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Translations from WikipediaEdit

Wikipedia lists the following interwiki links, which are probably translations of "atheism":

af: ateïsme
ar: إلحاد
bn: নাস্তিকবাদ
be: атэізм
bs: ateizam
br: dizoueegezh
bg: атеизъм
ca: ateisme
cs: ateismus
co: ateisimu
da: ateisme
de: Atheismus
es: ateísmo
eo: ateismo
fa: بیخدایی
fr: athéisme
fur: ateisim
ko: 무신론
hi: नास्तिकता
id: ateisme
ia: atheismo
it: ateismo
he: אתאיזם
jv: ateisme
la: atheismus
lv: ateisms
lb: atheismus
lt: ateizmas
li: atheïsme
lmo: ateismu
hu: ateizmus
mk: атеизам
mt: ateiżmu
ms: ateisme
nl: atheïsme
ja: 無神論
no: ateisme
pl: ateizm
pt: ateísmo
ro: ateism
ru: атеизм
sco: atheism
scn: ateismu
simple: atheism
sk: ateizmus
sr: Атеизам
fi: ateismi
sv: ateism
vi: thuyết vô thần
tr: ateizm
uk: атеїзм
ur: دہریت
yi: אטעאיזם
zh: 无神论

Cheers! bd2412 T 16:28, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Old DiscussionEdit

What the hell happened to the old discussion here? Look we lost the distinction between atheism and strong atheism. Definition 1 is a transformation of definition 3, that doesn't distinguish itself in any meaningful way. Definition 2 is the classical definition for strong atheism. What was wrong with the previous wiktionary entry which made this distinction clear? What the current obfuscation? Qed 06:41, 24 March 2007 (UTC)

I am reversing the two definitions which remain, and I am not privy to the prior definition or the discussion. The way I have left it makes the first definition more inclusive than the second. That is: every atheist is in a state of a lack of a belief in God (definition 1 in the new configuration), and some atheists actively disbelieve in God (definition 2 in the new configuration).
While I am supportive of increased awareness of the difference between strong atheism and weak atheism, I suspect this may be better left to wikipedia. Spblat 03:59, 8 July 2007 (UTC)

"It's not a religion"Edit

I restored the "religion" category. Here's why.

I agree that atheism is not a religion. However, atheism is a topic which concerns religion. The category is not "religions," the category is "religion." And I believe atheism falls into this category. Am I wrong? --Spblat 03:04, 16 September 2007 (UTC)

I completely agree - it's about religion, so the category should stay. bd2412 T 03:05, 16 September 2007 (UTC)


I believe this article warrants identical changes to the atheist one. Therefore I have added nearly identical usage notes in the spirit of compromise.

First definitionEdit

            1. Absence of belief in 'the existence' of God or gods.

I think the emphasized text above could imply actual existence of God or gods which would represent a bias and is inappropriate for the definition.

I propose "the" be changed to "a" or "an". Which ever is gramatically correct.

"1. Absence of belief in an existence of God or gods."

I'm not sure exactly why, but "an" simply seems incorrect, to say nothing of value neutral. The wording should stay. If you'd like a wider audience, you may want to bring this up at our Tea room; almost no one here reads talk pages. -Atelaes λάλει ἐμοί 17:55, 13 September 2008 (UTC)

- - - - - I don't know who changed "God" to "a god" in definition #1, but that change is incorrect, so I have changed it back to "God". Ask anyone who believes in any of the Monotheistic religions: it is "God". "a god" only makes sense to a non-believer, or in the context of something less than Supreme Being. Putting "a god" here violates neutrality; it denies the very concept "God". You don't have to believe in God yourself to understand this distinction. (I don't believe currently, but I was raised Christian, so I understand the thinking.) The whole point of "atheism" is to contrast with the various "theisms", so you need to get the "theism" part of the definition correct! If you are atheist (as I am), you lack theistic belief, both Monotheistic ("God") and Polytheistic ("gods").

Similarly, I've changed the second definition [strong atheism] to mention "God". From "... there are no gods" to "... there is no God nor gods". While this change is less critical, it is still important. After all, Polytheism is greatly diminished in these times; most people either "believe in God" .. or "don't believe in God" or are unsure. To keep talking about "gods" instead of "God" is to fundamentally misrepresent the dominant spiritual dialogue of our times.

While I'm at it, I personally don't use, or hear "atheism" used, as definition #1 ("absence of belief"). To me it has always been simple: "I don't believe in God" = there is no God = atheism. "I don't know whether God exists" = uncertain or unknowable = agnostic. This to me is a more satisfying usage of the two words. So I would prefer to see definition #2 (active disbelief) be placed first; I think that is the more common usage. However, I'm not going to tamper with that, unless there is broader consensus. I appreciate the counter-argument that the broader, weaker, definition, be placed first.

