Atheist, or Anti-theist?

I’ve been watching the Atheist Experience on a daily basis for a few years now, and have heard one of the hosts use the term “anti-theist” quite a few times. Ever since Matt Dilahunty left the organization a little over a year ago, they’ve had a few other hosts on the show, including Forrest Valkai.
He’s an evolutionary biologist, and has a slightly different view on the subject of religion. He doesn’t believe in the existence of any god/gods, and views religion with nothing but contempt, similar to myself.

I know that some atheists simply don’t believe in a god, while others claim that they know that god doesn’t exist, hence the term “anti-theist”. Is this the label that would be used to describe this type of atheism?
Forrest has said on several occasions that if it was somehow proven that christianity was true, he would believe in that god’s existence, but under no circumstance would he worship it. This is his definition of an anti-theist, he would consider god to be nothing but an asshole(his words).
War, starvation, plague, sexual abuse of children, rape, cancer in children, all of these would be gods fault for allowing this chaos to exist in the first place. This is how he describes himself as being an anti-theist.
Do you think that there’s a difference between the two, does that term really define both of them equally, or is there another definition?

1 Like

Matt did not like the term ‘anti-theist.’ He uses ‘strong-atheist’ a la Dawkins. I hate the term strong atheist and prefer anti-theist. A la -cog. Matt’s version of atheism is “We can not know; but, if you can convince me, I will believe.” While he is and does take a very anti-theist position with regard to the caller’s inept attempts at defending their gods, Matt rarely says, 'God does not exist." This is true of most of the cast at AR. One of the exceptions was Jeff Dee who was a staunch anti-theist.

I consider the labels as roles and not who I am. With regards to some gods I am an agnostic atheist. (Especially the amorphous, pantheistic, non-interventionist, unpersonal, free floating, beyond time and space gods.) These gods are just ‘felt’ to be true and even the theists admit “I can never prove it to you.” So absence of evidence is the same as absence of existence. While there is absolutely no reason for me to believe in this undefined god, there is also nothing to point to in debate as it is so ill defined. I usually just come away with "Isn’t it interesting how the invisible and non-observable is just like the non-existent.

With regards to the anti-theist position, this is reserved for the dweebs that call the God of the Bible all loving. I can demonstrably prove that is not true. Nearly any claim attributed to the god of the Bible can be demonstrated, using the Bible itself, to be false. This God does not exist. And it can be demonstrated. So the anti-theist approach is used when I know for a fact that I can disprove the god assertion being made by the theist.

Again, I do not consider myself anti-theist / strong atheist, or weak-atheist. These are positions to take against Christian apologetics. Regardless of what Matt or Forest call themselves, they take upon themselves both positions at times, The positions are contingent on how strong the arguments against a specific god is. The anti-theist position is willing to adopt a burden of proof to demonstrate a specific god can not and does not exist. The agnostic-atheist position, soft atheist, asks for evidence of the god the theist is asserting to be true. Lacking evidence the soft atheist or just ‘Atheist’ position, is that there is no good reason to believe in god or gods. (Not that the god or gods do not exist.)

In all cases, I am still called atheist. (I do not believe in the existence of magic, spirits, demons, evil, good, luck, or Gods.)

In my mind, Atheist, is not something I am. It is something the theists call me. I am a non-theist, a non-believer. I did not become an atheist. I simply did not buy into the theistic version of reality. I call myself atheist for simple identification matters. Other atheists will know what I mean. It is a shorthand for simply saying “I don’t believe in god or gods.” But, it is not really a thing. This is a big reason why I comment on people who come to the site and say things like, 'I converted to atheism." or “I became an atheist.” There really aren’t any strong or weak atheists. In my mind, these are just arguments or positions.

Last Comment: The “Atheists” that come on the site and immediately begin spouting anti-theist rhetoric, “There are no gods.” Don’t last long. They are making claims and the people around her ask them to demonstrate their claims. It is one thing to assert there is no specific god and quite another to make a random claim about no gods existing when you don’t even know which or what god the theist is talking about.

Okay, I’m done.


Not really, antitheism is an antipathy towards theistic religions.

"The Oxford English Dictionary defines antitheist as “One opposed to belief in the existence of a god”. The earliest citation given for this meaning dates from 1833. The term was likely coined by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

Opposition to theism
Antitheism has been adopted as a label by those who regard theism as dangerous, destructive, or encouraging of harmful behavior. Christopher Hitchens (2001) wrote:

“I’m not even an atheist so much as I am an antitheist; I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth, but I hold that the influence of churches, and the effect of religious belief, is positively harmful.”


