In order to understand the meaning of the term atheism, it is necessary, first of all, to determine its etymological origin. In this sense, it must be said that it emanates from the Greek, specifically it is the result of the sum of three components:
• The prefix “a-“, which is equivalent to “sin”.
• The noun “theos”, which can be translated as “God”.
• The suffix “-ismo”, which is synonymous with “doctrine”.
Therefore, we can say that the meaning of this word is “doctrine that does not believe in God.”
Atheism is the condition of those who do not believe in God. The atheist, therefore, is a person who disbelieves in any type of divinity or supernatural entity. It can be said that atheism is the opposite of theism, the doctrine of those who hold the existence of one or more divinities.
Many people clearly confess atheists because they consider, for example, that if a God really existed, he would not only not allow the evils that plague the population, but also prevent innocent human beings from suffering all kinds of pain, damage and miserable situations.
Atheism is sometimes confused with agnosticism. Agnostics, however, do not reject the possibility that there is a God, but consider that the divine is beyond human understanding and, therefore, they are unaware of its eventual existence. Atheists, on the other hand, do not believe in divinities (or, put another way, they believe that God does not exist).
Another common confusion arises between atheism and those who oppose all religion. Atheism, in essence, consists of disbelieving in the existence of God. This is not contrary to certain creeds or religious practices: Buddhism, for example, does not contemplate the presence of gods, so it can be said that it is an atheistic religion.
There are many figures who, throughout history and up to the present day, have openly stated that they are atheists. Thus, for example, in Spain we can highlight filmmakers like Alejandro Amenábar, thinkers like Fernando Savater, actors like Fernando Guillén or illustrious writers like Pío Baroja.
It is difficult to quantify the number of people who advocate atheism. However, the studies carried out have established that the largest number of them is on the European continent and Australia, compared to the United States, where it is minimal.
Among the European countries with the highest percentage of atheists are Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, the Czech Republic or the Netherlands. On the contrary, where atheism has less presence is in Poland, Ireland, Romania or Turkey, among others.
Within atheism itself there are different conceptions or tendencies. The so-called strong atheism rejects the existence of any kind of divinity and maintains that there are explanations of various kinds to rationally justify what theists attribute to God.
The weak atheism, closer to agnosticism, not based on the refutation of the existence of God: instead, it merely states that does not believe in Him and that, in fact, the idea of “existence” can not be applied to something impossible to verify from experience.