ToolmakerSteve 06:38, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

"God" as a capitalized word is a name, as opposed to a......I don't know.....type of entity.....species? Anyway, suffice to say that God is a god (confusing, yes). In any case, atheism is an absence of belief in any of them, and so the lowercase should remain. -Atelaes λάλει ἐμοί 07:17, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

Please study writings about "God" if you are going to keep editing this. The concept "God" is its own category. That is part of the nature of "God". "God" is NOT "a god". There cannot be a species "God", of which "God" is one entity, and "god" is the general notion. "God" is "God" -- that is the whole point. If you think otherwise, you don't understand "God", you don't understand Monotheism, you don't understand the last 3,000 years of religious discussion, in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Seriously. Please leave this definition alone. ToolmakerSteve 07:35, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

A few more comments on the concept "God". Strictly speaking, "God" is not "God"s name. "God" is that which is beyond naming. Do not confuse the general concept "God" with any specific notion of "God". That is, if you talk to some Christians, and you hear them talking about "God", you may get the idea that the word "God" refers to "The Christian (notion of) God", in which case you understandably want to broaden that specific entity to include some whole category. But regardless of whose notion of God you hear about, the underlying fundamental concept of "God" is uncategorizable, is beyond words, does not exist in space and time, cannot really be talked about: "God is God". This is quite different than "God is a god", or "The Christian God is one form of belief in a god." To write one of these sentences is to fundamentally misunderstand the concept ("God") being discussed. God is NOT a god. God is that which --uniquely-- is beyond any attempt to categorize. God, Allah, Yahweh, whatever word one uses is merely a stand-in for "that which is beyond naming" or "that whose name cannot be spoken". Not "cannot" as in "should not", but "cannot" as in "is literally meaningless to do so" (because any attempt to put a word down, is inherently less than what we are attempting to speak about). This is a deep, deep topic. To understand what atheism is, one must understand what belief is absent. So, Atelaes, your very replacement of "God" with "god" shows that you are a particular kind of atheist. You can not possibly believe in God, because you have no such concept, you have only the concepts "god" and "gods", and understandably those weak concepts hold no sway on you. I am a different kind of atheist. Or more specifically, I am agnostic. I have examined this from many angles, in both spiritual and secular settings, and I have not discovered any basis for belief. But it is very important to understand that which I have no reason to believe, and that which many people today do believe. "God" and "god" are quite different concepts. While there are many differences between the various Monotheistic religions, the notion that there is ..something.. that is more than "a god" is central to that category of beliefs. The capitalized word "God" attempts to capture this crucial distinction. ToolmakerSteve 09:08, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

I do believe in G-d, and while He is nothing like (say) the Greek gods, He is "a god" in a generic sense. As you say, He is beyond all description — and yet, there are plenty of words that can describe Him, such as "holy", "omnipotent", and "perfect". One of those words is the noun "god". It's horrid, it has the wrong connotations, it makes Him sound like less than He is; but there you have it. —RuakhTALK 15:05, 24 September 2008 (UTC)
So I thought about it further, and I realized that there is a testable hypothesis here. I went on Google and ran a search for "I don't believe in God", and a search for "I don't believe in a|any god|gods" OR "i don't believe in gods". My word, there's simply no comparison: it's about 105,000 hits to 3,350. By and large, anglophone atheists do consider G-d to be a specific entity in Whom they disbelieve. So, I've changed it back. Thanks for your input! :-)   —RuakhTALK 19:41, 11 October 2008 (UTC)
Excellently done. Thanks. -Atelaes λάλει ἐμοί 05:47, 12 October 2008 (UTC)
At this writing there's about 4.1 million hits for "I don't believe in Allah". Clearly people consider Allah to be a specific entity in Whom they disbelieve, too. About 160,000 "I don't believe in Buddha"'s, though John Lennon has padded that number. About 22,100 for "I don't believe in Vishnu". So what? "no deities" and "any deities" includes them all. ~ Robin 20:16, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

Implicit atheism removedEdit

Somehow, our definition of atheism, had the implicit definition of atheism front and center when that definition doesn't even make it into other dictionaries (including the ones referenced in the entry). I removed it. Please consult other dictionaries before adding it back. See, for instance, this list.Griswaldo 16:01, 19 January 2011 (UTC)

I agree. Atheism is the position of knowing about the concept of a god and explicitly rejecting it, not merely having no position on it. (Another dictionary check: Chambers has "the belief that there is no god".) Equinox 16:06, 19 January 2011 (UTC)


What does the addition of "unbelief" do to improve the definition? "Unbelief" itself is a term needing definition, and, if one does look at its wikidef, one finds it does NOT include the positive belief that deities do not exist. --JimWae 08:51, 29 October 2011 (UTC)

