Escaping Atheism definitions of atheism, agnosticism, theism, & God

Escaping Atheism stated mission, in addition to using swear words on a regular basis, is to an attempt to help people ‘escape atheism’. But what do we even mean by atheism?

To avoid pointless dictionary thumping, these are the definitions of important words at the Escaping Atheism project. If you can use these words as defined, welcome! We know what it’s like to honestly wonder if there’s no God. If you can’t use these words as defined here, well, expect to be cussed at some point.

Escaping Atheism definitions:

  • atheism=denial or disbelief of God (traditional definition of atheism – etymology of atheism)
  • agnosticism=does not know, does not have a declared position either way; although they may have bias or leaning
  • theism=belief in God (or gods), although not necessarily religious or spiritual or part of any organized religion
  • God=uncreated Creator of reality, not part of the natural world in any sense, no claims about the nature of the uncreated Creator of reality unless associated with a particular religious belief

For a more detailed discussion of these nouns using definitions from Dictionary.com, please read on.

atheism

  1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
  2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

Atheism defintion at Dictionary.com

 

I will need to make a quick side discussion. There is a well known dictionary that defines atheism as:

a: lack of belief or a strong disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods
b: a philosophical or religious position characterized by disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods

Online atheists will offer endless mind numbing discussions about the “lack of belief” clause of this sloppy and historically incorrect primary definition (b is much more accurate). Meanwhile, online militant atheists will never discuss disbelief, which is an active state. Historically and philosophically, until late this last century, atheism meant the active denial of God.

Arguing that taking up a clear position on the question of God is a “lack of belief” is disingenuous at best. At worst, “There is no God is merely a lack of belief” suggests we need the number to your therapist ASAP, because the meds haven’t taken yet.

agnosticism

  1. the doctrine or belief of an agnostic.
  2. an intellectual doctrine or attitude affirming the uncertainty of all claims to ultimate knowledge.

We love agnostics here. Please pull up chair and stay a while. And don’t get suckered into the atheist trope that agnostics are atheists either by definition or default. Being genuinely uncertain on a question as monumental as “Is there a God?” is a sign of both humility and intelligence. You are very different from an atheist.

theism

  1. the belief in one God as the creator and ruler of the universe, without rejection of revelation (distinguished from deism ).
  2. belief in the existence of a god or gods (opposed to atheism ).

This positive definition is more straightforward than atheism. Theism generally does not make claims about the nature of God, in a way that deism does. You can be a theist in any of the world’s major religions including Buddhism, or have no religion at all and still be theist.

God

  1. the one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe.
  2. the Supreme Being considered with reference to a particular attribute: the God of Islam.
  3. (lowercase) one of several deities, especially a male deity, presiding over some portion of worldly affairs.

Escaping Atheism is primarily uses God in the sense of the first definition, without necessarily the ruler part of it. When we mean God, we mean God the Creator of the universe and reality without delving deeply into the possible other natures of that Creator. That we will leave to the various religions.

That means that God is not is a “sky fairy” (that would be a creation of the Creator), “santa claus” (ditto) or an old man in the clouds or any analogy that is clearly meant to redefine and reduce God into a concept that easy to dismiss or reject.

Andrew Stratelates discusses the difference between gods and God, Which god is God?, which is why we don’t mean the 3rd definition. Bishop Robert Barron also has an excellent video that also discusses the concept of both God and “the gods”. (Bishop Barron is a Catholic Priest, but the video only discusses the definition of God as used by all of Christianity and most major religions.)