Attitudes about people who identify with a term do not change the meaning of the term.<quoted text>
At the same time, don't you have to admit that sometimes the definitions of words change due to changes in societal attitudes. One of the most dramatic changes is in the definition of the n-word. Early in this century, dictionaries defined it as a colored person, sometimes noting that it was pejorative in nature. Now it is defined as the single most offensive word in the English language. Other pejoratives regarding race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, and sexual orientation, once considered relatively benign, are not far behind it.
"Atheist" was similarly used as a pejorative during the first half of the twentieth century. Often equated with communism, atheists were considered to be the lowest of the low. To some extent, that's still true, but the hard edge of hatred has faded. perhaps that's because, while only about 2% of the population self-identify as atheists, the 26% who no longer believe in God influence public attitudes enough to mitigate that edge. Or it could be that atheists' increased visibility makes us seem less unamerican that we used to. I think this trend is likely to continue, and as attitudes change, the word's meaning may change with it. Definitions that describe us as wicked, evil, or dangerous are likely to be dropped.
Is there an element of manipulation in the process? Perhaps. But such manipulations are not likely to have a lasting effect. It's more likely that the definitions will change to reflect changes both in the reality and the public perception of what atheism and atheists really are.
That sticks in your craw, I know. Can't be helped.
If a group believes no god exists, and people of one era regard that as wicked, then people of a subsequent era regard it as acceptable, the group still believes no god exists.
And then, when the group claims every human being is born with their point of view, it is capitalized as a process of dishonest advocacy.