The problem is that, as stated in the usage notes, some (many?) authors do not make the distinction implied by having three separate senses; or at least they ignore it when they write. Indeed, the notes seem not so much to describe usage, as to further discuss the definition of the term (still a useful thing to do). This is reflected in the apparent difficulty in matching the citations with particular defined senses. — Pingkudimmi 12:05, 29 October 2011 (UTC)
The format presents the 3 meanings as if they are subsumed under "unbelief". 1> They are not. The belief there are no deities is not really covered by the definition of "unbelief" (nor does "disbelief" cover absence of belief). 2> What "unbelief" itself means is not without issues. 3> How does "unbelief" improve the entry?--JimWae 23:38, 29 October 2011 (UTC)
The word "unbelief" is a red herring. At issue is the approach taken. Perhaps counterintuitively, the intent should be not to teach people what the word means, but to describe how it is used - even if you don't agree. In this case, the nice philosophical breakdown of what the concept entails appears not to be backed up by empirical evidence of usage. Presumably, not all people who use the word "atheism" are philosophers, or even care about such fine philosophical points. — Pingkudimmi 05:08, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
I agree that "absence of belief" (the one that includes "implicit atheism") is NOT the way the word is really used (and is a poor definition in that it includes infants and even monkeys as atheists, and mathematics as a type of atheism) - nevertheless,(besides Martin, Smith & Flew) it does appear in several dictionaries--JimWae 06:20, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
While David Eller in Natural Atheism (2004) claims we're all born atheists (quoted on atheist page), I know of no atheist who would go so far as to classify monkeys as atheists. The most expansive definition of “atheist” I’ve encountered has been “one who has no belief in gods”, but never “something which has no belief in gods”. ~ Robin 01:41, 1 November 2011 (UTC)
If an absence of something is described as an -ISM, and monkeys can be called hedonists and egotists, then why not? Monkeys have an absence of belief in a deity (so do ants, carrots, and rocks). (Even the pope might have AN absence of belief when he sneezes - until someone blesses him;) If it were "a lack of belief" one could say monkeys do not have the capacity, hence they do not have a "lack"; and sneezing popes do not lack a belief when they are not thinking about that belief. But "lack" usually implies a deficiency, and that will not do to define atheism. The problem lies in defining any -ISM as not having some belief. More tellingly, how is Marxism atheistic and not mathematics? Not by an absence of belief in deities. Marxism takes a position on the issue, math does not. And Darwinism? </rant>
George H. Smith considers capacity a necessary condition in Atheism: The Case Against God (1979): “The man who is unacquainted with theism is an atheist because he does not believe in a god. This category would also include the child with the conceptual capacity to grasp the issues involved, but who is still unaware of those issues. The fact that this child does not believe in god qualifies him as an atheist.” (also quoted on atheist). You answered your own question re Marxism. ~ Robin 02:35, 1 November 2011 (UTC)
Smith does not make capacity a necessary condition. He talks about it, but he never says it is essential, and never says an infant cannot be an atheist. He skirts the issue by not dealing with it directly - an issue that many others who have adopted this def say does include infants as atheists. If capacity were a necessary condition for Smith, then "a person with no belief in a deity" would not be a complete def of "atheist" - this is more dire for a def of "atheist" than for "atheism" because it is hard to see how "capacity" would apply to atheism. However, "absence of belief in a deity" is still an incomplete set of conditions for atheism. for it does not differentiate Marxism from mathematics from Darwinism - according to the absence def, they are all forms of atheism. The rejection def does distinguish among them. Incidentally, I don't think Marx ever came right out and said there was no God. Perhaps he did somewhere, but his focus is more on how such belief undermines "progress" --JimWae 03:36, 1 November 2011 (UTC)
The very words of one or both of Smith & Martin (and definitely of Flew) show the absence def offered is a persuasive definition - a program to change the definition/meaning of a word rather than an observation about how the word is actually used. They justify that program on sparse etymological grounds. --JimWae 03:56, 1 November 2011 (UTC)
To what do you refer? What Martin? What words of Flew's? ~ Robin 07:13, 2 November 2011 (UTC)
see below
As for "rejection", there are many people who call themselves atheists who do not claim deities do not exist, but do deny they believe in any deity - much like one can reject belief in UFOs without claiming they do not exist. This definition is also supported by Encyclopedia Britannica --JimWae 06:26, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
Some people say the concept of God makes no sense and that " 'God exists' is a meaningless sentence" which is thus neither true nor false. Such people are generally regarded as... atheists, yes? Specifically, these are ignostics or "theological noncognitivists".--JimWae 06:51, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
Re is this what you are requesting?: sort-of. What we really want to find are books that use the term this way, as opposed to reference works (secondary sources) which say the term is used this way. Robin Lionheart has added a line from Dawkins to [[atheist]] which is semi-relevant: "Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. ‘I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.’" - -sche (discuss) 20:41, 30 October 2011 (UTC)

Persuasive definitionEdit


Antony G.N. Flew, "God, Freedom and Immortality: A Critical Analysis" The Presumption of Atheism, Prometheus Books, (1984), Page 14

to his credit, explicitly acknowledges this as a "new" definition:

My presumption of atheism is closely analogous to the presumption of innocence in the English law; a comparison which I shall develop in Section 2. What I want to examine is the contention that the debate about the existence of God should properly begin from the presumption of atheism, that the onus of proof must lie upon the theist.

The word 'atheism', however, has in this contention to be construed unusually. Whereas nowadays the usual meaning of 'atheist' in English is 'someone who asserts that there is no such being as God', I want the word to be understood not positively but negatively. I want the originally Greek prefix 'a' to be read in the same way in 'atheist' as it customarily is read in such other Greco-English words as 'amoral', 'atypical', and 'asymmetrical'. In this interpretation an atheist becomes: not someone who positively asserts the non-existence of God; but someone who is simply not a theist. Let us, for future ready reference, introduce the labels 'positive atheist' for the former and 'negative atheist' for the latter.

The introduction of this new interpretation of the word 'atheism' may appear to be a piece of perverse Humpty-Dumptyism,going arbitrarily against established common usage.' more at ...we need to give a new and much more comprehensive meaning to the term "atheist." Whereas it is currently construed as referring to a person who positively disbelieves that there is an object corresponding to what is thus tacitly taken to be a or the legitimate concept of God, I would now urge that the word be hereafter understood not positively but negatively. Let the originally Greek prefix "a" be read in the same way in "atheist" as it customarily is read in such other Greco-English words as "amoral," atypical," and "asymmetrical." In this interpretation an atheist becomes not someone who positively asserts the nonexistence of God, but someone who is simply not a theist.


