely not universal), there's also weak agnosticism – an uncertainty in one's beliefs, and strong agnosticism – a belief that such knowledge is ultimately unknowable for anyone. Again, the terms weak and strong should not be considered judgments about those positions.

    Many religious people come to atheism because of what they perceive as personal injustices – maybe their mother was taken from them before her time, maybe they were raped, or countless other possibilities. Other religious people come to atheism because they just fall out of practice and feel no need for religion anymore. For me, I struggled with my beliefs, and atheism is what came out of it. Don't get me wrong, I see the injustices in the world, but to the degree that life has been unfair to me, I've been treated far better than I deserve.

    My Creed

    If I could pinpoint a motivating tenet for my creed, it would be this: The world is proof that there is no god that is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. I could state this tenet as a corollary of the axioms that will be how I ultimately frame my creed, but that would be putting the cart before the horse, and it might confuse the issue as well. My belief in this tenet is stronger than any of the axioms and corollaries I put below.

    That said, here are my basic axioms:

    1. There are no supernatural events. By this I mean that the universe has rules, and that it always follows those rules. The rules are quite like probabilistic, and although I'm not thrilled with that, I accept it. I do not mean that we scientists have figured out these rules. I'm willing to include multiverses into my beliefs, however, if evidence supports them, but these multiverses will also have rules, and the multiverse itself will have rules.
    2. There is no other intelligence guiding our development. By this I'm ruling out the simulation hypothesis, which would still be consistent with axiom 1. I'm also ruling out a conscious evolutionary force. (One might argue that evolution is intelligent, in the sense that evolutionary algorithms are part of the field of artificial intelligence, but I will not accept that evolution is consciously intelligent.) This axiom isn't really required by my motivating tenet, but I find it to be functionally useful. I have less confidence in this axiom than axiom 1, but I'm still quite confident about it.


    Some atheists will not like that I've expressed my belief in a lack of gods as a belief. They will point out that this belief differs fundamentally from religious beliefs, and that I'm falling for a false equivalence trap laid out by religious people. I respectfully disagree. I've personally felt like God was talking to me when I was a teenager. I now believe that I felt that because I wanted to feel that, or even that I needed to feel that. So, my axioms actually run contrary to some of my personal experiences. If that's not faith, I'm not sure what is. Yes, it's based on the preponderance of evidence as I see it, but it's not as black-and-white as some of my atheist friends like to believe. Again, if you're an atheist who has never been religious, you very well might not understand this.

    For those who might (reasonably) infer from what I've written above that my creed has no room for spirituality, I'd like to say that this is not true. My spirituality is very much like Neil deGrasse Tyson's:



    Additionally, I've found the book Buddhism Without Beliefs to be personally very useful.

    ​I expect that I will discover that the description of my creed (and possibly my creed itself) is incomplete after interacting with some of you. If appropriate, I'll add updates here.


    For those interested in a longer clip that includes the snippet above (and I highly recommend it):

    Edit to add: actually, the clip I provided is from somewhere else, considering that he's wearing a different shirt. This (much longer) clip is even better.


    Thanks for this post.

    Other atheists feel that their is no need for their to be any other component to atheism other than rejecting a belief in God. A group of Black atheists who feel that their should be a social activism and diversity component to atheism stirred a little controversy last year.

    I think that being an atheist does not require anything other than rejecting a belief in God. Being a human, however, requires the compassion of which you speak. Thank you for sharing that compassion as specifically practiced by atheists.

    VA, thanks for posting this very concise and personal creed. The fact that I don't have specific comments in reply right now is because something as thought provoking as this statement is will take some time to digest.

    Thanks for this, Verified. With all these spiritual posts, I've been meaning to write about my own atheist beliefs but haven't had time. I must say that I feel some reluctance to broadcast my atheism, though. Not that anyone at dag would judge me, but with my real name attached to the post, I worry that some potential readers of my books might. Also, it could create problems when I run for president. I might have to get born-again before I announce my candidacy.

