There seems to be a lot of confusion, especially amongst religious adherents, regarding the terms “atheism” and “atheist”, and I believe this to be a result of ignorance and misinformation. Therefore, I would like to share my thoughts on this subject, and hopefully set things right, as it were.
Instead of simply using the dictionary definition of “atheism” as a whole, i.e., “the belief that God does not exist” or “the denial of God’s existence” (which can be somewhat misleading), I propose that it can be better understood by looking at the two parts that make up this word, namely, “a” and “theism”. “A” (in this context) is from the Greek, meaning “without”, and “theism” (from the Greek “Theos”), meaning a belief in “god” – but this is not necessarily the god of the Christian faith (or of any other particular faith); in fact, the word “theism” specifically means “the belief in the existence of gods or a god, especially a god supernaturally revealed to man and sustaining a personal relation to his [or its] creatures.” (Not to be confused with “deism” [from the Latin “Deus”, or “god”], which is a “belief in the existence of a supreme being arising from reason rather than revelation”.)
This essentially means that an atheist is merely someone who lives their life without presuming that there is a supernatural and anthropomorphic being who is the creator and supervisor of the universe, and who has a special interest in the human inhabitants of planet Earth, which include such pursuits as ghost-writing (or perhaps it’s the other way around) “guide” books for them, expecting sycophantic veneration from them, and implying that a conversation, as well as a relationship, can be maintained simply by the use of “prayer” or telepathy.
So, if being an atheist means being without a god who is based on conjecture and age-old superstition, then an atheist, by that definition, is a person who lives their life without the excess baggage of having to assume, by becoming convinced (sometimes irreversibly), that “God” is a real and almost (but not quite) tangible being, whose presence and persona can only be perceived by the converted. (Not unlike the notion of having an imaginary friend, which I’m certain many of us have experienced during our early childhood.)
Stay tuned for Part 2!