One of the strangest claims often made by purveyors and consumers of todays popular atheism is that disbelief in God involves no particular positive philosophy of reality, much less any kind of religion or creed, but consists merely in neutral incredulity toward a certain kind of factual asseveration. This is not something the atheists of earlier ages would have been very likely to say, if only because they still lived in a culture whose every dimension (artistic, philosophical, ethical, social, cosmological) was shaped by a religious vision of the world. More to the point, it is an utterly nonsensical claim”so nonsensical, in fact, that it is doubtful that those who make it can truly be considered atheists in any coherent sense.
Admittedly, I suppose, it is possible to mistake the word God for the name of some discrete object that might or might not be found within the fold of nature, if one just happens to be more or less ignorant of the entire history of theistic belief. But, really, the distinction between God”meaning the one God who is the transcendent source of all things”and any particular god”meaning one or another of a plurality of divine beings who inhabit the cosmos”is one that, in Western tradition, goes back at least as far as Xenophanes.