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Atheism, simply stated, is the belief that there is no God or gods. Atheism, as a defined concept, first developed in the 18th century, during the period of the Enlightenment. Atheism is frequently compared to agnosticism, which is better understood as an acceptance that the existence or not of any divine being cannot be known, or that human's relation to God does not exist.
Atheism and Religion
Atheism has several degrees:
- Implicit Atheism - Implicit atheism is defined as the absence of any belief in God without specific rejection of the idea. For example, an infant or toddler has no larger idea of the universe, so they naturally can be considered to be implicit atheists. Agnostics are also included in the implicit category.
- Explicit Atheism - Explicit atheism is the rejection of the idea of God, holding that such a belief is irrational and unscientific.
Atheism uses epistemological arguments which hold that humans cannot determine the existence of a supreme deity, denouncing religion. Atheism also maintains that the very idea of God is a logical absurdity and that the observable universe does not follow patterns that would have been established by an omnipotent and benevolent God.
Atheism has been controversial throughout history, although a growing number of Americans profess to be atheists. The scientist Richard Dawkins and the comedian Bill Maher are famous examples of modern atheists. The Reason Rally in Washington DC was held as a gathering of nonbelievers to demonstrate their place in the mainstream of modern America.