Herb Stahlke hfwstahlke at GMAIL.COM
Sun Dec 20 02:08:32 UTC 2009

There's been an ongoing discussion on another list as to the meaning
of "atheist," whether it denotes one who denies the existence of
deities or simply one who doesn't believe in such supernatural beings.
 I posted the OED entry for "atheist" and got the response

>Atheist \A"the*ist\, n. [Gr. ? without god; 'a priv. + ? god:
>     cf. F. ath['e]iste.]
>     1. One who disbelieves or denies the existence of a God, or
>        supreme intelligent Being.
>        [1913 Webster]
I believe this definition makes my point. The definition is sloppy and
careless because it conflates and equates two very different
intellectual positions: one who disbelieves in God is not the same thing
as one who denies the existence of God. I and every other atheist I know
of disbelieve in God but none of us denies the existence of God.

Among atheists, according to some on that lsit, there is the sense
that the term should be restriced to those who simply don't believe in
any deity and should not include those who deny the existence of such
a deity.  This is, of course, a definition preferred by many
secularists and does not reflect general usage, which is what they are
objecting to.

Has the entry for "atheist" been revised to note such a more
specialized usage?  I've gone through the revisions I could find on
the OED Online site and could find no reference to "atheist."


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