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Just Accept That You’re An Atheist

March 27, 2009

Freethinker, Non-theist, Non-Religious, Heathen, Infidel, Naturalist, Bright..

While I think that some of these terms are “cute”, I personally feel that these names are nothing more than an intentional obfuscation of one’s religious inclination. What I mean by this is that the term “atheist” is covered in a negative stigma and rather than deal with that baggage they give themselves a name that defines their position to themselves but also separates them from the charged term. There’s a few problems with this. If you walk up to the average American and you ask them what a “Bright” is they will most likely mention something about an object’s luminosity or a person’s level of intelligence. These uncontroversial terms are still fairly unknown to the common populace and they are pretty much entirely created to separate yourselves from your fellow non-believers. You’re trying to avoid the persecution the rest of us get.

Ostensibly I don’t have any problems with this but when you really think about the issue you are hurting your own cause. If you’ve taken the time to find one of these cutesy names then you evidently have some amount of passion about the topic. If you’re not standing with the rest of us then you aren’t going to be counted with us when it really matters. Sure, under most questions on religious surveys you’ll line up with us but when you’re out on the street being a normal citizen and this kind of thing comes up you’re not “one of us” in an average citizen’s view. Some level of unity is important in a persecuted minority and unlike Christians, we actually are a persecuted minority.

I don’t blame anyone for wanting to not be dragged through the trash just for being a non-believer but I feel like this is sort of a “free rider” situation where we are running around suing and fighting for secularism and these folks get the benefit of it with little to no effort. It’s very simple, there is already a word for your position that has been around for a very long time. If you lack belief in a god you are an atheist. If you outright deny the existence of any god you are an atheist. Just own up to it and stand next to the rest of us. The only way we’re going to move up the social ladder is if we have some amount of solidarity. Have some atheist pride, dammit!

/Rant

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21 Comments
  1. scaryreasoner permalink
    March 27, 2009 11:47 pm

    Hell yeah… don’t just “accept” it… embrace it. Say, “I’m an athiest,” in the same way that you might say, “I’m a phlanthropist,” or “I’m a doctor.” Say it in such a way that what’s left unsaid after “I’m an atheist,” leaves a whiff of “… not one of those idiots.”

  2. Patrick permalink
    March 28, 2009 2:10 am

    Sir…we atheist don’t capitalize the word atheist. thank you for your time. Move along now.

    • March 28, 2009 2:29 am

      Grammar troll fails at being a grammar troll.

      “we atheists don’t”

      Thanks for stopping by, it was so nice seeing you!

  3. March 28, 2009 6:10 am

    I thoroughly agree, SF. And, really, when it comes to the fundys of any religion, it doesn’t matter what you’re calling yourself- if you’re not with them, you’re against them. They hate “brights” (wtf on that one) as much as they hate atheists. You may as well get yourself a Scarlet A and walk tall.

    • March 28, 2009 2:16 pm

      Even if we were to shift names I don’t think “brights” is where we should go. It’s no different than being expected to call us the “smarts”. Most people will find it offensive and it will only help to push us further away from being accepted and understood.

      • March 30, 2009 12:04 am

        Agreed. People will just get defensive and rankled by that. Rather call a spade a spade. Not that we’re spades. But you know what I mean.

    • Razakel permalink
      April 3, 2009 10:15 pm

      Not only is it that “they hate “brights” (wtf on that one) as much as they hate atheists”, they will still see you as an atheist… Changing what you call yourself will mean nothing. You say “I’m a Bright”, they ask “What’s a Bright”, you explain and they exclaim “Ah, you’re an atheist. Why didn’t you say so?”. The term atheism is seen as bad, but that doesn’t mean it should be, and since we’re all divided, once they start hearing of this “Bright” movement, or whatever people are calling themselves, they will just demonize that label. The term “Big Bang” was first a derogatory label on the theory, and now it’s widely accepted. Why can’t atheist be a Big Bang scenario, first derogatory and now a neutral/good label? I’ve usually got a Scarlet A on things I do, especially in class, hoping someone will notice and maybe I will meet someone in my area who lacks belief. That or the IPU, sometimes both.

