Attempts to dilute the definition of atheism

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Atheism, as defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and other philosophy reference works, is the denial of the existence of God.[1] Paul Edwards, who was a prominent atheist and editor of the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, defined an atheist as "a person who maintains that there is no God." [2]

In the late 19th century and more broadly in the latter portion of the 20th century, the proposition that the definition of atheism also include a mere lack of belief in God or gods began.[3] It is now common for atheists/agnostics and theists to debate the meaning of the word atheism.[4]

Charles Bradlaugh, in 1876, proposed that atheism does not assert "there is no God," and by doing so he diluted the traditional definition of atheism.[5][6][7] Since 1979, many atheists have followed Bradlaugh's thinking further and stated that atheism is merely a lack of belief in any god.[8][9] The motive for such a shift in meaning appears to be to an attempt to shift the burden of proof regarding the existence of God to the theism side.[8]

In the article, Is Atheism Presumptuous?, atheist Jeffery Jay Lowder, a founder of Internet Infidels, states that "I agree (with Copan) that anyone who claims, "God does not exist," must shoulder a burden of proof just as much as anyone who claims, "God exists."[8] In short, the attempt to redefine atheism is merely an attempt to make no assertions so no facts need be offered.[8] The attempt to redefine atheism, however, is not in accordance with the standard definitions of atheism that encyclopedias of philosophy employ which is that atheism is a denial of the existence of God or gods.[5][6][10] In addition, the atheist community has often used deception to promote their ideology.

Unlike Christianity, which is supported by a large body of sound evidence (see: Christian apologetics), atheism has no proof and evidence supporting its ideology. In addition, atheists/skeptics do have a tradition of making assumptions that later have proved errant.[11] Also, prominent atheists, such as Charles Darwin (see: religious views of Charles Darwin ), have experienced doubts concerning the validity of atheism.

This redefinition blurs the distinction between saying, "There is no God", and "I don't know whether God exists or not." It lets people say, "I don't believe in God," without clarifying whether they are denying God's existence (which is atheism) or are merely uncertain about it (which is agnosticism).

See also

External links

General articles on atheism and agnosticism:


  1. Multiple references:
  2. Putting the Atheist on the Defensive by Kenneth R. Samples, Christian Research Institute Journal, Fall 1991, and Winter 1992, page 7.
  3. Day, Donn R. (2007). "Atheism - etymology".
  4. 5.0 5.1
  5. 6.0 6.1 Is Atheism More Rational by Creation Ministries International
  7. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3
  8. Positive Atheism's Big List of Charles Bradlaugh Quotations