Gloss — Indifference about God or His ways

Definition — The absence of passion or strong desire about God and all that concerns Him. Marked by the absence of moral duty to such: GODLESSNESS, IMMORALITY

Inflections — apatheist, apatheistic, apatheistical, apatheistically

Pronunciation — apathy-ism.


Aren't established and reputable dictionaries great? I'm especially happy that I had the good fortune to acquire electronic editions of both the Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged and the 22 volumes of the Oxford University Press's Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition with Additions (OED) prior to the unhinged iconoclasts storming the citadels of academia and assuming the helms of publications such as these. Speaking of 'helm' and considering the moral positioning of the two camps, it's not unlike when the hordes of Saruman overthrew Helm's Deep for a time and had their flags waving on the parapet while the good guys hid inside of the Hornburg.

However, neither of those resources contained a definition for 'apatheism,' so I consulted the online versions of both, and still no luck. I then consulted both the Funk and Wagnalls and Britannica encyclopedias at my disposal and still no luck. I then, in turn, consulted the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the 2nd Edition of the Dictionary of Philosophy, and finally, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Still nothing.

Despite how broke Google is as a company, it has achieved some amazing things in spite of that, one of them being Google Books. Within that resource I found more information, first from Religious Pluralism in the Academy: Opening the Dialog by Robert J. Nash (2001), wherein he wrote: "In contrast, I have coined a new term to describe certain students and colleagues, apatheism (from the Greek, apathes, meaning unfeeling, and theos, meaning God)..." Second, from Athens without a Statue to the Unknown God by Kyle Beshears (2019), I found that it should be pronounced 'apathy-ism.' The relevant gloss given by the BDAG for apathes (ἀπαθής) is: pertaining to not being subject to suffering, free of suffering. The relevant gloss given by the BDAG for theos (θεός) is: God in Israelite/Christian monotheistic perspective, God. Putting those two together results in a definition that is not very satisfying: free from suffering as respects God. However, if we dig a bit deeper, we see that 'ἀπαθής' is formed by using the privative 'ἀ' with the Greek word 'παθος1The OED confirms this.,' and it is that word that gives us the definition that we know is intended: experience of strong desire, passion, hence the absence of that as regards God.

As of this writing, it appears that when it comes to a definition for 'apatheism,' it's all but the Wild West out there. Some state that it is indifference about God's existence, some say that it's about all things of God, such as His person, character, actions, and our relation to Him. Others bring in the idea of something called theapathy, ostensibly a portmanteau of 'θεός' and 'ἀπαθής,' which has a literal meaning of 'God non desire,' i.e., apathy about God specifically. The confusion that arises from all of those people trying to outdo one another as to who doesn't care about God the most really makes one's head swim!