    If anyone asks me, I'll vouch that you're the best Christian that never was.


    Is there a God or are there gods?

    Does God interfere directly with humans?

    I am an agnostic; I do not know.

    However, if Gohmert ever becomes Speaker or even head of a House Committee, I will be assured that there is NO GOD! At least one who gives a damn about us humans.

    Ha Ha Ha....We are going to have a interesting 2 years of pure stupid.  

    Very interesting piece VA for a number of reasons, but particularly because of its sincerity and the lack of even a hint of disrespect for those who may think otherwise. Nice work.

    Thanks, Bruce. It can be a tricky thing to write about one's atheism with conviction while not being disrespectful. I hesitated on using the word supernatural because I don't want to imply anything negative with it, but I wanted a concept that encompassed not just deities, but also reincarnation, and other (potentially) non-diety related supernatural events.

    And have someone fix your formatting, because you have the mike now.

    I'm right with you.  Though, on supernatural events and multiverses... if the universe is infinite, then whatever can happen will happen since probabilities taken to infinity all happen at some point or another.

    Of course, the universe might not be infinite.  But if it isn't, what's next door to it?


    Somewhere, sometime I might win the lottery or sell a book?

    Alrighty then!


    Somewhere, sometime


    you have, you will, and you are right now....





    If the universe is not infinite, and if there is no multiverse in which it is embedded, then asking what's next door to it (or outside of it), is akin to asking what is north of the North Pole?


    Thanks, I needed the laugh.

    VA, your post prompted a memoir which I have put up over in Creative in which I loosely refer to some things you described, especially comments about "once having been a Christian". Further thinking is required and run up against certain of my avoidance habits. In the meantime, thanks, and keep the faith---I think.

    This is a very well conceived and written article. You clearly made your case and left no room for ambiguity. My particular beliefs have a way of getting me back to my center. Sometimes I have interactions with the world that cause me to question the goodnes of our species. I'm well aware that the comfort I take is purely metaphysical. I can't produce any evidence to explain the peace of mind I get from studying and reading philosophical and theological works, but it's real. I enjoyed reading this and look forward to a continued dialogue in the future.

    Thank you very much. It's nice to know that the description of my creed was well-received. I definitely appreciate the comfort that people's beliefs bring to them, which is why I try never to convert anyone to my creed, which is definitely not the most comfortable of creeds. I say "try", only because I can still sometimes be immature, and part of that immaturity can be lashing out when someone insults my beliefs by responding in kind. I do believe I've gotten better about not being that immature as I've gotten older.

    I just have to tell a story...

    Several years ago when kid #1 signed up for the Army Reserves he was asked what was his religion for dog tag information purposes.

    "Atheist", he replied.

    "You mean 'none', the guy said.

    "I mean atheist," kid#1 said.

    "Are you sure?"

    "I'm sure."

    "I mean, are you really sure?"

    "I am positive I'm an atheist."

    The guy just stared at him and said, "You're going to be in a world of hurt during boot camp, kid."

    Well, as it turned out, the dog tag guy was right. As soon as the drill sergeants got wind of his religious status, kid #1 got singled out time and again when yesdrillsergeant wasn't pleased. And that thing about scrubbing the latrine tile with a toothbrush? It's true.

    Fortunately, boot camp only lasted six weeks. smiley


    The implication that putting down 'none' would have spared him from this treatment is amusing (from a distance, at least). (That doesn't mean I think it's wrong, just amusing.)

    I was hoping for the definition of unverified atheism. (It do get pretty boring up here.)

    The Bacterial Flagellum and the Divine Design

    An Intelligent Creator who designed.

    Is God Real? The Bacterial Flagellum and the Divine Design

     When we see something we recognize as an irreducibly complex micro-motor, resembling other motors designed by intelligent beings, the most reasonable inference is the existence of an intelligent micro-motor designer. Is God real? He is the one Intelligent Designer capable of creating the bacterial flagellum, and He is still the most reasonable inference.

