Here We Go Again

Atheism: absence of (without) belief in the existence of god(s)

Atheist: one how does not believe in the existence of god(s).

Why is this so difficult for some people?

Perhaps it’s not really difficult, but the straw man definition, that there absolutely is no god, which has only ever been stated by a tiny handful of atheists, is easier to destroy, so theists who choose to debate the point also choose to ignore common usage and resort to their Websters.

Let’s go with that, shall we? All of the following references will tell you that the root word, theism, is a belief in the existence of gods. Therefore, a theist is one who believes in the existence of gods.

Theism
Theism
Theism
Theism
Lots and lots of theism

Next, we come to the prefix a which means lacking, not, absent, or without:

Learn English
English Club
Wikipedia
MyWord

So atheism means without belief in god(s) and atheist is a noun referring to someone without belief in god(s).

So why do so many theists and even lexicographers take such liberties with the word? If you look at any number of online dictionaries, you’ll see atheism defined in some rather creative ways. For example:

a·the·ism (th-zm)
n.
1.
a. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
b. The doctrine that there is no God or gods.
2. Godlessness; immorality.

The Free Dictionary

Why? Did knowledge or morality factor into the definitions of theism? No, it did not. Only belief. Prefixes do not alter the definitions of root words. So why do people do it? Ignorance? Prejudice? Fear of the unknown? Intellectual dishonesty and laziness? A few loud and obnoxious atheists making the rest of us look bad? I wonder how Christians who take this approach would feel about being lumped in with Fred Phelps and his ilk?

I don’t know, but the leaps some people are willing to take to avoid thinking, deny reality and cling to their preconceived ideas is disturbing and mind-boggling.

Posted by Lottie — Copyright © 2008 Rambling On

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7 responses to “Here We Go Again

  • forknowledge

    Just a note on one of those:

    My philosophy of religion lecturer defined an atheist as ‘someone who denies the existence of God’, which annoyed me greatly until I realised that he uses ‘deny’ to mean ‘reject [a proposition]’ (it’s quite possible that other philosophers do it as well), rather than the more obnoxious version, which is something along the lines of ‘Atheists know that God exists, they’re just in a state of denial’.

  • Lottie

    Thanks for making that important distinction.

    I specifically take issue with words like “doctrine” and equating atheism with immorality.

  • forknowledge

    yes, the immorality one was pretty inexcusable. I’m guessing someone at the site had an axe to grind…

  • saintpaulgrrl

    I have a tremendous problem with atheism being equated with immorality, lack of ethics, etc. There is nothing in the definition of that word to warrant that judgmental leap. As an atheist myself, I respect the words and teachings of some great men and women, among them the Buddha, Jesus of Nazareth, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr. I respect and learn from all kinds of good people and teachings. I just don’t elevate any of those people to god status. This belief that there is not a deity does not detract from my desire to respect and care for my fellow human beings, my fellow furred and feathered friends, and to make the world a better place by my being here.

  • Lottie

    Thank you for such a lovely comment, Bonnie. I can’t think of a thing to add.

    Beautifully and eloquently put!

  • wewillsurvive

    I don’t consider myself an atheist (more like an agnostic) but thank you for posting that, hopefully some people will read it and learn a few things! Linking atheism with immorality and “godlessness”… where on earth did you find that definition? Conservapedia.com? Because that’s about as subjective as a definition can get if you ask me. Sounds like something from one of Ann Coulter’s books.

  • Lottie

    It actually came from thefreedictionary.com

    Weird, huh?

    Thanks for commenting!

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