What is the definition of atheism? How do atheists define atheism? How do dictionaries, standard and online, define atheism? There is some disagreement about the definition of atheism and it is interesting to note that most of that disagreement comes from theists – atheists themselves tend to agree on what atheism means. Christians in particular dispute the definition used by atheists and insist that atheism means something very different.
One popular tactic used by religious theists (usually Christians) is to confuse the differences between agnosticism and atheism in order to insist that atheists aren’t ‘really’ atheists, but agnostics. There seems to be the hope that by misrepresenting both as two points along a continuum with theism, then atheists can be convinced that they are ‘closer’ to theism than they realized, thus making the entire evangelization effort easier. Evangelization through deception is far too common.
Because of atheism’s long-standing association with freethought, anti-clericalism, and dissent from religion, many people seem to assume that atheism is the same as anti-religion. This, in turn, seems to lead people to assume that atheism is itself a religion – or at least some sort of anti-religious ideology, philosophy, etc. This is incorrect. Atheism is the absence of theism; by itself, it isn’t even a belief, much less a belief system, and as such cannot be any of those things.