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.
Next, we come to the prefix a which means lacking, not, absent, or without:
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. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
b. The doctrine that there is no God or gods.
2. Godlessness; immorality.
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.