  4. Sabio permalink
    March 28, 2009 8:17 am

    Totally agree ! Hey — How do you guys get your pics on your comments?

    • March 28, 2009 2:18 pm

      You set that up in your WordPress profile.

  5. March 28, 2009 11:11 am

    Good post. It’s as important to stand up for what we don’t believe as it is for what we do. If enough of us do so, atheism will lose its stigma.

  6. Gregory permalink
    March 28, 2009 12:12 pm

    The way I always see it, whatever you call yourself — any of those terms you mention, or whatever — other folk are going to call you a damn dirty atheist. So you might as well ‘fess up, grab a hold of the term and make it sing. Fun fact — contrary to popular mythology, the term “gay” originally was used in a slang way as a somewhat negative comment on male sexuality. A “gay bachelor” was a bachelor who got around a bit. In the early 20th century it begins to be applied to homosexuals, and gets a more negative shading. The gay bachelor sleeps around, he’s a bit of a male slut, but hey, he’s a fun guy. But a gay homosexual (wow, I’m channeling Eric Cartman) is something far more sinister. Homosexuals didn’t take a happy term to describe themselves — they just took advantage of a dictionary definition to spin a negative term applied to them by folks who hated them. While we don’t have that advantage with the word “atheist,” we can nonetheless draw a lesson from it.

  7. March 30, 2009 12:10 am

    I’m with you Sisyphus. I’m not sure how I feel about forming set organisations for atheists – it seems to contradict the freedom, and will undoubtedly garner cries of ‘You see, it IS a religion!’ but we don’t have to meet on a Tuesday at a museum (if you get my drift) to show some unity and solidarity, just by embracing the label in our individual capacity. It IS difficult, and no doubt more dangerous in some places than others, but I guess that’s the point. If we who can be open and secure don’t do it, then we defeat the aims ourselves for a free world.

    • March 30, 2009 1:27 am

      In the United States we have lobbying groups for atheists and secularism. We also have a lot of local groups for like-minded folks to get together and just be yourself. Because of how ill we can be treated at times and how few and far apart we non-believers are I think these sorts of groups are beneficial. For the most part, I’m content with that level of organization for atheists and I wouldn’t wish it to be any less organized. I would like for us to be able to lobby the government better but that will come with time due to how quickly we’re growing in the population. I would never want there to be some sort of governing body or leadership for the atheist community at large.

  8. Lyle permalink
    March 31, 2009 9:10 am

    I hear people refuse to use the atheist label and say it is because it does not say what they believe in, just what they don’t believe in. My response to that is “What label do you use? Does that label encompass everything about you?” Of course it does not. I am an atheist. That is the label that applies to me on the issue of a god belief. On other issues, other labels apply; I am a humanist, a liberal, a skeptic, a dog person, etc., depending on what issue we are looking at.

  9. March 31, 2009 2:55 pm

    Atheist is not a degrading label in any way, despite what some who use it may think. I proudly call myself an Atheist I’ll be damned if I will apologize for it.

    Good article I enjoyed it!

  10. May 8, 2009 4:51 am

    I’m always an atheist first when asked what I believe or “what church do you go to”.

  11. May 8, 2009 4:34 pm

    I express my belief in .. the concept of atheism..

    “I believe in the concept of atheism” Sort of a mild way to identify what I am and what I believe.

  12. May 10, 2009 3:26 pm

    OK, I am a bit of a coward on the image. So I call myself a “Buddhist Atheist”. I do think it conjures images in the listeners head that are more accurate than if I just called myself an “Atheist”. And hell, I speak Japanese so I can usually get away with it ! (By the way, I agree with much of Buddhist psychology and many practices but think reincarnation and the big-karma-machine is just silly albeit as mythically useful as heaven and hell).

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