As a throwaway clarifying point in my last thread I stated what I meant by atheist and what was meant
by atheist by the person in the talk I was linking so that people would know and understand what was
being talked about in the video and by myself.
This backfired by creating off topic discussion on what atheist means and who gets to define it.
So, as promised, this is a thread specially for such discussions, so that we can have them here and be on topic.
You do not have to be part of some secret society to understand what this term means to atheists, Most of the
major atheist organisations agree on what they mean by this term and you can look it up.
This term has meant a lot of different things throughout history, and to different people and cultures.
If you are talking historically you need to check to see what was meant by the people of that time and place.
However today, there is a large, vocal, and very rapidly growing community of Atheists and if you want to know
what these atheists mean when they call themselves an atheist, you are not necessarily going to get the right answer
by looking the word up in a dictionary.
You have to ask the atheists in question what they mean by atheist.
Fortunately this is not hard, because we have many websites where we have already answered this question.
My standard definition of what it means to be an atheist is simply someone who doesn't have a belief in god or gods.
Someone who when asked the question "do you believe in god or god's" answers "no".
(This often gets expanded a bit to include general disbelief in the supernatural as well)
My bio has more details.
"American Atheists" simply defines Atheism as "Atheism is the lack of belief in a deity".
link here: http://www.atheists.org/atheism
"Atheist Alliance International" defines Atheism as "Atheism, in a broad sense, is the rejection of belief in the
existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most
inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism,
which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists."
The "Atheist Community Of Austin (Tx)" Defines Atheism as "We define atheism as the lack of belief in gods.
This definition also encompasses what most people call agnosticism."
The "Rejection Of Pascals Wager" website has a good page discussing the definition of Atheism and Agnosticism here:
Which includes this segment...
"Definition of Atheism
The Webster's New World College Dictionary (Macmillan 1996) defines atheism as "the belief that there is no God or a denial that God or gods exist."
In contrast it gives agnosticism as the belief "that the human mind cannot know whether there is a God or an ultimate cause."
This indeed is how many non atheists understand the terms. Unfortunately, the definition of atheism given in Webster’s, and in most dictionaries,
is incorrect. Most atheists do not define atheism that way. A proper understanding of the etymology of the word provides the actual meaning.
As Michael Martin, Professor of Philosophy at Boston University explains:
"In Greek "a" means "without" or "not" and "theos" means "god". From this standpoint an atheist would simply be someone without
a belief in God, not necessarily someone who believes that God does not exist. According to its Greek roots, then atheism is a negative view,
characterized by the absence of a belief in God. "
Defined in this way, theism and atheism are mutually exclusive and, more importantly with respect to agnosticism, collectively exhaustive.
As another atheist philosopher, George H. Smith explains:
"The prefix "a" means "without, so the term "a-theism" literally means "without theism", or without belief in a god or gods.
Atheism, therefore, is the absence of theistic belief...."Atheism" is a privative term, a term of negation, indicating the opposite of theism...
In this context, theism and atheism exhaust all possible alternatives with regard to the belief in a god: one is either a theist or an atheist,
there is no other choice. "
Thus most atheists define atheism as being without belief in theism. Therefore if one is not a theist, one is then, by definition, an atheist!
There is no middle ground."
And here is a Talk from Skepticon IV (the same place as the other talk I linked) By the President of American Atheists
Titled "Skepticism, Atheism and our Common Movement, Skepticon 4 David Silverman"
Where He discusses What it means to be an atheist and the linked ideas of Skepticism.