If you really think about it there are fanatics on both sides. Religion is really only
a group of people believing in a certain way. Atheism to me is the same way
my beliefs and the right to them. I like to live my life with my own beliefs
so I do not begrudge anyone else in their beliefs.
Yes, Jared, but we ALL have beliefs. That's not the point. Atheism, at its essense, is the absence of belief. That is what the word means. Some atheists may believe, as you say, that gods do not exist, but their conviction does not make atheism a belief.
Let me offer this again from George Smith:
"Atheism, therefore, is the absence of theistic belief. One who does not believe in the existence of a god or supernatural being is properly designated as an atheist. Atheism is sometimes defined as 'the belief that there is no God of any kind,' or the claim that a god cannot exist. While these are categories of atheism, they do not exhaust the meaning of atheism--and are somewhat misleading with respect to the basic nature of atheism. Atheism, in its basic form, is not a belief: it is the absence of belief. An atheist is not primarily a person who believes that a god does not exist, rather he does not believe in the existence of a god."
Atheism: The Case Against God (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1989), p. 7.
Valid belief arises from knowledge, nowhere else. A belief has value only insofar as the knowledge it's based on is reliable. The validity of any belief must hinge on our ability to determine the extent to which it may be true. That is, to hold a valid belief we must have a way to determine whether the knowledge on which that belief is based is true. And we do have a way; it's called epistemology.
To use the word "belief" to refer to a deep religious conviction is to stretch the word's useful meaning and to ignore its essence, the knowledge on which any belief must be based. The fact that many religious people hold "true believers" in such awe only testifies, perversely and witlessly, to the emptiness of religious belief. When a fundamentalist rises to his feet in church to shout, "I BELIEVE, I BE-LEEEEVE!" he is declaring his absolute conviction and trust in something (a system of belief) for which everyone in that church knows there exists no evidence. That's why, to them, his declaration of belief in all its fervor is so moving, so inspiring. He doesn't know, but that doesn't matter! Because he beleeeeves anyway.
When theists use "belief" to refer to something that can be known without any evidence, and when they insist that wishful thinking is knowledge, they have righteously and arrogantly corrupted the essential meanings of both words, "belief" and "knowledge."
Of course words have essential meanings. We could not communicate effectively--and a good many of us can--if that were not true.
Disagree with Smith if that makes you happy, Jared, but an assertion isn't an argument. The argument in support of the purest and most accurate meaning of "atheism" runs like this:
Atheism is: "the absence of [belief in] gods." From the Greek; "a" meaning "not" or "without," and "theism" meaning [belief in] gods.
You're also confused about the meaning of "agnostic," a word that refers more to knowledge (from the Greek; gnosis, for knowledge) than to belief. There are many agnostics who say that we cannot know whether a god exists; yet, therefore, they have no belief in a god. Those agnostics are also atheists.
'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'
'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'
'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'
'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'
Jared, you're as stubborn and nonsensical as Humpty Dumpty. You're right about the Greek, of course. theos is the root of theism. Which is [belief in] gods. Which is what I said.
I have said nowhere that I am an agnostic. I am not an agnostic.
Words can convey concepts effectively only to the extent that the words' essential meanings, with regard to their context and syntax, lead to accurate comprehension and appreciation in the mind of the reader or listener. Good communicators make careful choices that are based on our shared understanding of what words mean. Of course words are the choices of individual people--but their value as tools is determined by their aptness as conveyors of meaning.
"I've noted you compared me to Humpty Dumpty. I don't see what this adds to the discussion."
It adds humor. And it uses a fitting illustration to emphasize the silliness of the notion that words do not have certain meanings that we, as possessors of the language, have by consensus ascribed to them.