Belief and Non-Belief

Atheism, Agnosticism, Materialism, Scepticism, Humanism, Durkheim, Marx, Weber and Nietzsche.

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  • Created by: Sazz
  • Created on: 01-06-10 10:28


The definite decision that God does not exist

Weak Atheism- A person will not believe until there is evidence to prove God. This is more realistic than Strong atheism as there is no way of definitely knowing God doesn't exist. It removes the burden of proof that lies with strong atheists.

Strong Atheism- A person who 'knows' God doesn't exist. This could be seen as just as unscientific as Theism as there is no proof either way

Hume says belief in God is unnecessary and based on myths

Marx says belief is harmful to society and is a way of oppressing the working class

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Someone who is not convinced by, or finds value in both religious and non-religious views.

Agnostics are willing to change their views based on new evidence and therefore could be seen as the most sensible.

Vardy says everyone should be willing to discuss all possibilities of God's existence or non-existence as this promotes an accepting multi-faith society.

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Things that cannot be seen or felt through sense experience cannot be proved to exist.

Based around empiricist ideas ie. Only matter can be proven.

Doubts not only God, but emotions, ethics and the soul.

Theists can be materialists as they say you can get sensory information of God, for example through religious experience.

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The refusal to believe anything that cannot be absolutely proved

Solipsism is an extreme example of this. It says the only thing we can prove is our own minds as everything else relies on sense information. Sense information is only signals in our brain that can be manipulated eg. in the Matrix, therefore it cannot be trusted.

Berkeley's reasoning led him towards Solipsism but he decided that 'God would not allow it to be so'.

Descartes wrote 'Suppose that I am dreaming and... I do not have hands or such a body at all'. However, he didn't believe in Solipsism and was writing rhetorically.

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The celebration of human power

Popularised during the enlightenment, a time of scientific advancement when religious ideas came under question.

Renaissance Humanism- Confidence in the importance and power of man

Modern Humanism- Rejection of God in favour of human intelligence and reason

Religious Humanism- God gave us human power. However, religion should not get in the way of human needs eg. medical progression

Secular Humanism- God may exist but he should be fought. This is a Greek idea based on Promethius who stole fire from the Gods and brought it to earth (Promethean Defiance)

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Critiques of Religious Belief


  • Society creates religion because it is needed. It wouldn't exist if it wasn't.
  • Religion allows people to express shared values and participate in the community. Religious rituals strengthen a believer's identity.
  • Religion has a positive effect on society eg. through charities like Christian Aid.
  • Religion doesn't need God to be a real and positive thing.


  • Religious leaders are very charismatic and they can affect society as well as religion as a whole eg. Billy Graham has converted thousands of people.
  • Religion influences social change eg. laws on euthanasia and abortion.
  • The Protestant work ethic affects society as it says hard work is a sign of grace.
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Critiques of Religious Belief Cont.


  • Dialectical Materialism is the idea that rulers separate the working class from what they produce and therefore they do not fully profit from their labours.
  • Says 'Religion is the opium of the masses' ie. it prevents the working class from protesting to change their situation as they believe they will be rewarded in heaven if they are meek, weak and humble. (Jesus says 'blessed are the weak')

Other examples of how religion has a negative effect on society include the crusades, terrorism and religious intolerance.


  • In order to reject religion you must be a social leader.
  • Social leaders are independent, radical sceptics and question everything.
  • It is easier to be part of the herd as social leaders are often hated and religious belief is comforting.
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