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Handout 2: Atheism-Agnosticism Fact Sheet


Existence/Reemergence: Prehistory/mid 1600s

Adherents: 1.1 billion

Ranking: Third—behind Christianity (2.1B) and Islam (1.5B)

Influential Figures/Prophets: There are many famous people in many walks of life who identify as Atheists or Agnostics. Google "famous atheists" and "famous agnostics" for extensive lists of authors, scientists, entertainers, etc. with these identities.

Texts: None

Clergy: None

Symbol/s: Nothing official; Atomic Whirl, Darwin Fish for some

Terms and Fundamental Precepts:

Atheism—Non-belief in god or gods; belief that a supernatural deity does not exist

Strong or Positive Atheism—Positive belief that no god or gods exist

Weak or Negative Atheism—Simple lack of belief in god or gods

Positive Atheism (second meaning)—Atheist movement to live atheism in a positive way, esp. through consistency and truthfulness in personal ethics

Functional Atheism—Living without reference to religious teachings concerning god/s, but without self-identifying as an atheist, possibly attending church, etc.; a 'closeted' or unrealized atheist

Agnosticism—Lack of either belief or disbelief in God; a sense of "I do not know" if a god or gods exist; or a sense that "no one can know" whether a god or gods exist. One who believes there can be no proof of the existence of God, but does not deny the possibility that God exists.

Shared with Unitarian Universalism:

  • value of science and the use of reason
  • personal definition of truth
  • insufficiency of unexamined beliefs
  • value of living in consistency with one's beliefs
  • concern for the protection of minorities, especially religious minorities
  • imperative to oppose active or passive religious persecution
  • dedication to separation of church and state, including raising public awareness of violations
  • openness to learn from many sources of knowledge and wisdom
  • UUs resist defining God or god in one way; do not share one understanding of "god" and may use the word to mean "love" or "spirit of life" and not a deity at all as commonly understood in other religions.

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