top of page
  • Writer's picture Peter Kupisz

New Atheist Attempts to Redefine Word "Atheism"

Is “atheism” simply the “lack of belief” in the existence of God? Or is it something stronger than that?

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, atheism “should be construed as the proposition that God does not exist”. This is the traditional and historic definition of atheism but many New Atheists want to redefine the term to mean simply “the lack of belief” in God’s existence. In this sense, atheism turns into a kind of “non-theism.” Dr. William Lane Craig, a Christian philosopher, points out that if someone is a “non-theist” they could fall into, at least, one of three different categories:

1. Agnosticism: A lack of any certainty about God’s non-existence. 2. Verificationism: A view that says any talk about God is meaningless. 3. Atheism (traditional definition): The view that God does not exist.

The problem with many New Atheists is that they use the term “atheism” to mean both “non-theism” and also atheism in its traditional sense (i.e. the denial of the existence of God). This switching back and forth between definitions leads to confusion and is probably motivated by a desire to put the entire burden of proof onto theists.

Learn More


Paul Draper, “Atheism and Agnosticism,” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta, Fall 2017 (Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, 2017),

the deeliciousplum, "[2009] Mr. Hitchens vs Dr. Craig - On Atheism," May 27, 2012, YouTube video, 5:30,



bottom of page