Tom Gilson has an excellent post on the frequently-heard claim, "Atheism is nothing but a lack a belief in God"—as if the non-belief in God did not entail many other beliefs about reality. Gilson summarizes concisely some aspects of an atheist worldview that have major consequences for every area of life—behavior, decision making, governing, ethics, rights, and more:
[I]t’s ridiculous for atheists to claim that atheism is nothing but a lack of belief in God. It’s also (in its most common naturalist/materialist form) a lack of belief in:
- Transcendent moral values and duties
- Ultimate accountability
- Knowledge of what is really good and really evil
- An explanation for the real, ontological worth and dignity of human beings
Or, atheism in that form entails the belief that
- There are no transcendent moral values or duties
- There is no ultimate accountability
- There is no knowing what is really good and really evil
- There is no explanation for the real, ontological worth and dignity of human beings, so it’s quite possible that human beings don’t have any special worth or dignity
These beliefs have consequences.
All the beliefs that go along with an atheist's "lack of belief in God" can be stated positively: The universe is random and purposeless, moral values and duties are illusory, a belief in human exceptionalism is speciesist, we have only instrumental value, human nature is malleable and can (and should) be reshaped and improved by society, etc. These are all positive claims that need to be recognized and defended.
Read Gilson's full post, and take a look around the blog while you're there. He does great work!