Definition of Practical Atheist

A practical atheist is defined as one who disbelieves in or rejects the existence of gods as a matter of practice if not necessarily theory. This definition of practical atheist focuses on the idea that one disregards belief in gods and the existence of gods in day-to-day living but doesn't necessarily reject the existence of gods when it comes to professed beliefs.

Thus a person might say they are a theist, but the way they live means they are indistinguishable from atheists. Because of this there is some overlap with pragmatic atheists and apatheists. The main difference between pragmatic atheists and practical atheists is that a pragmatic atheist has considered their position and adopted it philosophical reasons; the practical atheist seems to adopt it simply because it's easiest.

A few dictionaries, spread out from the late 19th through the late 20th centuries, include in their definitions of atheism a listed for "practical atheism" which is defined as "disregard of God, godlessness in life or conduct." This neutral explanation of a practical atheist corresponds to current usage of the term godless, a label which covers all atheists and a few theists who don't bring considerations of what a god might want or have planned when making decisions in their lives.

Example Quotations

"Practical atheists [according to Jacques Maritain] "believe that they believe in God (and... perhaps believe in Him in their brains but... in reality deny His existence by each one of their deeds."
- George Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God.
"Practical atheist, or Christian atheist, is defined as someone who believes in God but lives as if He doesn't exist."
- Lillian Kwon, The Christian Post, 2010
"Practical atheism is not the denial of the existence of God, but complete godlessness of action; it is a moral evil, implying not the denial of the absolute validity of the moral law but simply rebellion against that law."
- Etienne Borne, Atheism
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Cline, Austin. "Definition of Practical Atheist." Learn Religions, Jan. 29, 2020, Cline, Austin. (2020, January 29). Definition of Practical Atheist. Retrieved from Cline, Austin. "Definition of Practical Atheist." Learn Religions. (accessed March 28, 2023).