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Talk:Definition of atheism

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Caveat: Dictionary Definitions

Without appearing to defend theists on this point (I'm not!) I'd like to point out that there are some dictionaries whose definitions support the assumption that "atheism" is "an affirmation that no deity exists" rather than "lack of belief in any deity."

  • Dictionary.Com lists several definitions at [1] as of 13:13, 5 April 2009 (CDT):
    • Random House (aka Dictionary.Com itself):
  1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
  2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.
    • American Heritage Dictionary:
  1. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
  2. The doctrine that there is no God or gods.
    • Webster's Revised Unabridged:
  1. the disbelief or denial of the existence of a God, or supreme intelligent Being.
    • Princeton Univ. Wordnet:
  1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God [ant: theism]
  2. a lack of belief in the existence of God or gods
  • Merriam-Webster's has, at [2] as of 13:13, 5 April 2009 (CDT):
  1. archaic : ungodliness , wickedness
  2. a disbelief in the existence of deity; b: the doctrine that there is no deity
  • Encarta (formerly Funk & Wagnalls) has, at [3] as of 13:13, 5 April 2009 (CDT):
  1. unbelief in God or deities: disbelief in the existence of God or deities
  • Compact Oxford English Dictionary has, at [4] as of 13:13, 5 April 2009 (CDT):
  1. the belief that God does not exist.

Some of these include the "lack of belief" definition, but each one includes the "belief that no deities exist" definition. I'm not going to debate whether these are incorrect or not. All I'm doing is pointing out that these definitions exist, and that theists may rely on them, and because the definition appears authoritative, may not be convinced otherwise. I'm not sure what can be done about it, but it's worth noting that these definitions do exist, and to be prepared for them if they come up.

I posted this in "Discussion" for consideration as to whether this information should be incorporated into the article proper, and if so, how much of it should go there. Perhaps just a statement that some dictionaries include the "belief that no deities exist" definition, but that alternate definitions exist? PsiCop 13:13, 5 April 2009 (CDT)

response by Pile

Be advised, people like Noah Webster were heavily religious and there is obvious bias towards an unflattering definition of atheism in his publications. The same can be said of the Oxford dictionary. Oxford also has similar roots in religion and religious tradition.

I am aware of these differences. Disbelief = lack of belief. Basically the definitions indicate both strong and weak atheism, which is reflected in the article. If you feel it could be better-worded, I'm open to suggestions, however, I do not want to infer by default that the strong version of atheism is the definition of atheism. This is a common misconception that needs to be emphasized. Strong atheism is a subset of atheism, but weak atheism is not a subset of strong atheism, so the all-encompassing definition (lack of belief) is more suitable as the default. All strong atheists are also weak atheists, but not vice-versa.

By the way, I want to thank you for your excellent research into this topic. I have incorporated it both into the origin and the definition pages --Pile 14:11, 5 April 2009 (CDT)

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