That’s getting closer, but it is also an antipathy of theistic religion irrespective of the existence of a deity or not, based on the perception it is innately pernicious. One is reminded of Christopher Hitchens’s book title, “God is Not Great” why religion poisons everything.

Well certainly an omnipotent and omniscient deity would have to be maximally culpable, from a human moral perspective, which is subjective. Though of course subjective morality and human reasoning and perspective is all we have, a point most religious apologists seem delusionally oblivious to.

Sorry between what two? Not all atheists are antitheists, and I can only speak for myself, I don’t care what people believe, only what they do, and then only if their behaviour is pernicious, I absolutely agree, and have said so many times, that if a deity like the one described in the bible existed, I would find it morally repugnant, and want nothing to do with it.

1 Like

I think we are mixing anti-theism and anti-religiosity. Theism, specifically, is defined as belief in God. Different from anti-religion. Not all religions are theistic.

While I am in complete agreement with your sentiment, I tend to make the above distinctions. Religious belief, whether a deity is involved or not, is demonstrably harmful. I am certainly anti-religion. My take on anti-theism, (previously stated).

With that said… How we label ourselves is an individual preference. I don’t actually think there is a right or wrong way to do it as long as the terms are clearly defined. When Sheldon says ‘Anti-theist’ this is the way he defines it. When I use the term, I define it my way. In the end, outside of arguing semantics, there is a lot more agreement than disagreement.

1 Like

I make a distinction between being an atheist and an anti-theist.

The term “anti-theist” seems–at least to me–to convey a certain level of aggression against theists. As for myself, I like to think that I’m not “anti-anybody.” I have nothing against theists.

I do take considerable exception to the damage produced by theism, such as the subjugation of women, or suicide bombers blowing themselves up in crowded shopping centers.

So, I guess I’m against the damage done by religion, but I’m not against religion itself. If religion didn’t cause damage, then I wouldn’t give it a second thought . . . and someone’s religion would have no more significance for me than the sports team that someone roots for.

This seems (to me) to be quite different from being an anti-theist.

1 Like

Damn. Now I sound like a pedantic twat! Anti-theist (to me) carries with it no insult to the people, but rather addresses the belief. It’s unfortunate that the people who believe in religious nonsense get their panties all bundled up their cracks when their beliefs are challenged. That is not my problem. I know some very nice religious people. Like almost everyone I work with. They have just learned not to keep their religious beliefs to themselves. Or share if they are willing to discuss. I get along fine with everyone. I even hosted the Christmas dinner. I have another name for people who are aggressive, undeservedly, against Christians: “Bigoted Assholes.”


Indeed, but that’s a quote from Hitchems, so possibly I didn’t allow for context. I took the definition of antitheism from Wikipedia, and then added the quote from the Hitch as it has broader applications. From Wikipedia again for clarity:

"Antitheism, also spelled anti-theism, is the philosophical position that theism should be opposed. The term has had a range of applications. In secular contexts, it typically refers to direct opposition to the belief in any deity."

This was Hitchens’s position, as we can see from the quote of his now famous (extended) book title. A bit like all atheists lack belief in a deity, bit not all atheists believe no deity exists, so with antitheism, not all antitheists are necessarily opposed to all religions, but all antitheists are opposed to theistic religion.

I agree, we often see theists who come here and make incorrect assumptions about atheism and by extension atheists, sometimes contradicting proper syntax and even word definitions, and sometimes in ignorance of them.

I agree, though I was using Wikipedia and the Oxford English, as I have no actual preference, well if I have a preference it is for the broadest inclusion and for common usage or dictionary definitions, but as long as we clarify what we mean and don’t try and arbitrarily insist words must mean what we want that’s fine. It is usually visiting theists (like sherlock) with an axe to grind that do this.

Well the distinction lies in the definition of atheism, all atheists must by definition lack belief in any deity, they may also hold a belief no deity exists, and may also hold an antipathy towards theistic belief, the last one being antitheism, they overlap. Some helpful soul will search out a Venn diagram for us in a minute.

As do I, but I try to be specific, and not make sweeping judgments. For example not all theists would act perniciously, even were they to adhere to dogma and doctrine that meant they held pernicious beliefs, and of course while I would challenge those beliefs, I can only do so if they are expressed, as that would make them pernicious. A belief is largely innocuous (I think?) if it is not acted on or expressed, though I have some doubts we are made in such a way as to hold beliefs and never act on them even subconsciously.

