Other Religions Atheism and Agnosticism Why Don't Atheists Believe in Gods? Share Flipboard Email Print Ayan82/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images Atheism and Agnosticism Belief Systems Ethics Key Figures in Atheism By Austin Cline Austin Cline Atheism Expert M.A., Princeton University B.A., University of Pennsylvania Austin Cline, a former regional director for the Council for Secular Humanism, writes and lectures extensively about atheism and agnosticism. Learn about our Editorial Process Updated on July 13, 2018 How is it possible, atheists ask, to name one religion as the True Religion and one god as the True God when there have been so many throughout human history? Why Christianity and not Judaism? Why Islam and not Hinduism? Why monotheism and not polytheism? Every position has had its defenders, all as ardent as those in other traditions. They can't all be right, but, say, atheists, they can all be wrong. Contradictory Characteristics Theists often claim that their gods are perfect beings; they describe gods, however, in contradictory and incoherent ways. Numerous characteristics are attributed to their gods, some of which are impossible if you consider them rationally. How, for instance, is God at once the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (whatever that is), as asserted by Catholics? Described in such a contradictory manner, it's impossible for these gods to exist. The Idea of Religion Itself is Contradictory Every non-religious ideology, philosophy, and cultural tradition contains certain inconsistencies and contradictions. That's the nature of human thought. But these ideologies and traditions aren't alleged to be divinely created or divinely sanctioned systems for following the wishes of a god. So how are adherents to know what they truly should and should not do, believe and not believe, when supposedly infallible religions are rife with contradictions? Gods Are Too Similar to Believers In some cultures, like Ancient Greece and Rome, the gods are nearly indistinguishable from human beings. Yet, at the same time, they are supposed to be supernatural, fundamentally different from human beings or anything on earth. One has to wonder, then, if certain gods share so many characteristics with humans, perhaps they were created by human beings in the image of human beings, products of our vanity and not of the world's supposed sanctity. Gods and Believers Behave Immorally In most religions, gods are the source of all morality, meting out a set of divine laws that we mere mortals are supposed to follow if we do not wish to either be miserable here on Earth or in the afterlife. In reality, though, many horrors have been and continue to be perpetrated in the name of God or a specific religion or spiritual practice. And the behaviors of some gods, those of Ancient Greece and Rome, for instance, are downright criminal, running the gamut from deception and theft to kidnapping and murder. Evil in the World It's a question that has puzzled believers and non-believers alike throughout the ages: If God is truly good—or if "the gods" have humanity's best interests in mind—why does evil still exist in the world? The absence of substantive action against evil would be consistent with the existence of evil, or at least indifferent, gods. This is certainly not impossible, but few people believe in such gods. Most claim that their gods are loving. But to atheists, the suffering on Earth makes their existence implausible. Faith Is Unreliable All religions or other theist-based systems are predicated upon the concept of faith, defined as the belief in a concept that cannot otherwise be defended by logic, reason, evidence, or science. No concrete evidence is necessary to believe in God or gods. Instead, people are supposed to simply have faith—a position they wouldn’t consciously adopt with just about any other issue. For instance, try standing in front of a speeding bus with nothing but "faith" to keep it from hitting you. Science Points to Life as Material, Not Supernatural Most religions assert that there is more to life than the matter we see around us. In addition, there is supposed to be some sort of spiritual or supernatural realm behind it all, and that our "true selves" are spiritual, not material. All evidence, though, points to life being a purely natural phenomenon, and who we really are is material and dependent upon the workings of the brain. There Is No Good Reason to Believe Perhaps the most basic reason for not believing in the absence of good reasons for doing so. Just because a group of people isn't religious doesn't mean they still can't live moral lives. And just because they don't believe a "divine hand" lies behind all of life's actions doesn't mean they can't appreciate the intricate web of relationships that underlies life on Earth. Being religious does not guarantee happiness or success, and, in fact, might work against an individual in the long run. Leave your life in God's or the Fates' hands for too long, say atheists, and soon it's out of yours. Cite this Article Format mla apa chicago Your Citation Cline, Austin. "Why Don't Atheists Believe in Gods?" Learn Religions, Feb. 16, 2021, learnreligions.com/why-atheists-dont-believe-in-gods-248065. Cline, Austin. (2021, February 16). Why Don't Atheists Believe in Gods? Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/why-atheists-dont-believe-in-gods-248065 Cline, Austin. "Why Don't Atheists Believe in Gods?" Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/why-atheists-dont-believe-in-gods-248065 (accessed January 31, 2023). copy citation Watch Now: What's the Difference Between Atheists and Agnostics?