What kind of atheist am I?

I always say I'm an atheist, but I rarely say what that means. Let's try to clear that up.


Literally, an atheist believes or asserts that there is no god (or are no gods, depending on your definition). Of course, this begs the question about what counts as a god (or gods, depending on your definition). So... time for some definitions, taken from dictionary.com:

  1. God
    1. A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions.
    2. The force, effect, or a manifestation or aspect of this being.
  2. A being of supernatural powers or attributes, believed in and worshiped by a people, especially a male deity thought to control some part of nature or reality.
  3. An image of a supernatural being; an idol.
  4. One that is worshiped, idealized, or followed: Money was their god.
  5. A very handsome man.
  6. A powerful ruler or despot.

Right, that should give us something to go at. Let's take these definitions in turn.

  1. This is the definition generally used when someone asks me this question in the UK. I'll come back to it below, as it's the most complex to clarify.
  2. Give or take 'supernatural' - I believe that all effects are natural, just that we haven't worked out how they're all effected yet - I'm quite happy to believe that this kind of thing could exist. Given that it's a large universe out there, it would be crazy to assert that there's nothing out there that can do more with physics than we can at present. But remember Clarke's Third Law - any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic (which, I assert, is indistinguishable from so-called 'supernatural' effects). This kind of god is, to me, nothing more than the Yankee in King Arthur's court.
  3. I believe that there are many images of those that others believe to be gods around, ranging from the temples to the Hindu pantheon through to the images of Jesus found in Roman Catholic churches. Images do not prove that there is a god, any more than images of Gollum in a film prove that Gollum existed physically.
  4. Worshipping someone doesn't prove that they're a god, any more than saying 'the Earth is conical' proves that it is.
  5. A colloquial use.
  6. A colloquial use.

The monotheistic God

[In progress]