Atomism Versus Theism
Published: January 1, 2010


I will begin this essay by defining the words theism and atomism. “Theism” is the belief that the universe was created by a God, or gods, who controls it and intervenes in human affairs. “Atomism” is the belief that the universe has always existed and is controlled in some automatous, or mechanical, way by the ultimate “stuff” of which it is made? Which belief is correct, theism and atomism? To provide a sensible answer to this question, we must know the nature of the stuff of which the universe is made. Our natural senses of sight, smell, taste, hearing, and feeling provide us with evidence that the universe is made of matter in motion. “Matter” is anything that takes up, or occupies, space, has mass, and reacts to gravity. “Space” is the expanse of the universe in which all material things are located. “Mass” is the amount of matter that makes up an object, such as a rock or tree. “Gravity” is the mutual attraction between masses, or objects, that pulls them together.

We observe that all matter is particulate, or made up of small particles with height, width, and depth. The theory of Atomism calls these small particles “atoms”. It defines “atoms” as the smallest particles of matter that can exist; the ultimate and smallest division of matter. The word atom comes from the Greek word atomos, meaning uncuttable. It is very important to understand that the description of a particle of matter that does not fit this definition of an atom, cannot be an atom. If matter is repeatedly cut up, the end result will be uncuttable particles of matter or “atoms.” Since it is impossible for atoms to come into existence out of nothing (the non-existent) or pass away into nothing, they are eternal and indestructible. Nothing exists but atoms and the void which separates them and in which they move. This being so, atoms and the void are the only ultimate realities. A void is pure empty space or “nothingness”; it’s the opposite of the atoms, which all have mass.

According to theory of Atomism, mass is the standard for existence; nothing can exist without mass, except a void. A void is the pure empty space that separates the atoms from each other and makes the movement of atoms possible. The atoms are in constant rapid motion, because they cannot be at rest in the void. Their motion is governed by four principles: weight, gravity, collisions, and reactions, or repellency. The gravitational interaction between atoms in the void ultimately causes all the different phenomena in nature. Atoms move randomly and have come together by chance to form our galaxy and the planets and other things in it as well as innumerable other galaxies.

I will reiterate, in summary: According to the theory of Atomism, nothing exists but atoms, which are eternal, automatous (self-moving), and indestructible particles, and the void. If this theory of Atomism is correct, the theory of theism is a false belief. It is important to understand that the theory of theism, a theory based upon the belief that matter was created by a God Who has the power to create things out of nothing (the non-existent). It conceives of God as an invisible intelligent Spirit, something that’s not made of matter. It regards God as the One and Only Ultimate Reality and the Ultimate cause of all causes. It uses God to explain events in nature and society. The main problem with belief in theism is that the existence of a God cannot be rationally demonstrated. Consequently, belief in theism is based upon nothing but faith. As the American psychologists Floyd L. Ruch and Philip G. Zimbardo explain, “Faith is belief despite absence of knowledge or impossibility of empirical validation.”1 According to theism, knowledge of God comes from a sudden revelation from God. As the Catholic Encyclopedia says, “Revelation may be defined as the communication of some truth by God to a rational creature through means which are beyond the ordinary course of nature.”2 If a person believes in theism without personally receiving such a divine revelation, he or she does so blindly.

Let it be understood by people who have not received a revelation from God, confirming His existence, that belief in Atomism is a very sensible alternative to belief in theism. The existence of atoms and the void is rationally demonstrable, and they are the bases of science. As everyone knows, science is the source of the most reliable and useful knowledge that human beings have. As the American sociologists Richard P. Appelbaum and William J. Chambliss explain, “Science emerged as a challenge to religion, which had long argued that truth is revealed by God, rather than discovered through disciplined inquiry. Science is a way of learning about the world that combines systematic theory and observation to provide explanations of how things work. A scientific theory consists of a set of logically consistent ideas about the relationships between things that permits those ideas to be checked against observations. To establish the value of a scientific theory, scientists conduct research.”3

I believe that everything in the universe is a manifestation of the activity of its atoms. Every change (event, activity) has an atomic cause and atomic explanations of natural phenomena are the only correct explanations.

References:

  1. Floyd L. Ruch and Philip G. Zimbardo, Psychology and Life, 8th Edition (Glenview, Illinois: Scott, Foreman and Company, 1971), p. 406.
  2. George Hayward Joyce: “Revelation,” The Catholic Encyclopedia (1912), Vol. X111, p. 1.
  3. Richard P. Appelbaum and William J. Chambliss, Sociology, Second Edition (New York: Addision Wesley Longman, Inc., 1997), p. 14.