    J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity and ALIVE


    Responses to this are going to include design flaws like gene mutations and genetic disorders.there is also the issue of proteinomics where genes produce properly sequenced proteins but the proteins bend in an abnormal manner. The analogy is that a gene codes to build a house out of brick, but protein bending creates a house built out of straw. There are design flaws in intelligent design.

    As I wrote above:

     (One might argue that evolution is intelligent, in the sense that evolutionary algorithms are part of the field of artificial intelligence, but I will not accept that evolution is consciously intelligent.) 

    Thank you for sharing your creed and especially for acknowledging that atheism is a belief. As Oxy commented, there is a lot to chew over. It is clear you have spent considerable time thinking about the subject. Me, too, but I have never tried to formally pen a creed. Maybe your post will inspire me to do so. It almost inspired me to watch your Neil de Grasse Tyson clips -- almost. ;-D


    The Tyson lecture is interesting. The limits of ignorance discussion reminds me of Anselm wondering how we conceive of what is greater than what we can conceive.

    The mention of "evolutionary algorithms" makes me think you have read Daniel Dennett. His approach rejects the kind of duality that would express whether "supernatural events" are possible or not. His objections to the Intelligent Design group are mostly on the basis of rejecting of what they claim to be mutually exclusive. He turns the same weapon against strict materialists that isolate causes as strictly the outcome of specific processes. His refusal to join either party has allowed him to develop interesting models of networking that cut across many lines of inquiry.

    A variation on the "Buddhism Without Beliefs" point of view was expressed by Zhuangzi:

    When Qu Bo-yu was in his sixtieth year, his views became changed in the course of it. He had never before done anything but consider the views which he held to be right, but now he came to condemn them as wrong; he did not know that what he now called right was not what for fifty-nine years he had been calling wrong. All things have the life (which we know), but we do not see its root; they have their goings forth, but we do not know the door by which they depart. Men all honour that which lies within the sphere of their knowledge, but they do not know their dependence on what lies without that sphere which would be their (true ) knowledge: may we not call their case one of great perplexity? Ah! Ah! there is no escaping from this dilemma. So it is! So it is!

    Knowing and not knowing about the dependency described could be heard as expressing a kind of faith. But the expression wouldn't work as a creed that could draw a bold line between sides.

    The mention of "evolutionary algorithms" makes me think you have read Daniel Dennett.

    Actually, it came from my Ph.D. dissertation work (I used genetic algorithms to evolve better hippocampal models.) Perhaps I'll have to find some time to read Dennet, though. It sounds like his views are different enough from mine for me to find them interesting.

    Here are a couple of quotes from Buddhism Without Beliefs that resonate for me:

    The Four Noble Truths are pragmatic rather than dogmatic. They suggest a course of action to be followed rather than a set of dogmas to be believed. The four truths are prescriptions for behavior rather than descriptions of reality. The Buddha compares himself to a doctor who offers a course of therapeutic treatment to heal one’s ills. To embark on such a therapy is not designed to bring one any closer to ‘the Truth’ but to enable one’s life to flourish here and now, hopefully leaving a legacy that will continue to have beneficial repercussions after one’s death.

    What is it that makes a person insist passionately on the existence of metaphysical realities that can be neither demonstrated nor refuted?

    (Note: he's referring as much to atheism as to theism. He takes a strong agnostic perspective.)

    [Mindfulness] is not concerned with anything transcendent or divine. It serves as an antidote to theism, a cure for sentimental piety, a scalpel for excising the tumor of metaphysical belief.

    This deep agnosticism is more than the refusal of conventional agnosticism to take a stand on whether God exists or whether the mind survives bodily death. It is the willingness to embrace the fundamental bewilderment of a finite, fallible creature as the basis for leading a life that no longer clings to the superficial consolations of certainty.

