The etymological fallacy

General

Often you’ll find atheists (or atheismists, as I’d like to call them – and you should too) claiming that the definition of atheism is the lack of belief, and despite over a dozen other dictionaries saying otherwise, atheists will adamantly stick to the one or two dictionaries they can cherry pick to suit their agenda. Alternatively, a subset of these atheists will resort to using the etymology of atheism as proof of its definition and will reposition your rebuttal and rejection of etymology as proof of the definition of a word to the strawman that you are rejecting etymology. What these atheists commit in this case is the the Etymology Fallacy, where they claim the definition of atheism is its etymology.

An example of this fallacy is using the word breakfast. When you eat breakfast you are not strictly and necessarily breaking a fast. It is possible, and often so, that you haven’t eaten at all while you slept through night, not waking up to drink or eat something. Despite that, however, you are not breaking a fast in the morning but are having breakfast. Words go through semantic change and depart from their etymology. Breakfast food  is food that we associate with having in the morning, perhaps cereal, toast or eggs.

The Economist has an interesting article on this fallacy, using the word transpire, which etymologically means “to breathe across”, a meaning no one uses today. Check the article out here: Etymology fallacy.

Enjoy and use it on an atheist TODAY.

UPDATE: No sooner than posting this on our popular Instagram page did an atheist commit the very strawman I said they commit, namely shifting the argument from rejecting etymology as necessarily the definition of a word to the strawman of rejecting etymology. You can see the post here. Thanks for the gift Aaron!

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