Michael Martin, "Atheism: A Philosophical Justification," Temple University Press, (1992), Page 463 Michael Martin:

" atheist would simply be someone without a belief in God, not necessarily someone who believes that God does not exist."

The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, edited by Michael Martin, 2007, Cambridge University Press

If you look up “atheism” in a dictionary, you will find it defined as the belief that there is no God. Certainly, many people understand “atheism” in this way. Yet this is not what the term means if one considers it from the point of view of its Greek roots. In Greek “a” means “without” or “not,” and “theos” means “god.”1 From this standpoint, an atheist is someone without a belief in God; he or she need not be someone who believes that God does not exist.2 Still, there is a popular dictionary meaning of “atheism” according to which an atheist is not simply one who holds no belief in the existence of a God or gods but is one who believes that there is no God or gods. This dictionary use of the term should not be overlooked. To avoid confusion, let us call it positive atheism and let us call the type of atheism derived from the original Greek roots.negative atheism.(p 1, General Introduction by Martin)

Split 4th meaning?Edit

Current 4th meaning:

  1. (possibly nonstandard or dated, speaking selectively) The absence of a particular religious belief or of belief that a particular (or any) god or gods exist(s); disregard for moral obligation, wickedness. (Atheism in this broad sense does not exclude religious belief; in the Roman Empire, for example, Christians were accused of "atheism" because they refused to believe in the gods of Rome, although they did believe in a single god.)
    • 2008, Karen Armstrong, The Case for God, p. 102:
      Christians were also accused of atheism because they refused to honour the patronal gods of Rome and thus endangered the empire.
    • 2009, Diarmaid MacCulloch, A History of Christianity, Penguin 2010, p. 779:
      At the time, doubt was generally given the blanket label atheism, just as a whole variety of sexual practices of which society pretended to disapprove were given the blanket label sodomy.

I am thinking these are very different meanings. One is believing in the wrong god (selectivity). The other is opprobrium for behaviour (or speech). The implication re behaviour could be that one has the wrong religion but it could also be that they have no religion. --JimWae 07:16, 30 October 2011 (UTC)

I started to think that (these senses should be spilt) myself, as I looked for examples of the sense(s). I haven't found any examples of "atheism" being used to mean "wickedness", although supposedly the OED has some. I'm going to split the senses and let god sort them out. - -sche (discuss) 07:29, 30 October 2011 (UTC)

Quotations for sense 1Edit

I cannot see that the quotation for 1914 provides a source for any distinct sense of atheism.

Now they had lectures also on Confucianism, Mohammedanism, Buddhism, with an optional course on atheism for students in the final year.

The quotations for 1910 and 2011 are examples where atheism and agnosticism are not lumped together, but are not clear indications that they could not have overlapping meanings.--JimWae 22:14, 30 October 2011 (UTC)

Perhaps the intent was to show atheism as a religion (that does not work for the 2011 one) - but that argument, applied to other quotations, would make agnosticism a religion too --JimWae 22:18, 30 October 2011 (UTC)

The 1914 quotation distinguishes atheism from non-theistic religion (Buddhism, Confucianism). It's actually redundant, in that way, to the 1910 quotation, and could be moved back to the Citations: page if we want to avoid having so many quotations in the entry. - -sche (discuss) 01:14, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

Three categories of atheism (in the modern sense)Edit

Three categories of atheism

  • Explicit positive/strong - included in all 3 defs, specified by denial of existence def
  • Explicit negative/weak - included by the rejection def and the absence def (specified by deny/reject belief in a deity)
  • Implicit weak - included only by the absence def

Explicit atheists are aware they do not believe in a deity. Implicit atheists are not aware they do not believe in a deity. All strong atheists deny existence, no negative/weak atheists take/defend that position.

Explicit and strong are overlapping - some explicit are strong/positive, some are weak/negative Weak includes some explicit (rejectionists) and all implicit.

Both explicit weak and explicit strong reject belief (or deny they believe) in a deity. The explicit strong go one step further and also deny existence. The explicit negative do not take, or do not defend, that step.

Only "explicit strong" deny the existence.


Usage notes
The term atheism may refer either to:
(rejection of belief): an explicit rejection of belief or denial that any deities exist (explicit atheism),

The last line describes explicit atheism, which may be ok because both explicit types do reject, but the next line shapes things differently

(absence of belief): an absence of belief in the existence of any deities (weak atheism or soft atheism),

is not ok, because "absence" actually covers all 3 categories, not just weak (and not just implicit) --JimWae 19:13, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

A "strap" means a strip of leather. A "strap" also means such a strip specificially for flogging. It is OK that the latter is a subset of the former. Lots of words are like that. ~ Robin 19:50, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

Quote that distinguishes "rejection" from "absence"Edit

I believe this has been requested again. It is in the citations--JimWae 11:38, 10 November 2011 (UTC)

