I win the battle on whether we should use the term atheist to describe ourselves

Sapient's picture

 

There has been a battle amongst non-believers, non-theists, secularists, brights, humanists, atheists, non-religious, agnostics, skeptics, and the non-religious for quite some time in this country.  How many different names was that to describe someone that almost always is without a belief in a god?  I probably missed a few, in fact feel free to mention them and I'll add them in.  The battle is a pointless one that only serves to divide us, disparage us, and hurt us.  Instead of one minority, we are now 10 smaller minorities with less power. Anyone avoiding usage of the word atheist is allowing the theist to win.

Growing up I was told by my born again Christian mother that atheists are devil worshippers, that they know for sure no god exists, and that they are arrogant fools who hate god (yes I know the contradictions there now).  It's been about 12 years since I was led down the path from agnostic deist to agnostic by Jake.  After I abandoned my deism as a result of his arguments I felt as if I was sure I wasn't an atheist because I had such a negative stigma attached to the word, and also didn't claim to know for sure that a god didn't exist, as my Christtarded mother once claimed all atheists do.  Jake then showed me the truth of how atheism is defined.  When I learned that I was being duped by religious people as to how atheism is defined I chose to accept the term atheism within an hour of internal deliberation.  I promise you, it was a hard hour.  

As I continued my journey over the years into the god defeating activist you have grown to love, I've seen the development of these terms to define atheists without using the word atheist.  These terms are almost always a way to dodge usage of the word: atheist.  Why is it Mr. Humanist that you can recognize religion is bunk, sometimes even speak out against it, yet fall over in defeat when Christians have chosen to affix a bad connotation to the word that best describes your position on god belief?  Don't let me take away your humanism, I know the arguments well.  Humanism puts forward things you do believe in, atheism is merely the word that describes what you don't believe.  I even consider myself part of every single one of the bolded words I opened with.  Don't give me that "I'm not a negative person" routine, I know well that many people avoiding the term atheist are doing so because they don't want the bad connotation applied to them.  I've heard this response many times when arguing this issue.

There are two massive problems with succumbing to those who seek to attach a false definition or negative stigma to the word atheist.

1.  We have allowed those bastardizing the term atheist to segregate us.  

It's become hard to determine just how many atheists exist in the world as a result of the various terminologies. We've had problems fighting off faith based funding, and haven't been able to get contrary non-belief funding.  We hold less power than if we all just stood by this term, and addressed it when questioned or given a false definition for it.  As a result of bowing down to their whim we've refocused our own energy on dividing ourselves instead of focusing energy on correcting incorrect terminology.  Had we been fighting the battle rather than giving up, we'd have had a shot today, instead we have a second problem now, one I always saw coming...

2.  It's not the term atheist they don't like, it's anyone who doesn't hold a belief in their god. 

So you've dodged the term atheist, good for you.  Now what?  Now that you're a Humanist or a Skeptic, tell the Christian what you believe.  If the theist manages to read between the lines and figure out that embedded in your Humanism is a lack of god belief, they're just as likely to affix a negative stigma to your beliefs.  They're not on a mission to disparage atheism, they are on a mission to disparage anything that isn't their form of theism.  Once they realize you're not with them, then you're against them.  The day the term bright was created was the day I knew it would someday have a horrible stigma attached to it.  Of course it was created in part to duck the negative stigma associate with atheism.

Now what do you do? Do you abandon your humanism?  If you don't then one must wonder why you abandoned the term atheist.  If you do, at least we're certain now, you are a coward.  As you can see from the sign outside the Seagate Community Chapel in North Carolina, they figured you out.  They know what you are now, and they are working their smear campaign.  Let the memes begin! And to that end over the last two years I noticed many Christian sources affixing negative connotations to brights, skeptics, and humanists.  Some of those examples were pointed out on this site in discussions of this issue.  The information I've provided in this post isn't much different than the points I've argued on this topic for years.  At that point however I didn't have a picture of a Church misrepresenting the name of the peaceful passive humanists.  Well look where the passiveness got ya.  Welcome to false definition-ville.

Ready to embrace the word that defines anyone who is without a belief in a god yet?  If we embrace it together and respond to false claims wherever they exist, we can help slowly to correct a dishonest/ignorant theist population, and maybe if we're lucky we'll even be counted.

Once again: What is an atheist and how does it differ from agnostic?

Until next time, stay rational.

- Brian Sapient


Buy popular atheist books and support the Rational Response Squad at the same time on Amazon.

Atheism & Religion

Atheism is often just another organized religion. The real battle should be against organized religion, not various gods which provide the excuse for the existance of most organized religions. Religion IS God, defeat organized religion!

Sapient's picture

esandy49 wrote:Atheism is

esandy49 wrote:

Atheism is often just another organized religion.

All my years of activism, all my interactions with atheists, I've never once felt like that, nor had any empirical data to back that theory.  Here's to hoping that comment didn't just derail this thread, which is about using the word atheist vs. 10 different terms that describe the same thing.

 

- Brian Sapient


Buy popular atheist books and support the Rational Response Squad at the same time on Amazon.

geirj's picture

I have to disagree with you

I have to disagree with you on both counts, esandy. Atheism is no organized religion. In an organized religion, most of the people follow most of the same rules most of the time.

The only thing atheists have in common is a lack of belief in deities. How they go about their lives based on that lack of belief is varied.

I also don't think it's the job of RRS or atheists to "go after" organized religion. I think it's our duty, rather, to go after those who are on the fence about religion. We need to provide a constant stream of rational thought and analysis that picks away at religion.

Nobody I know was brainwashed into being an atheist.

Why Believe?

