What’s in a Word?

I have had this nagging thought bouncing around in my skull for a while now, I thought I’d try and write it down and give a good thinking over. Maybe this will be one of those things that kinda sorts itself out. If I’d just confront it.

What is the word of the day? Atheist. 3 syllables. My loose definition of this word would be: “a person, who through careful consideration of the facts, would deny the existence of a god or gods, because their simply isn’t any convincing evidence to convince one otherwise.”

I doubt many would take issue with that definition, some might I don’t know. Don’t care really. What I want to point out is the way the religious treat the word atheist. For the religious, atheist is a word that is usually spoken as a one syllable utterance, with a particular disgusting and venomous inflection. As if just saying the word speaks of the most vile and hated of society. There is no other word I am aware of except perhaps evolution, that would elicit this kind of response. I understand that evolution is a threat to religion. The many sciences that drive modern biology make no sense without it, and the other modern fields of science are constantly making the gaps for them to hide their gods in smaller every day. But atheist was a defiled word way before evolution came along. Atheist has been around for as long as the most popular religions today. All it means essentially is someone simply doesn’t believe in a god or gods.

What then drives this complete hatred of the word or one associated with it? What is it about an atheist that causes such a deep seated, brutish, animal like, caveman kind of emotion? How could one that does not believe in your gods be such a powerful threat? The atheists I know are probably the most well balanced, honorable, and trustworthy people I have ever met, in person, or on the net. They, we, pose no threat to them personally just because of a lack of belief. Is our lack of belief such a strong influence that it has some negative magical properties that I am unaware of? Does it mean that people who wear the badge of atheist are bad people? Of course not.

Like many things, it just doesn’t make good sense when I think about it, I can’t connect with the root cause of these reactions to to the word atheist. I surely do not respond in kind when I hear someone is religious. I may inwardly shake my head, and quickly look for an excuse to be somewhere else, because I really do not want to hear them rambling on about this (to me) stupid belief in things that do not exist, or those wondrous tales that never could have happened, unless you invoke lots and lots of magic to explain away all of the logical inconsistencies. It is a total waste of my time, when I could be doing something constructive. That is all. I have no desire to drink the friggin kool aid, thank you. But I do not hate and despise someone just because of the fact they may be religious. I would, and do, take an issue with the religious that would spread misinformation, lies, and B.S. about science, or evolution, or stating their personal beliefs as fact, and you will see and hear a lot of this. But I still do not hate the religious, just because they are religious. It takes many other influencing factors for me to even dislike or have reason to disagree with someone religious. I do not carry a deep seated resentment against theists. I think they should be allowed their beliefs and customs. I don’t have a hangup with that.

So I am still left with the question, what is it about the word atheist that gets the religious all worked up? I have to surmise it comes from some tribalistic, non tolerance of anything that is different from them kind of issue. I guess the mere existence of an atheist is a threat to them because it shows a chink in the armor of their own faith. It shows that there are people out there, not like them. That an atheist exists at all means they might be pulled into some atheist vortex if they get too close, that would turn them into murdering, raping, baby eating atheists that will rampage and loot, and burn the countryside as they go. This is such a silly and ill informed thought, it isn’t even in the same book that has the definition of good sense in it.

In the end, I am still left with more questions than answers. I often wonder about this phenomenon, trying to understand the negative impact of a word that simply defines one as a non believer in gods. It just seems like one of the many kinds of crazy that exist out there, that may never be reasonably explained.