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Theism is a belief in some sort of deity or deities. The Greeks have a grammatical convention that placing the letter "a" before a word makes that word mean "without". Lots of people can be "without" something. Some people are without hair on their head. Sometimes people are angry about being without hair. Sometimes people assert positively that hair is a bad thing and intentionally get rid of their hair. But sometimes, people just go about their business without hair, not really noticing any particular loss. That's what atheism is.
Knowing that someone is an atheist does not really tell you what they do believe. It doesn't tell you if they positively believe there is NO god, or if they just don't think about god at all and don't really care if there is one or not. It doesn't tell you if they are "moral" or not. It doesn't tell you if they value humanity or not. It doesn't tell you if they steal from the change box at work or not. It doesn't tell you if they cheat on their wives or not. It doesn't tell you if they are liberal or conservative. It doesn't tell you anything about that person. Atheism only tells you what that person is not.
In order to find out what an atheist is, you have to go to some other label. Atheists can be humanists, transhumanists, anti-theists, anarchists, communists, capitalists, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greenies, Jews, cynics, nihilists, solipsists, accommodationists, rationalists, scientists, compassionate humans or radical nutjobs.
To say atheism is like a religion is to say:
Atheism is a lack of a belief. It is not, by itself, a positive assertion of a belief in lack. Everyone is an atheist, at first. It is only after someone introduces the concept of a deity that people have anything to believe in. People who do not believe in leprechauns or fairies or the Flying Spaghetti Monster are not in a religion against leprechauns, fairies, or the FSM. Chances are, people who do not believe in those things simply don't think of them for most of their daily lives. The concept of leprechauns, fairies, or the FSM just doesn't affect how they make decisions or their overall worldview. It is probably just a complete absence to them. It is not some gaping hole, which is a thing, that they can feel as "something missing" in their lives or their hearts or minds. It is not some bizarre anger at leprechauns or fairies of the FSM for not existing or for doing things the person doesn't approve of. It's just not there. That's what atheism is.
Christians do not notice any particular void for Zeus or have any strong anger towards Posiden. Jews seem to get along just fine without praying to Odin or making sacrifices to Ra. Muslims don't seem to expend any energy towards avoiding or ignoring Quetzalcoatl. The same way that the hundreds, perhaps thousands of gods do not exist for any given religious person is the exact same way atheists feel about the god that any given religious person believes in.
"I content that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." ~Stephen Roberts
It is difficult to write much on what atheism is because there is very little to say about it. Atheism is a lack of belief. Period. There is not much to say about something that is lack of something else. Most of what is written about atheism is about what atheism is not. There is, literally, an infinite number of things that atheism is not, since atheism is, by definition, "not" something. To illustrate, below is a list of all the gods that Christians do not believe in, and all the gods that atheists don't believe in. You'll notice that the list is identical, except that atheists don't believe in one more god than the Christians. As the quote above says, when you understand why it is you have rejected the god hypothesis for all these other gods, why you are just "without" them and not necessarily adamantly opposed to them, why you don't "hate" them, why you don't have a god-shaped hole where one of these other gods should fit, why you are a moral person even without the guidance of these gods, why you are completely in absence of them even without any positive assertions about them, why you can make your own claims about your own god without having studied each and every other option and rejected them individually, consciously, and deliberately, then you will understand what it is to be an atheist. We just go one god further.
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