There are many definitions for the what seems like a simple term. So far, my favorite is Merriam Webster Dictionary 2a which states: the disbelief in the existence of a deity.
I like this definition because it’s short and objective without any ‘trick’ words. Trick words include ‘doctrine’, ‘belief’, ‘denial’ or ‘God’. Atheism, according to atheist.org is not a religion or a belief system. I have tried re-written this part over at least five times but the website says it best so why I don’t use some good old fashioned copy and paste for this next part:
The fact that the dictionary’s definition uses the phrase “there is no God” betrays the theistic influence in defining the word atheism. If dictionaries did not contain such influence, then the definition would read, “A belief that there are no gods.” The use of god in singular form, with a capital G, is indicative of Christian influence.
In addition, using words like “doctrine” and “denial” betray the negativity seen of atheists by theistic writers. Atheism does not have a doctrine at all and atheists certainly do not “deny” that gods exist. Denial is the “refusal to believe.” Atheism does not “know there is a god but refuse to believe in him” (or her). That would be like saying that you know Big Foot exists but you refuse to believe in him. If the evidence of gods was insurmountable and provable, and atheists still refused to believe, then that would be an act of denial.
Speaking of the original meaning, the word atheism comes from the Greek atheos, which means “without god.” The original meaning of the word, based on its Greek origins, mentions nothing about “disbelief” or “denial.” A short and single-word definition would be “godless.”
———-if you click these words they send you to the website
At times ‘atheism’ is a word that seems like it could have been added to the late George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” As Americans, we are taught from the very beginning to believe in a God. Not gods, not goddesses but a God. The questioning this monotheistic religious path is only encouraged if you come to the understanding that it’s right. I remember, as a kid and later as an teenager, fearing atheism. It’s not a particularly new idea but it was never a fully explored idea. The life of an atheist was supposed to be evil, cold and unrewarding. That is not a good selling tip. I am not trying to sell you on atheism. I am merely wondering what scares us about it. I am even uncomfortable writing this blog at this moment even though physically I have made myself as comfortable as possible.
Perhaps it is the thought that without a belief in a God or even gods directing us, we fall to chaos. We lose moral judgment and become moral criminals. Well, even more so as some would argue that it is immoral to not believe in some deity. History, however, has taught us this is not necessarily true. Religion does not always beget perfect moral judgment. People do horrible things in the name of God, but would we prefer break bread with them instead of those that simply choose not to believe? Not every good act is done by humans because we fear God’s wrath upon us. Sometimes you give to the homeless because you know they are worse off without your help. Volunteering feels good inside because you have helped your fellow man. Maybe the lessons were taught from a Bible but that doesn’t mean one religion has the monopoly on said lessons. Let’s face it, atheists volunteer and hug people too. Well not my one friend but she has thing about hugging.
Wouldn’t it be a little ridiculous to say that all atheists are amoral? A little? I believe it is our fear that drives us to divorce ourselves from atheists. In our fear of the unknown, we find scapegoats to cast as the villain and let’s face it, someone who blatantly says “I don’t believe in the existence of a higher spiritual order” seems like the easiest target. Well, the easiest target if you missed the man in the cape twirling his clearly evil doer mustache while laughing…evilly. But maybe the answer to the initial criminalization of atheists is the same for criminalizing other unpopulars, religious or otherwise inclined, in this country. Perhaps, it is a lack of faith in your own faith and that thought is scarier than any atheist.
This blog entry has been in my head since the The Golden Compass came out. There was this uproar advising people not to see it because it was about atheism. I will not debate what the movie was about as I fell asleep towards to end because I found it a slight bit slow. However, my argument can be summed up in two words: So what? No, really… if the foundation with which you build your life can be shaken by a kids movie then maybe it’s not the author of the book it was based off of that is the problem. No one was harmed in the making of the film, at least not on purpose. I don’t have access to on the set accident reports. Anyway, there is no great demonic mystery behind atheism. There is no need to panic should you meet one and cutting off your friends or not watching a movie doesn’t change a thing in the greater scheme of life. You are not closer to your God because of it, at least not in my personal opinion. It’s called religious freedom for a reason (okay, may not that reason but you love the play on the words…admit it).