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"...I am not so much an atheist as an anti-theist. I am, in other words, not one of those unbelievers who wishes that they had faith, or that they could believe. I am, rather, someone who is delighted that there is absolutely no persuasive evidence for the existence of any of mankind's many thousands of past and present deities." --Christopher Hitchens

Anti-theism is active and vocal opposition to belief in gods of any sort and to institutions built around belief in a deity. Anti-theists are not passive atheists; they delight in atheism and delight in exposing the errors, absurdities, and pretensions of theists. Anti-theists consider all gods to be false gods and any benefits from belief in gods to be far outweighed by the harm done by such beliefs to the individual and to society. Anti-theists don't deny that there may be some benefits to some people some of the time due to their delusional belief in a deity or two, but they adamantly deny that faith in religious books or ideas is a good thing.

Anti-theists are usually referred to these days as the new atheists. These anti-theists seem to consider it a moral duty to oppose religion and theism, and to advocate science and reason. Such opposition is for the good of the individual and for the good of society.

Two of the most widely recognized anti-theists are Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. In The God Delusion, Dawkins excoriates believers in the Bible and the Abrahamic god, whom he describes as a genocidal egomaniac. The Bible, which many politicians in America claim should be the main guide for our laws, is exposed as a testament to cruelty and immorality. Religions of any kind represent the forces of irrationality. They are enemies of reason. Science represents the forces of rationality. Science is the defender of reason. Hitchens also advocates active opposition to religion and sees religion as a threat to a rational, humane, moral society. He's seen intelligent men's minds turned to mush (figuratively), he says, as they try to ally themselves with an omniscient busybody.*

Dawkins promotes the idea that cosmology and evolutionary biology provide enough evidence to convince a rational person that it is highly probable that the universe and life on Earth came about naturally, i.e., without the involvement of any supernatural beings. Victor Stenger, another widely recognized anti-theist, also argues that science, particularly physics, provides sufficient evidence to discard the god hypothesis. Dawkins admits that we can't disprove the existence of any god, but considers this fact trivial:

"There's an infinite number of things that we can't disprove. You might say that because science can explain just about everything but not quite, it's wrong to say therefore we don't need [gods]. It is also, I suppose, wrong to say we don't need the Flying Spaghetti Monster, unicorns, Thor, Wotan, Jupiter, or fairies at the bottom of the garden. There's an infinite number of things that some people at one time or another have believed in, and an infinite number of things that nobody has believed in. If there's not the slightest reason to believe in any of those things, why bother? The onus is on somebody who says, I want to believe in [Abraham's god], Flying Spaghetti Monster, fairies, or whatever it is. It is not up to us to disprove it."*

The anti-theists known as the new atheists advocate the end of religion and faith. In their view, science can provide us with all the moral direction we need and will make society more rational and humane than reliance on religions for guidance in human affairs.

There is evidence that indifference toward religion is growing in America and other industrialized nations. Whether that indifference will translate into anti-religious activism remains to be seen. History, however, seems to be on the side of superstition.

See also agnosticism, atheist bus campaign, bright, gods, the Ten Commandments, my review of Dawkins's The God Delusion Is Atheism a Religion?, and Why I am not an Atheist.

further reading

books and articles

Cline, Austin. Atheism & Anti-Theism: What's the Difference? What is Anti-Theism? Are All Atheists Anti-Theists? Is Atheism Inherently Anti-Theistic?

Dawkins, Richard. (2006). The God Delusion Houghton Mifflin.

Dennett, Daniel. (2006). Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. Viking Press.

Harris, Sam. (2005). The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. W. W. Norton.

Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion (1927).

Hecht, Jennifer Michael. 2004.  Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson. HarperOne.

Hitchens, Christopher. 2007. The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever. Da Capo Press.

Hitchens, Christopher. 2009. God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Twelve.

Jacoby, Susan. (2005). Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. Owl Books.

Lalli, Nica. 2007. Nothing - something to believe in. Prometheus.

Mandell, David M. 2008. Atheist Acrimonious. Vervante.

Martin, Michael and Ricki Monnier. Editors. (2006). The Improbability of God. Prometheus.

Park, Robert L. (2008). Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science. Princeton University Press.

Paulos, John Allen. (2007). Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up. Hill and Wang.

Russell, Bertrand Arthur. Why I Am Not a Christian, and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (Simon & Schuster, 1977).

Stenger, Victor. (2007). God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist. Prometheus.

Stenger, Victor. (2009). The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason. Prometheus.

Wolf, Gary. The Church of the Non-Believers

websites and blogs

The Reason Project Devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society.

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science The enlightenment is under threat. So is reason. So is truth. So is science, especially in the schools of America.

the brights Defending a naturalistic view of reality.

The Rational Response Squad

Freedom from Religion foundation

Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers Yes, there are atheists in foxholes!



Last updated 12/09/10


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