ATHEISM: disbelief in the existence of a god or gods; a disbelief in the supernatural e.g. gods, angels, the soul, life after death, reincarnation, miracles, god-revealed prophesies, the divine inspiration of religious scriptures, the divinity of Jesus, creation, by a supernatural power, of the universe and life on earth, etc. Disbelief in the existence of fairies, gnomes (except the garden variety), imps, devils, dragons, etc., in fact most of the creatures that are the stuff of fairy tales. (As much as we love Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings we don’t believe for one moment in the fantastic creatures which he creates. We have a similar attitude towards many of the stories in the Bible e.g asses that talk, water that turns into wine, etc.) Originally atheism meant a rejection of theism, but its scope is now used in the much broader sense, as defined above.
AGNOSTICISM: a belief that one cannot know if a god exists or not; the belief that knowledge of a supreme being, ultimate cause, etc. is impossible. Because agnostics have no faith in the supernatural, they cannot be said to be religious.
RATIONALISM: the belief that opinions and actions should be based on reason and knowledge rather than on religious belief or emotions. The belief that knowledge and truth are ascertained by rational thought and not by divine or supernatural revelation. Most rationalists are non-religious because they claim the arguments for the existence of god or gods are not based on rational enquiry. Belief in god is the product of the imagination, not of rational thought.
HUMANISM: a system of thought that regards people as capable of using their intelligence to live their lives, rather than relying on religious belief. The denial of any power or moral value superior to that of humanity. The rejection of religion in favour of a belief in the advancement of humanity by its own efforts. A philosophical position that stresses the autonomy of human reason in contradistinction to the authority of the church.
SCEPTICISM: Sceptics are usually people who doubt the truth of Christianity and other religions although the term can also be applied to people who question or doubt all accepted opinions e.g. climate-change sceptics. Such people may not apply their scepticism to religion so we cannot assume that all sceptics are non-religious.
FREE THINKING: Freethinkers generally tend towards atheism or agnosticism, but there are also freethinkers who are religious e.g Progressive Christians, who no longer believe in ancient religious dogmas but still believe in more modern concepts of the supernatural. THEISM: in relation to Christians, who believe in the existence of God, it is specifically the belief in a creator who intervenes in the universe. They also believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a god-man, the immaculately conceived Son of God. Theists are trinitarians – they believe in a three-person God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Some theists believe in a fourth supernatural person, Mary, the Mother of God.
DEISM: usually belief in one god, not three-in-one. Unitarians are deists, as were most of the 18th century founders of the U.S.A. and it’s Constitution. They are also known as members of the Enlightenment, having denied the theistic belief in Jesus as divine. They believe in a non-interventionist god who set the world going (the divine clockmaker) and then withdrew to let ‘the world’ get along by itself.
PANTHEISM: belief that a god is present in all things in the universe. Any doctrine that regards god as identical with the material universe or the forces of nature. PANENTHEISM: a belief system which posits that the divine (be it monotheistic God, polytheistic gods, or an eternal cosmic animating force) interpenetrates every part of nature and timelessly extends beyond it. It differentiates itself from pantheism, which holds that the divine is synonymous with the universe (Wikepedia).
If you believe you may be moving towards atheism or its fellow-travellers, then you are also welcome to join Geelong Atheists and find out more about the non-religious life.
The Geelong Atheists group meets once every month except January, on the second Thursday at 7pm.
For venue and details of meeting phone Trish on 0352751538.