Although misunderstandings about the definition of atheism have tended to come from theists, it is also true that many theists have recognized that atheism has a broader sense than simply "denial of the existence of gods." Included here are quotes from a few of them.
Definition of Atheism for Theologians:
Well-known for his attacks on various freethinkers, including Thomas Paine, Watson states in his 1831 book A Biblical and Theological Dictionary:
- Atheist, in the strict and proper sense of the word, is one who does not believe in the existence of a god, or who owns no being superior to nature. It is compounded of the two terms ... signifying without God.
In his 1885 book Anti-Theistic Theories, Flint notes:
- The atheist is not necessarily a man who says there is no God. What is called positive or dogmatic atheism, so far from being the only kind of atheism, is the rarest of all kinds. ...every man is an atheist who does not believe that there is a God, although his want of belief may not be rested on any allegation of positive knowledge that there is no God, but simply on one of want of knowledge that there is a God.
In a later book, Agnosticism, pubished in 1903, Flint said much the same thing again, concluding with: "The word atheist is a thoroughly honest, unambiguous term. It means one who does not believe in God, and it means neither more nor less.
In his book Natural Theology, Chalmers states:
- Judging from the tendency and effect of his arguments, an atheist does not appear positively to refuse that a God may be. ...His verdict on the doctrine of God is only that it is not proven. It is not that it is disproven. He is but an atheist. He is not an anti-theist.