    Now, these quotes are interesting to me, but in themselves not important. What I found important about this book was his discussion of how to actually put the Four Noble Truths into action.

    I think you're making light of a serious difference in how people use words, in this case, "belief." Words are important, it's how we communicate, and how they're used, definition, connotations, etc. are meaningful. When I use belief in discussions of spirituality it's more like a scientist uses "hypothesis." Some questions are beyond having an actual belief, there's only more likely and less likely hypotheses. Some questions are even beyond hypothesis. They're too big and there's too little evidence to even make an educated guess. When some very religious people say they believe in god it's like I use it when I'm saying, "Based on the voltage drop over this component I believe it's resistance has degraded and it's the problem with your tv set."

    I pondered a lot on how to address this post, or even whether I could. At a certain point in this discussion one must discuss examples and experiences. Those experiences are deeply personal to me and I'm reluctant to post them in a public forum.  I've decided to share one.

    I carry a pipe, a chanupa, in the Lakota tradition. Once at a Rainbow Gathering wandering around I met a friend who had created a women's space. She was preparing to leave and doing some closing ceremonies. She had come to sweat lodges and pipe ceremonies with me before and asked me to share my chanupa as part of her closing ceremonies. I agreed.

    As I sat down waiting for everyone to gather a large blue butterfly landed on my hand. I thought nothing of it. Butterflies land on people sometimes when they are sitting still. When everyone arrived I gently tried to push the butterfly off my hand. I expected it to fly away as soon as my finger got close but it didn't. I pushed it and it hung onto my hand and resisted my gentle push.

    So I proceeded with the ceremony. I unwrapped my pipe, put the pipe together, gave some explanations and passed it around for each person to pray. Than  I lighted it. I held the pipe bowl in my left hand with the butterfly still sitting on it, and a lighter in my right. As some may know when lighting a pipe there are unburnt gases that cause the flame to spike a bit. Two inches from  the flame sat this butterfly. As I puffed and took a breath the flame was drawn into the pipe and flashed upward several times. I passed the pipe around and when it returned to me I finished smoking what ever tobacco was left. This all took over 30 minutes probably close to an hour. I then separated the pipe from the pipe stem. As I separated the pipe the butterfly flew away.

    If the butterfly was drinking the sweat off my skin I'd have been less surprised. But there was no extended proboscis. If this was the only time something like this had happened it would be less likely to sway my thinking. But during my exploration of what can best be described as mysticism, I've had more than a dozen such experiences. Coincidences build up into what Jung called sychronicities. Supernatural or not?

    You can say statistical anomaly or that there will always be some rare events at the extremes of the bell curve. I am a skeptic, a scientist of sorts with a degree in electronics, and I don't accept "supernatural" events easily. But at a certain point after many "weird" experiences I couldn't accept any conventional science based explanation. It just seems to me that the world is bigger and more complex than science will acknowledge. And I think that's appropriate. Science probably isn't meant to study these things, in fact it's hard for me to see how they could. They aren't measurable or repeatable. But that doesn't mean the world of spirituality is not worth study.

    I don't put god in that spot. I don't even have a hypothesis as to the cause. I just know that when one seriously practices mystical spirituality the universe seems to cooperate in ways I can only define as supernatural.

    I wasn't looking for such experiences. I didn't want or need them. I didn't even want to carry a chanupa. All I wanted with my study of Lakota spirituality was to pour water in sweat lodges. I found the experience of a sweat lodge very powerful and intense. I found "hippy" and New Age sweat lodges to be often weak and trivial. I liked the more traditional lodges. I went Lakota land to study with NA elders simply for that reason.

    While I mostly agree with your post it's insufficient to explain the world I've experienced. Like I said, it depends on how you define supernatural.


