I’ve been browsing a number of different message boards recently (with my six week Christmas break) and came across what I think is an interesting idea. A person insisted that every human being is born an atheist. I responded that this appeals to an incredibly broad definition for the word “atheist,” and that the most common understanding of “atheist” is “one who denies or disbelieves the existence of a deity” (see OED). “Non-theist” would be a more precise word for someone who, out of ignorance of the concept, has no belief one way or the other concerning deity.
That rhetoric then intentionally equivocates. The purpose is clearly to infer that atheism is the natural order, and that theism represents a departure from human nature. In order to make this inference, however, the individual has to manipulate ambiguities and appropriate for atheism a demographic that can never self-identify as atheistic—a demographic that is without exception separate from the one making the inference. I don’t believe they have that right, and I don’t believe there is a pragmatic justification for casting the net so wide.