Vastet's picture

A good read. Indeed, using a

A good read. Indeed, using a new term to escape the old is pointless. Ban the word fuck, and people use fudge. In time fudge takes on all the properties of fuck, in addition to its original meaning, and suddenly you're trying to ban the word fudge. It's a complete waste of time.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

Peppermint42's picture

You know, I did go through a

You know, I did go through a phase during my de-conversion (I guess that's what you'd call it) where I was on the internet trying to find a "name" for what I have come to believe in.  For a while I thought I was agnostic, but that didn't last long because I found this site and read the Agnostic vs. Atheist article.  I'm definitely an atheist, and despite the negative things people think about atheists my morals and integrity are as strong as they ever were. 

As far as being discriminated, I guess I should be used to it since I'm also a woman.  At least now I'm not lying to myself anymore, telling myself that some invisible old dude in space is watching my every move and thought.  And that gives me strength.

http://www.rationalresponders.com/i_win_battle_whether_we_should

Of course we are Atheists. It is everyone else that seems to have the problem. My Aunt said that I am really Agnostic, apparently fearing that her favorite nephew was danger of eternal hell fire. Apparently an agnostic is redeemable, but an Atheist is not. Others have said similar things knowing me and then learning I did not "beleive in God". Funny how it is always an attack on their god to be an atheist even if the real definition applies to all supernatural and arbitrary concepts.

I did not even know what a Humanist was until about 15 years ago and on a road trip with one of my fellow employees and he started telling me about the "evils" of Secular Humanists, and their brand of "anything goes morality". Obviously I was therefore intrigued to find out what was so evil about being a humanist and have since learned a little more.

Simply put I have always reffered to myself as an Atheist. I do not believe in the validity of Gods. But I also recognise that saying I am an Atheist says nothing about what I believe, only what I don't believe. If I called my self an Objectivist, or a Secular Humanist or something else then I would be saying something about what I have as a belief system. And that I think is the crux of the problem. The average Atheist knows this and knows the objections to the term. As such they are trying to define themselves as actually having a belief system. I applaud it, but I do agree that they should also be prominent in saying they are also Atheists.

Atheist, it is not a dirty word.

Arthur

bpwaddell's picture

An Atheist by any other name

I think using the word Atheist is totally appropriate.
The theists have so many names to describe themselves , that  I think by sticking to just  one label
is a sure way of helping to prevent  theists from becoming confused in the future.
Especially now that they have to study Intelligent Design and all its scientific complexity. 

 

 

Religion?

How can atheism be a religion when the the very term denies the existence of any god?  The deists would like to apply this label because then they are more comfortable and have something else to attack.   But someone applying a label, doesn't make it true.  Even if a million people apply the label, if it isn't true it still is a lie. 

One of the important things to me about atheism is the lack of labels and the freedom to be what you are without attempting to adhere to the expectations of some other individual or group.  When you are like that, there is no need for the hypocrisy and lying that characterizes so many deists.

Atheists and Morals

This is really in response to the part of the sign that claims that atheists can have no moral code.  That's rather ironic when you consider the actions of most christians that are hypocritical, lying, and morally bankrupt.

Enlightened Self-Interest

See my blog at  http://brazilbrat.blogspot.com/

There is no substantive evidence for an omnipotent father-figure deity as postulated by the Christian/Jewish/Islamic tradition.  So without religion can there be morality?  Certainly, because true moral behavior is based upon simple self-interest.  The guiding ethic is to truly act in your own best interest.  That would mean treating all people fairly, honestly and, as it says in the Hippocratic Oath, “Cause no harm.”  Religions invent all other “sins” to increase their control over people.

People can practice what I term enlightened self-interest.  An individual’s self-interest is best served by doing no harm to others except in defense of themselves or those in their care.  This thinking does not need threats of eternal punishment to follow, It only requires thinking about what will ultimately yield the best results for yourself.  Treating others fairly and generously is always better for yourself, personally, financially, and socially.   Those that co-operate and adapt have always been more successful. 

For example, robbing a bank may yield temporary wealth, but at the expense of either a prison term or a life of fear, running from the law.  Similarly, cheating others in business dealings may increase profits for a time.  Eventually, your reputation will be so poor that your business may fail.  This is a simple principle that “It’s always cheaper to make a customer happy than it is to make him angry.”  That same idea can pay dividends in ordinary human relations.  For reasons I don’t understand, few businesses or people appreciate this idea.  Maybe it’s because they operate on deist principles?  Everything is forgiven if you repent before you die. Although that wouldn’t seem to help those you cheated, treated badly or even murdered.

So should nothing be discouraged?  Should everything be permitted?  Capable, informed individuals could engage in any activity that interests them even if it puts them personally at risk. 

An example would be an automobile race.  It is certainly dangerous to drive at racing speeds and it is equally dangerous to stand near the race course to observe or record this event.  Two people may choose to do these things if they understand and accept the risks involved. 

One question that arises from this would be, what if one or both of these people have a spouse and children that depend upon them for financial and emotional support?  Should they still do this knowing that if they are injured or killed it will cause some degree of harm to these dependents?  If they choose to do so, does anyone else have the right to prevent them? 

Those are ethical questions that can and should be debated, but each person must be free to choose his own answer.  No other person, religion, or government should have the right to make these choices for us.  If you are prepared for all possible consequences, no matter how remote the possibility,  do what you think best.

 

Nobody I know was

Nobody I know was brainwashed into being an atheist.

I love it. This is my FaceBook status right now!

I know this post is from 1.5 years ago, but it's still alive. I'm reading all I can on Atheism and evolution. I am a "new" atheist and a long-time non-believer.

Thank you for helping me feel even more empowered as I can now see I am not alone with my Atheism.