    I'm not making light of anything. I'm using the word belief similarly to how you're using it. (I was about to say "exactly the same", but I believe that's impossible.) I alluded (briefly) to my own spiritual experiences before becoming an atheist and how rejecting those as "in my head" or "statistical aberrations" requires something similar to the "leap of faith" that religious people have to take.

    I understand that my leap of faith is different from yours. I do not think that makes mine more or less valid. It works for me.

    I think its possible, even likely from the sense I get of you through your posts, that you're using "belief" in a way similar to my usage. My purpose in discussing the word was to contrast it with how fundamentalist religious people use it. Where as I, and likely you, use belief as: most likely hypothesis based on the best available evidence and lack of evidence,  I don't think most religious folk would even accept their belief as a hypothesis let alone based on the best evidence or especially, the lack of evidence.

    Perhaps we're talking past each other. One of the problems in discussing this topic is that so many of the terms are not clearly defined and mean such different things to each group and sometimes individual people. Not just "belief" but also religion and spirituality which are sometimes used as synonyms. One can be religious and spiritual but one can be religious and not spiritual or spiritual and not religious, imo. I don't care to discuss religion since I think they are all just fairy tales. As you and Emma quoted, "It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into."  I avoid discussing religion unless those with an authoritarian mind set try to shove it in my face. What I think we're discussing here is spirituality not religion.Though Christian dogma is so ubiquitous in our culture it's always lurking in the background and influencing the dialog even if unspoken.

    I wasn't trying to invalidate your belief system. As I said I mostly agree with it, with just a couple of caveats. I really don't care what religion or spirituality a person has unless it affects the progressive goals I think would be good for the country and the world. Since I think atheism is a positive good for the country I'm very supportive of it.

    I have no issue with you saying that your atheism required a leap of faith. But I'm not clear as to why it required that. Your reference to youthful religious experiences doesn't make it clear to me. I don't think my "beliefs" i.e. my hypotheses, require any leap of faith. I think what I'm doing is somewhat similar to what science does all the time. Scientists observe the world and do experiments. Sometimes they observe things that don't fit into current theories. They conclude the theory is incomplete or sometimes wrong. Sometimes they come up with new theories that broaden, revamp, or completely replace previous theories. No one claims that requires a leap of faith. Either the evidence is convincing or it is not.

    I have what I consider convincing evidence that some theories are incomplete. I'm discussing my views for the intellectual stimulation and because tossing these ideas around with other thoughtful intelligent folks might help me learn something. I suspect you're reasons are similar. Neither of us are trying to proselytize. While I've read several theories that attempt to explain these incongruities none have sufficient evidence to convince me. I don't as yet have any hypothesis to explain these incongruities. I'm just at the place of seeing that the current hypotheses are insufficient to explain what I've experienced


    Yes, I think we're mostly on the same page. I think that when I talk about my personal "leap of faith", it is very hard for those who haven't had experiences similar to mine to understand. As an analogy, imagine that you hallucinate, and that during these hallucinations your "senses" tell you that your Aunt Maud is telling you to kill Uncle Fred. (Note: I have neither an Aunt Maud nor an Uncle Fred.) Now, you're an educated person, so you do not trust your senses, but nevertheless, discounting what you hear with your own ears takes a "leap of faith". Why do you not trust your "ears"? (I'm putting that in quotes, because in this example it's a hallucination, but you cannot tell that it's not coming from your ears.) You don't trust your ears because you've established an "understanding" of how the world works, and what you're hearing doesn't mesh with that understanding. Now, this is a rather extreme analogy. A much simpler one that I encounter on a regular basis is that I know there's no constant "ringing" going on in the outside world (I have tinnitus). Imagine that everyone at that event you described earlier insisted that there was no blue butterfly. Imagine it's a group of the 20 people you have come to trust the most. Every single one of them, when asked, insisted there was no blue butterfly. What do you do with that conflicting information?

    As I said, it's a hard thing to explain, but I hope this begins to do the job.

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