Saturday, July 6, 2013


Liking the broader definition of atheism is one thing. Arguing that that is the way the word is constructed, is quite another. Let's take a look at the linguistics of a-theism.

Root words are supposed to be the smallest base word, to which suffixes and prefixes attach. The definition of the root word is supposed to be maintained, and is the base for any new words created by adding those suffixes and prefixes.

The suffix -ist = a person with a particular set of beliefs or way of behaving.

The root word for Theist is Theos (God). Attaching the suffix -ist (believer) defines a person. Literally, a person who believes the proposition, "God", is true.

The prefix A- = Without, No, or Not.

The root word for "atheist" is still stated to be the Greek word "atheos" (Without God). Maintaining the root word, and attaching the suffix -ist (believer) defines a person. Literally, a person who believes the proposition, "Without God", is true.

Well, okay then. What does a-theist mean? It literally means "not a god believer". To attach an a- prefix, the new root word for the new definition, should actually be "theist".

Because personhood is attached to the -ist suffix, and an a-theist isn't an -ist, this word has not defined a person. A rock is "not a god believer". You might be a rock. It has also not created a philosophy that people are following. Unlike athe(os)-ism, which described a philosophy, a belief that we are without gods, a-theism, "no/not/without" "god belief" describes every non-sentient thing in existence, and most of the sentient ones, as well. The universe itself is likely without god belief.

To make a-theist describe a person, you have to rip the personhood out of the "ist" suffix and transfer it to the "a" prefix, so that "a"= "someone without" and "theist" = "god belief". Wait a minute, though, "theism" = "god belief". Now the "theist" in a-theist and the "theism" in a-theism mean exactly the same thing. 

Well, "Does an -ic describe a person? Couldn't you be a rock to?", you might ask. An -ic does have some history in describing people who practice ascetic, a cynic, a fanatic, an empiric, an autodidactic, a gnostic, a skeptic, a romantic, for example. The use of -ic, as describing a person, is supported by the fact that Agnosticism is an -ism, a belief that we have "no knowledge" ("a" + "gnosis"), or "not [enough] knowledge"...evidence...upon which to form a belief about the existence, or non-existence, of gods. So, until I believe that a rock can have a belief or philosophy, I will believe that I can not be a rock.

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