16th century French athéisme, from athée (“atheist”), a loan from Ancient Greek ἄθεος (átheos, “godless”), from ἀ- (a-, “without”) + θεός (theós, “deity, god”). First English attestation dates to 1587 (OED).
atheism (plural atheisms)
- (narrowly) Belief that no deities exist (sometimes including rejection of other religious beliefs).
2002, Michael Martin, “Should atheists be agnostics?”, The Philosophers' Magazine, number 19, ISSN 1354-814X, page 18:
- For atheism to be rationally justified it is only necessary that it be more probable than not or at least more probable than theism. Certainty is no more required in the case of atheism than it is in the case of scientific theories.
- (broadly) Rejection of belief that any deities exist (with or without a belief that no deities exist).
1857, James Buchanan, Modern Atheism: under its forms of Pantheism, Materialism, Secularism, Development, and Natural Laws, Boston: Gould and Lincoln, page 365:
- The theory of Secularism is a form, not of dogmatic, but of skeptical, Atheism; it is dogmatic only in denying the sufficiency of the evidence for the being and perfections of God. It does not deny, it only does not believe, His existence.
- (very broadly) Absence of belief that any deities exist (including absence of the concept of deities).
1829, John Wesley, Sermons, on Several Occasions, volume 2, edition 10th, page 373:
- What can parents do, and mothers more especially, […] with regard to the atheism that is natural to all the children of men?
1979, George H. Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God, Buffalo, New York: Prometheus, LCC BL2747.3.S6 1979, ISBN 978-0879751241, LCCN 79002726, page 7:
- Atheism, in its basic form, is not a belief; it is the absence of belief. An atheist is not primarily a person who believes that a god does not exist; rather, he does not believe in the existence of a god.
- (loosely, uncommon) Absence of belief in a particular deity, pantheon, or religious doctrine (notwithstanding belief in other deities).
1995, McBrien, Richard P. editor, The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, HarperCollins, ISBN 9780060653385, keyword Domitilla, Flavia, page 431:
- Domitilla, Flavia, niece of the emperor Domitian (81-96). She and her husband, Flavius Clemens (consul in 95 and cousin of Domitian), were probably Christians; charged with atheism and adoption of Jewish ways, they were punished (95) with death (Clemens) and exile (Domitilla).
2010, Ross Thompson, Buddhist Christianity: A Passionate Openness, O-Books, ISBN 978-1846943362, page 260:
- Sacrificial religion becomes redundant – which is why Christianity did indeed have a reputation in the ancient world for atheism: it rejected the key duty humans are thought to owe to the gods, namely sacrifice.
The term atheism may refer either to:
- (rejection of belief): an explicit rejection of belief, with or without a denial that any deities exist (explicit atheism),
- (absence of belief): an absence of belief in the existence of any deities (weak atheism or soft atheism),
- (affirmative belief): an explicit belief that no gods exist (strong atheism or hard atheism).
For more examples of usage of this term, see the citations page.
- “atheism” in The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.
- Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Random House, Inc. (31 August 2006).
- Encyclopædia Britannica, Kai Nielsen (2011), keyword ATHEISM
- Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Paul Edwards (1967, 2005), keyword ATHEISM
- Michael Martin, ATHEISM, A Philosophical Justification
- George H. Smith, The Scope of Atheism, in Atheism: The Case Against God (1979)