Is atheism a meaningful alternative to religion?
In the past atheists were often persecuted in God-fearing societies. Today they pose an open challenge to religious philosophies. Is a society without God a society without a moral code? Or do human beings create their own system of ethics?
Atheism is a disbelief in a god or gods. The word 'atheism' first appeared in Europe in the 1500s, although scepticism about the existence of gods can be traced back to the early Greek philosopher Epicurus who lived 2,300 years ago.
In the past atheists often suffered persecution and death in God-fearing societies. Today they are largely tolerated and can pose an open challenge to religious philosophies.
Believers say that without God and religion there are no ethical or moral codes.
Atheists say that even though killing is outlawed by religious moral codes, wars continue to be fought in the name of religion. And if you believe you have God on your side you can justify any acts of war.
Believers accuse godless societies such as Stalin's Russia of carrying out murderous crimes but atheists say his crimes were committed without reference to his beliefs about religion.
Atheists accuse religion of being divisive because each religion is intolerant of other beliefs.
Religious leaders proclaim that, despite their differences, they share many similar beliefs and more unites them than divides them.
Religious leaders say that God created people. Atheists say people created God to explain what they could not understand.
Believers claim that atheists cannot disprove the existence of God.
Atheists say there is no evidence for God's existence.
Atheists base their beliefs on what they can see and know. They claim that scientific advances have explained 'natural disasters' that were once attributed to the 'hand of God'.
Some scientists are religious and some scientists have become priests.
Some religious scientists believe that the complex and intricate structure of the natural world proves that it was created by 'intelligent design' and is not the result of evolution.
Atheist scientists say that natural disasters, for example, those caused by tectonic imperfections, disprove the idea of 'intelligent design'.
Atheists hold to scientific theories regarding the creation of the Earth, such as the Big Bang theory.
Some religious believers ask what preceded the big bang.
Advocates of religion admit that their beliefs are based on faith in what they cannot see and unquestioning belief in sacred texts. They claim that atheists, too, are basing their ideas on faith – in the powers of science – and won't question texts such as Charles Darwin's Origin of Species.
Atheists say that the scientific evidence points to evolution.
Rod Liddle argues against those who turn to atheism for a rational and moderate approach to today's problems, and says that atheism has high priests and dogmatic beliefs, just like fundamentalist religion