  • 1965, Philosophical Concepts of Atheism, in Basic Beliefs: The Religious Philosophies of Mankind, Ernest Nagel, reprinted 1997 in Critiques of God, edited by Peter A. Angeles, Prometheus Books, 1997
    ...atheism is not to be identified with sheer unbelief, or with disbelief in some particular creed of a religious group. Thus, a child who has received no religious instruction and has never heard about God, is not an atheist — for he is not denying any theistic claims. Similarly in the case of an adult who, if he has withdrawn from the faith of his father without reflection or because of frank indifference to any theological issue, is also not an atheist — for such an adult is not challenging theism and not professing any views on the subject.... As I see it, atheistic philosophies fall into two major groups; (1) Those which hold that theistic doctrine is meaningful, but reject it either on the grounds that (a) the positive evidence for it is insufficient, or (b) the negative evidence is quite overwhelming; and (2) those that hold that the theistic thesis is not even meaningful, and reject it (a) as just nonsense, or (b) as literally meaningless, but interpreting it as a symbolic rendering of human ideals...
Or a procedural matter of not concluding the RFV discussion first. ~ Robin 08:38, 11 November 2011 (UTC)
Where is that discussion taking place?--JimWae 00:56, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
Wiktionary:Requests for verification#atheist ~ Robin 07:04, 16 November 2011 (UTC)

long RFV discussionEdit

The following discussion has been moved from Wiktionary:Requests for verification.

This discussion is no longer live and is left here as an archive. Please do not modify this conversation, but feel free to discuss its conclusions.

Previous discussion: Wiktionary:Tea room#atheist, Talk:atheist, Talk:atheism.
  I think RFV is a good way of verifying all senses of both words (although I've only tagged some senses). I argue that I've cited the first, narrow sense:
  1. [[atheism]]: The belief that no deities exist, and the absence of other religious belief.
  2. [[atheist]]: A person who believes that no deities exist, and who has no other religious belief.
I've found examples of "atheism" being contrasted with "Buddhism" (showing that it is distinct from non-theistic religion), and of it being contrasted with agnosticism, and of it being shown to be a belief that deities do not exist (as opposed to only an absence of belief in deities). (I could add more citations that discuss at length that Buddhism and atheism are distinct, as opposed to merely using the words.) - -sche (discuss) 08:09, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
  In addition to that narrow sense, we all seem to agree that a broader sense exists. Currently, there is at [[atheism]]:
  1. The rejection of belief that any deities exist, with or without the claim that "A deity exists" is false.
  2. The absence of belief that any deities exist. (Atheism in this sense includes the two previous senses, as well as the worldview of those (including children) who have never heard of deities, and of those agnostics who do not believe any deity exists.)
This is a splitting of what I wrote at [[atheist]]:
  1. A person who does not believe that any deities exist, but who does not necessarily believe that no deities exist. (An atheist in this sense includes the previous sense, as well as a person (such as a child) who has never heard of deities, and as well as an agnostic who does not believe any deity exists.)
Which is my attempt (however insufficient it may be) at wording the broad sense (which includes the previous sense) which we all seem to agree exists and which Widsith worded (at "atheism"):
  1. "The absence of belief in the existence of a god or deity; sometimes more strongly, the assertion that a god or gods do not exist."
Let's see if JimWae's split ("rejection"..."absence") is supported by citations. I do not doubt that "atheism" and "atheist" are used in a broad way, as a catch-all for all lack of belief in God (and I do suspect it is mostly monotheists who use the word in that way), probably including (at least sometimes) agnosticism. I'm actually having a little trouble finding citations, though. (The narrow sense crowds the broad sense out of my searches.) - -sche (discuss) 08:09, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
Well here's one from a book I'm reading right now: “You don't have to be brave or a saint, a martyr, or even very smart to be an atheist. All you have to be able to say is “I don't know”.” — Penn Jillette, “God, No! : Signs you may already be an atheist and other magical tales”, p. xiii.
It wouldn't be hard to find cites from Dawkins, Hitchens, etc. I'm on it. ~ Robin 15:12, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
Attested on Citations:atheism and Citations:atheist. ~ Robin 08:35, 11 November 2011 (UTC)
  The next, broad sense is cited, but not necessarily convincingly so; some citations seem very mention-y.
  1. [[atheism]]: The absence of a particular religious belief (or belief in a particular deity).
  2. [[atheist]]: A person who does not have a particular religious belief (or belief in a particular deity).
Is the sense cited already? If not, can it be cited? Is it a sense? Discuss. - -sche (discuss) 08:09, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
Attested for athiest. ~ Robin 06:00, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
Attested on Citations:atheism and Citations:atheist. ~ Robin 08:35, 11 November 2011 (UTC)
  1. [[atheism]]: Disregard for moral obligation; wickedness.
  2. [[atheist]]: A person who shows disregard for moral obligation, or is immoral or wicked.
I couldn't find examples of such a sense, but it's plausible old writers would use the word in such a way, and Dbfirs said in the Tea Room that the OED had examples spanning hundreds of years. - -sche (discuss) 08:09, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
Attested atheist by following three OED citations from the 1600s. ~ Robin 18:07, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
I'm not convinced the OED's citations support their sense. "Thou damned Athiſt, thou incarnate Deuill, That doeſt deny his power which did create thee" seems to be accusing someone of actual atheism — of overtly denying that there is a god. Consider that it continues: "That Pharoa like dar’ſt aske[sic] what fellow’s God? Eſteeming ſacred Scriptures, to be vaine: And that the dead in earth ſhall make abode, and neuer riſe from out their graues againe."
The 1656 citation is also ambiguous. "But a wicked man is an Atheiſt. An Atheiſt is taken two waies, for him who is an Enemy to the Gods, and for him who believeth there are no Gods : which all wicked men do not." That could be distinguishing someone who in behaviour is "an Enemy to the Gods" from someone who actually "believeth there are no Gods", I suppose. Another source translates Zeno's line "But the bad man is an atheist. Now there are two kinds of atheists; one who speaks in a spirit of hostility to, and the other, who utterly disregards, the divine nature; but they admit that all bad men are not atheists in this last sense." - -sche (discuss) 20:33, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
AFAICT, the quotation calling Eli's sons "atheists" supports this sense very well, though. - -sche (discuss) 20:36, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I see what you mean. It is difficult to split the entry into distinct senses when actual usage shows a continuum. Dbfirs 21:37, 15 November 2011 (UTC)
Hi, this is my first foray into editing on wiktionary, so I am not quite sure how this works - what is actually meant by citations in this context? That someone has used in some manner, even if it not the manner which held wider acceptance? This seems particularly problematic in the case of blurring the lines between atheism and agnosticism, a line which seem fairly consistently upheld in serious treatments of the subjects, see for example EB's entry on Atheism here which contrasts atheism and agnosticism with "An agnostic, like an atheist, asserts either that he does not know that God exists—or, more typically, that he cannot know or have sound reasons for believing that God exists—but unlike the atheist he does not think that he is justified in saying that God does not exist or, stronger still, that God cannot exist." Thanks! unmi 15:09, 4 December 2011 (UTC)
I think the real difficulty is that at the time of usage the distinction between the terms was not clear. For many English speakers centuries ago, atheism implied a lack of morality, so accusing someone of being an atheist was also an accusation of immorality. There are some people in the US and elsewhere that still use the word in that way. —CodeCat 16:57, 4 December 2011 (UTC)
That is not quite was I was referring to, I was more concerned about the text obscuring what Kai Nielsen spells out above. unmi 22:39, 4 December 2011 (UTC)
I am not quite sure which is the most appropriate place to hold the discussion, but this seems like it - I previously commented on the thread in the tearoom, I'll crosspost here for transparency:

