Definitions, definitions

“But if the gods do not exist at all – then we are lost,’ I said. On the contrary – we are found!’ said Aesop. But when we are afraid, who can we turn to, if not the gods?’ Ourselves. We turn to ourselves anyway. We only pretend there are gods and that they care about us. It is a comforting falsehood.” ― Erica Jong, Sappho’s Leap

Most often, it is theists who have issues with defining atheism. That could be excused. But when we have an atheist having issues with it, then you know we have a bit of a problem. He argues

If someone points out that atheism motivated an atrocity, then all of a sudden ‘atheism is just a lack of belief in gods’ stalls any further criticism. Nothing bad could ever be attributed to atheism because there’s nothing there just a lack of belief in something

which, yours truly finds really perplexing. I understand the belief in god is a big thing to many people. I know also it is difficult for most people to comprehend how atheism can only refer to a lack of belief. If a person were to kill others while shouting they lack a belief in god, we could take them at their word for it but most likely we would recommend they be examined for soundness of mind. Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. I can tell you why I think no gods exists. This in no way changes how atheism is defined. To claim that the above definition is used  as a defense is, to me, not valid. The second beef he says

The second problem is that ‘just a lack of belief in gods’ is casting the net so wide as to become useless. It would include the agnostic, the person who doesn’t think it’s even worth talking about, hell it would even include babies who don’t have the cognitive capacity to have a stance on the issue.

Which yours truly doesn’t see. Babies lack beliefs in gods. As far as I can tell, I don’t know which deity dogs worship. An agnostic, like my friends Bob and Romulus, would agree that in practice they lack a belief in gods. And yes, it includes the igtheist who believes god is a meaningless word. That it hasn’t been coherently defined to even permit a discussion on it. It is honest to say atheism is a lack of belief in gods. It is also honest for me to say I think no gods exist. Those are different issues. I end this post with this quote of Peter L. Berger

A few years ago, a priest working in a slum section of a European city was asked why he was doing it, and replied, ‘So that the rumor of God may not completely disappear.” ― Peter L. Berger, A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural