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16th century Middle 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).


  • IPA(key): /ˈeɪθiɪzəm/
  • (file)


atheism (usually uncountable, plural atheisms)

  1. A non-belief in deities.
    1. (strictly) Belief that no deities exist (sometimes including rejection of other religious beliefs).
      • 2002, Michael Martin, “Should atheists be agnostics?”, in Julian Baggini, editor, The Philosophers' Magazine[1], number 19, →ISSN, archived from the original on 20 December 2002, 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.
    2. (broadly) A lack of belief in deities, or a belief that there is insufficient evidence to believe in a god.
      • 1857, James Buchanan, Modern Atheism: under its forms of Pantheism, Materialism, Secularism, Development, and Natural Laws[2], 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.
      • 1896, George William Foote with W. T. Lee, “First Night”, in Theism or Athiesm: Which is the more reasonable?[3], London: R. Forder, page 17:
        ...but Atheism per se simply means, not denial, but rejection, in the sense of not accepting the Theistic theory of the universe which Mr. Lee has put forward tonight.
    3. (very broadly) Absence of belief that any deities exist (including absence of the concept of deities).
      • 1829, John Wesley, Sermons, on Several Occasions, 10th edition, volume 2, 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, →ISBN, →LCCN, LCC BL2747.3.S6 1979, 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.
  2. (historical or rare) Absence of belief in a particular deity, pantheon, or religious doctrine (notwithstanding belief in other deities).
    • 1995, Richard P. McBrien, editor, The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism[4], HarperCollins, →ISBN, 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[5], O-Books, →ISBN, 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.
  3. (obsolete) Absence of belief in the One True God, defined by Moore as personal, immaterial and trinitarian (thus Islam, Judaism and unitarian Christianity), as opposed to monotheism.
  4. (sometimes proscribed) A rejection of all religions, even non-theistic ones.
    • 2009 June 2, Ed Gungor, What Bothers Me Most about Christianity: Honest Reflections from an Open-Minded Christ Follower, Simon and Schuster, →ISBN, page 13:
      Some worldviews are based in a belief in God; others are not. Buddhism, Taoism, atheism, Marxism, and existentialism are examples of worldviews that are nontheistic.
    • 2013 December 16, Yalith Wijesurendra, Buddhist Answers: For the Critical Questions: A bridge from religion to science and reason, Xlibris Corporation, →ISBN, page 254:
      Buddhism and atheism do agree on the view that there is no God. But Buddhism and atheist materialism totally disagree on the points such as “What is life?”, “Is there any Super natural?” etc.
    • 2016 December 13, Luke C. Hsieh, Unicorn, You Taught Me How to Fly, Lulu Press, Inc, →ISBN:
      Another reason why the transition between Buddhism and atheism seemed so easy, was my personal discomfort with the theory of reincarnation.


For more quotations using this term, see Citations:atheism.


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