Let me just say that I have found few 'serious' sources that entertain the notion that atheism and agnosticism are not distinct and mutually exclusive, indeed many sources explicitly contrast them. I think that a source of unnecessary confusion has arisen regarding the meaning of "reject", "belief", "disbelief" and "denial" - my understanding is that they are all used to signify knowledge claims. Some sources spell that out when they develop the subject further, such as ( emphasis mine ):


Atheism is the position that affirms the nonexistence of God. It proposes positive disbelief rather than mere suspension of belief. Since many different gods have been objects of belief one might be an atheist with respect to one god while believing in the existence of some other god. In the religions of the west - Judaism. Christianity and Islam - the dominant idea of God is of a purely spiritual. supernatural being who is the perfectly good. all-powerful. all-knowing creator of everything other than himself. As used in this entry, in the narrow sense of the term an atheist is anyone who disbelieves in the existence of this being, while in the broader sense an atheist is someone who denies the existence of any sort of divine reality.


atheism, in general, the critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or spiritual beings. As such, it is usually distinguished from theism, which affirms the reality of the divine and often seeks to demonstrate its existence. Atheism is also distinguished from agnosticism, which leaves open the question whether there is a god or not, professing to find the questions unanswered or unanswerable.


I think that this misunderstanding regarding what rejection and denial means in this context stems from failing to factor in noncognitivism - which states simply that "God exists" does not express any proposition at all, which I think we should agree does not yield "with or without a belief that no deities exist". This is my first foray into wiktionary, so I am not quite sure on how this works, do we build established sources such as dictionaries, encyclopedias and scholarly work ( with discussion of course ) or do we build from more or less random citations in primary sources? unmi 22:46, 4 December 2011 (UTC)

◄ Let me just interrupt here to say that in 10 seconds I found hundreds of thousands of 'unserious' sources entertaining that notion. ~ Robin 23:12, 4 December 2011 (UTC)
No, please don't edit my posts. Yes, you can find 'unserious' sources for a range of things, we don't go putting them into dictionaries without qualification either. unmi 01:16, 5 December 2011 (UTC)
I shall continue not to change a word of what you wrote. So, if I can so easily find a couple hundred thousand "agnostic atheists", I'll bet you $20 I could also find a fair few durable sources explicitly stating that the two are not mutually exclusive. ~ Robin 03:29, 5 December 2011 (UTC)
And I will bet you $200 that I can find more, of equal or higher quality that either use them in the sense, or state explicitly, that they are mutually exclusive. Deal? unmi 04:16, 5 December 2011 (UTC)
I think you and I have divergent ideas about what constitutes source "quality". ~ Robin 12:15, 5 December 2011 (UTC)
A descriptive dictionary does not stress about the quality of the sources; we're documenting the language as it is used, not how it is theoretically supposed to be used.--Prosfilaes 04:21, 5 December 2011 (UTC)
We define words in the way that people actually use them. Given that Isaac Asimov changed from using agnostic to describe himself to atheist without any change in the underlying belief, I don't think the distinction is as clear as you claim.--Prosfilaes 04:21, 5 December 2011 (UTC)
Like I said at the outset, I am not quite sure how things work here, but I do note a definite lack of mention of character traits attributed to either "liberal", "conservative", "democrat" or "republican" which I don't doubt the internet can a wealth of material for, etc. I also note that usage which yield a neologism seem to labelled as such. I think that it might also be worthwhile to consider jargon and ( though I prefer Hanlons razor ) language planning. Contemporary scholarly users of atheism as a neologism, or a revived paleologism if you prefer, generally admit to it, such as