Well it’s an interesting notion to ponder, for example I have said one the most fundamental reasons I dislike religions (theistic) is because at their core they foster the idea we owe our allegiance to a deity, rather than to other human beings, both individually and as a collective. Even were someone able to offer any compelling objective evidence for a deity, I should find that notion troubling as devalues or ignores the inherent value in a single human life.

It is but in a subtle way, for example the Hitch believed, as his book title said, that religion poisons everything, so I imagine it comes down to whether you believe religions (theistic) must in any form be pernicious to some degree. I am not entirely convinced on this point yet, and think it better to challenge the most obviously pernicious ideas religions and theists espouse and practice.


In that every religion I know of attempts to control the minds of adherents, I can’t possibly agree. From Taoism with its yin/yang and harmony, Buddhism and its quest for Nirvana, Krishna Consciousness and its drive to reach the transcendental realms of Lord Krishna, to the Abrahamic quest for heaven. Let’s go off the deep end. Lord Xenu and the drive to ‘clear the planet.’

Can you show me a religion that is not harmful? Any religion that does not attempt to capture the minds of its adherents and make them think, believe, and act, according to the dogma of the faith?

Is there such a thing as a religion that does not try to do damage? Can a person adopt the beliefs of a religion without causing damage to themselves?

Damage can be false beliefs, unsubstantiated claims, delusion, or psychological illness.


I originally only considered myself an atheist, but as time went on and more and more theists started trying to impose their beliefs on the rest of us, I’ve gradually become an anti-thesist as well, to the point of actively opposing their efforts to introduce the teaching of nonsense like creationism and ID in public schools.

I expect to become even more active in that regard as the christofascists in this country attempt to turn the country into a theocracy.


No, I don’t think I can . . . hence my humanistic beliefs.

I still try to make a distiction between religion and the harm done by religion. I don’t care if someone believes that a mysterious, invisible purple deer lives on their driveway . . . but I care very much if they pull out a shotgun and endanger other people by trying to shoot it.

This is what I meant, and I maybe expressed myself poorly. I could have been more clear.

I–myself–have my own beliefs that other people criticize and/or condemn. Some of my beliefs are considered to be stupid or silly . . . and I wouldn’t want to be a hypocrite (and two-faced) by suggesting that other people should not have their own silly, stupid, or meaningless beliefs.

1 Like

I’m not sure it’s possible to separate the two. Without the religion there would be no harm done by it.


I’m not sure it’s possible either, but I believe we have to try.

Since religion seems like it’s here for the forseeable future, I think that efforts to separate the harm from religion makes more sense than convincing people to abandon religion.

My intention is not to convince people to abandon religion. It is to assist those who are abandoning it. Additionally, it is my intention to make religions step up and take responsibility for the harm they do to both their adherents and the rest of us.


Respectfully, I disagree. I’m not convinced that compartmentalizing is useful or even possible.
From my point of view, the harm is a feature, due to the blatant and continuous refusal(s) to adhere to any standards of comportment with reality. The harm, to me, comes in where the heuristic created in one’s mind by believing in unevidenced and likely untrue notions, may become a standard unconscious response to other unevidenced claims and/or assertions.
In other words, once the unbelievable becomes acceptable, further diversions into non-reality based mental states may become more likely.
While it might be argued that historically, religions may have provided needed services and/or vital support for those in need, that was largely made possible by the religions possessing power and influence not seen elsewhere. Ergo, they were the only ones with the wherewithal. It doesn’t require much imagination to consider the harm done by only showing mercy and kindness as a requirement dictated by a dogma as opposed to performing those actions as a result of the objective reality of how best to achieve a generally accepted level of well-being, both for oneself and for others.


I don’t disagree with you, as you make excellent points.

I have to think further, as I may have to abandon my position and concede the loss (I am not being sarcastic).

1 Like

It’s not a loss. Whenever new opinion or data is presented, and it challenges a current position, learning from it is NOT a loss. It is a gain! It is growth, it is being open minded, it is to be applauded. :grin:


Well, it seems you met with some disagreement. You will hear me say over and over “Believing is seeing.” We don’t really respond to events around us. We respond to our beliefs about the surrounding events. Herein lies the divisive nature of religion. Religion is thought control. It is indoctrination. It is a system of belief that tells people, “Think, like we think. Believe, as we believe.” As you have conceded the point (and lost nothing) I am just being a jerk and driving one more nail into your dead lifeless gutter gutter-laying corps. Believe like me! Oh, the irony!

1 Like

Isn’t it too bad there is no God?

1 Like

So then would Monkdom be one’s only choice?

1 Like

Which god, and how do you know?

1 Like