If you look up "atheism" in a dictionary, you will probably find it defined as the belief that there is no God. Certainly many people understand atheismt this way. Yet many atheists do not, and this not what the term means if one considers it from the point of view of its Greek roots. In Greek "a" means "without" or "not" and "theos" means "god." From this standpoint an atheist would simply be someone without a belief in God, not necessarily someone who believes that God does not exist. According to its Greek roots, then, atheism is a negative view characterized by the absence of belief in God.


The word 'atheism', however, has in this contention to be construed unusually. Whereas nowadays the usual meaning of 'atheist' in English is 'someone who asserts that there is no such being as God', I want the word to be understood not positively but negatively. I want the originally Greek prefix 'a' to be read in the same way in 'atheist' as it customarily is read in such other Greco-English words as 'amoral', 'atypical', and 'asymmetrical'. In this interpretation an atheist becomes: not someone who positively asserts the non-existence of God; but someone who is simply not a theist. Let us, for future ready reference, introduce the labels 'positive atheist' for the former and 'negative atheist' for the latter. The introduction of this new interpretation of the word 'atheism' may appear to be a piece of perverse Humpty-Dumptyism, going arbitrarily against established common usage.[2] 'Whyever', it could be asked, 'don't you make it not the presumption of atheism but the presumption of agnosticism?'

Other nontheists have clarified the problems with this such as Theodore Drange:

Sometimes the use of the term "atheism" to mean "lack of theistic belief" is supported by an appeal to etymology. For example, Martin, in the book mentioned above, says the following:

In Greek a' means without' or not' and theos' means god.' From this standpoint an atheist would simply be someone without a belief in God, not necessarily someone who believes that God does not exist. According to its Greek roots, then, atheism is a negative view, characterized by the absence of belief in God.[4]

This argument is rather unsatisfactory for at least two reasons. First, it is not completely clear that the correct translation of the Greek prefix "a" is "without." It might also mean "no," in which case "a-the-ism" could be translated as "no-god-ism," or "the view that there is no god." Note that there is no "ism" in Greek. Second, even if the etymology of the word "atheism" did indicate that it once meant "without belief in God," that is still not a good guide to current usage. It is quite common for words to acquire new meanings over time. It seems far more important what people mean by a word today than what it once meant long ago.


My conclusion here is that no good case has ever been made for using the word "atheist" in the sense of "one who is without belief in God."

In this essay, I shall use the term "atheist" in its (more common) narrow sense. Martin draws a distinction between "negative atheists," who are without any belief in God, and "positive atheists," who deny God's existence.[5]) Applying that distinction, it could be said that I (and most people) use the term "atheist" in the sense of "positive atheist." It should be noted that all positive atheists are automatically negative atheists, which may sound somewhat peculiar when those expressions are used.

In place of the expression "negative atheist," I shall use the term "nontheist." That seems to be a better term (than "atheist") for capturing the more general concept of "one who is without belief in God," for several reasons:

(1) Almost everyone who employs the term "nontheist" already uses it in the given way.

(2) As indicated in dictionaries, most native speakers of English use the term "atheist" for the more definite concept of "one who denies that God exists." It is desirable that we abide by common usage and it is foolish (and probably futile) to try to reform people's usage of terms.

(3) It would be more natural to call infants and fetuses "nontheists" than to call them "atheists."

(4) It is desirable to have a system in which the familiar three classes, theists, atheists, and agnostics, are mutually exclusive, and that would not be possible if the term "atheist" were instead used for the more general concept.

I should note here that anyone who cares to look up the actual etymology of atheism in the English language will see that the Greek source is atheos and that theism is actually a back-formation from atheism.
Drange then goes on to use "noncognitivist with regard to God-talk" for the position "'God exists' expresses no proposition whatever.", wiktionary has the position under ignostic. It is somewhat relevant to note that when both Martin and Flew expand on why their definition strikes them as appropriate it is with exactly the noncognitivist position as its centerpiece.
This is important because Kai Nielsen, who, it should be noted, is a prominent atheist philosopher, includes the noncognitivist position as atheism writing quite emphatically:

The more typical and less paradoxical and tendentious claim is that utterances such as “There is an infinite, eternal creator of the universe” are incoherent and that the conception of God reflected in such a claim is unintelligible, and in that important sense the claim is inconceivable and incredible—incapable of being a rational object of belief for a philosophically and scientifically sophisticated person touched by modernity. It is this that is a central belief of many contemporary atheists. There are good empirical grounds for believing that there are no Zeus-like spiritual beings, and as this last, more ramified form of atheism avers, if there are sound grounds for believing that the nonanthropomorphic or at least radically less anthropomorphic conceptions of God are incoherent or unintelligible, the atheist has the strongest grounds for rejecting belief in God. Atheism is a critique and a denial of the central metaphysical beliefs of systems of salvation involving a belief in God or spiritual beings, but a sophisticated atheist does not simply claim that all such cosmological claims are false but takes it that some are so problematic that, while purporting to be factual, they actually do not succeed in making a coherent factual claim. The claims, in an important sense, do not make sense, and, while believers are under the illusion that there is something intelligible to be believed in, in reality there is not. These seemingly grand cosmological claims are in reality best understood as myths or ideological claims reflecting a confused understanding of their utterers’ situation.

Which quite frankly is the bitchslaps of bitchslaps. What he also states as simple fact is that:

Atheism is also distinguished from agnosticism, which leaves open the question whether there is a god or not, professing to find the questions unanswered or unanswerable.


An agnostic, like an atheist, asserts either that he does not know that God exists—or, more typically, that he cannot know or have sound reasons for believing that God exists—but unlike the atheist he does not think that he is justified in saying that God does not exist or, stronger still, that God cannot exist.

I'll admit, I have no idea why the people who do [stuff like this] even pretend to not be protecting theism in their attempts at diluting the meaning of atheism, I suppose Hanlons razor is probably even more appropriate here. It is remarkable how indistinguishable new-age-atheism has become from the worst of theism in its lack of intellectual curiosity and oblivious ignorance. unmi 08:34, 5 December 2011 (UTC)
In the edit you question, I reworded those definitions to correct inaccuracies and obviate qualifiers which were overly encyclopedic for dictionary definitions, and either redundant of the usage notes or more appropriately illustrated by quotations beneath them.
You ascribe dishonest motives to me. If I were disposed to do likewise, I might suggest that since you will never be able to meet your burden of proof, you instead seek to misrepresent an unassailable position of nonbelief without evidence, taken by a majority of self-identified atheists, into a straw man doctrinaire converse belief you can argue against. But let's try to AGF, shall we? ~ Robin 12:15, 5 December 2011 (UTC)
People self-identify as all kinds of things they don't have the slightest relation to all the time. Here is a hint: while No True Scotsman might be a fallacy, so is calling your self the King of Scotland when you are a Kakwa. unmi 13:32, 5 December 2011 (UTC)
"No True Scotsman" seems an apt label for a fallacy of declaring that soft atheists are not "true" atheists. ~ Robin 14:29, 5 December 2011 (UTC)
You will never fully comprehend just how predictable you are for your softness. You may, however, at some point come to realize that exchanging one dogma born of ignorance for another is no great advance. If fear of theistic arguments leads you to seek shelter in an "unassailable position of nonbelief without evidence" then you have already conceded. Huxleys agnosticism holds the position of nonbelief without evidence - but it is not proving unassailable, at least not against credulous masses of youtubers and those holding both the weakness of character to desire a symbol for its significance and weakness of mind to not realize what lent it. I'll leave you with the last word and:

What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite. —Bertrand Russell, "Skeptical Essays", 1928

unmi 18:14, 5 December 2011 (UTC)
Um, what exactly was the argument again?
Wiktionary is set up to be a descriptive dictionary, as I've been given to understand, rather than prescriptive -- i.e., we should build entries that describe how people actually do use these words, rather than entries that prescribe how people should use these words.
With that in mind, I must admit that unomi's extended theological / philosophical arguments above lose me.
As best I can tell, for the purposes of a dictionary entry here at Wiktionary, some people use atheist to mean 1) "someone who believes that no deity exists", while others intend 2) "someone who believes that a specific deity does not exist", and still others use the term to signify 3) "someone who has no particular belief that any deity exists". This appears to be fully covered, even in other and more specific senses, by the current definitions given on the atheist page.
Now what exactly is all the extensive quoting above intended to illustrate? This is Wiktionary, mind you, not Wikipedia. C.f. WT:WWIN. -- Eiríkr ÚtlendiTala við mig 18:43, 5 December 2011 (UTC)
Suffice to say that those senses of atheist which Unomi finds objectionable have been extensively attested in Citations:atheist going back centuries.
Incidentally, Unomi, you assumed wrong. Contra your parting diatribe, I'm not one of those soft atheists you deride. So much for my predictability. ~ Robin 19:12, 5 December 2011 (UTC)

Atheism is not a beliefEdit

It is either a conclusion based on probability (in contention with religious belief), or a lack of involvement with religious belief. By using the word belief we place atheism on a par with religious belief, but it is not an alternative belief. Instead of original sin I propose a doctrine of original atheism, i.e. we are all born as atheists.

It's still a belief. If I work something out based on probability, I can still believe it as a result. Equinox 14:19, 17 February 2016 (UTC)

Is atheism specifically about gods?Edit

This definition is very heavily focused on deities. Does or does not atheism include rejection of other spiritual beliefs such as Buddhism? Thanks. --Irrevenant (talk) 23:28, 9 July 2016 (UTC)

It is about gods. It comes from the same root as words like theology and theocracy, i.e. specifically gods. Equinox 12:09, 10 July 2016 (UTC)

apatheism is derived from theism not atheismEdit

  1. apatheism is derived from theism not from atheism
    • the word atheism isn't a constituent of the word apatheism
  2. atheism doesn't mean apatheism, and even if it did, that wouldn't mean that it automatically is a Derived term, it is though a Cognate

atheicity: the state of being atheistEdit

It is famous on the web, but not only. Even scientists use the term.

Hardly! It doesn't even have 10 Google hits!! Equinox 04:39, 30 January 2017 (UTC)
Return to "atheism" page.