Main Reasons Why I Don’t Like The Term Atheist

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In fact, “atheism” is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist.” We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.” 

― Sam HarrisLetter to a Christian Nation

 

I grew up in a liberal, educated household that didn’t force any religion on me which is something very rare in the Middle east, leave aside Iraq which still has a continuous religious civil war between Sunni Muslim and Shia Muslim militias  so I belong to a minority of a minority, I was never an active religious person in any point of my life, even though I was a Deist for a while after reading some books from the age of the enlightenment but that was temporary, I have always tried to maintain an open mind to the life difficult questions and it wasn’t hard for me to figure out that there isn’t much evidence for the existence of any kind of supernatural, leave aside the supreme being  that watches people all the time even when they are masturbating.

 

Labels and brands are effective ways in communication, no matter how much we think of them as unnecessary; they control most of our communication because they simplify things.

I have always struggled with finding a label for myself to answer the question, “What do you believe in then?” when I tell people in the environment “specially Muslims, cause I grew up around them” that I am not really a Muslim and here is what I get when I tell them, Oh, I am an Atheist.

Then the second question comes in “Oh, so you believe in NOTHING?”
Even though I find this question extremely ludicrous but I think, it raises a valid point.

 

āTHēˌizəm/

1Disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

 a·the·ist ˈāTHēˌist/

a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.

Source: Oxford Dictionary.

 The term Atheist only answers what someone doesn’t believe in not what the person does believe in.

 I would like to cut the conversation and answer directly with what I believe in and answer I am a Secular Humanist.

 Secular Humanism (n.): a doctrine, attitude, or way of life centered on human interests or values especially a philosophy that usually rejects supernaturalism and stresses an individual’s dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason.

 Now, I know that raises the second question, what If I am an Atheist but not a Humanist, because not all who don’t believe in God are Secular Humanists.

Someone can still not believe in God and believe in so many other mumbo jumbo stuff like Astrology, Alchemy, homeopathy and all kinds of crazy conspiracy theories.

After my speech in Berkeley, California, an attendee who is an Atheist (lacks belief in God) was against me wearing a NASA T-shirt, saying that NASA is a corrupt organization that it’s stealing people’s money for lies, they never landed on the moon, that was a movie made in “Hollywood” and he also claimed that he knows the director of that “movie”.

Was this person an Atheist? By the definition of the Term Atheist, Yes, he is.

Is he a rationalist, a Humanist? No, not at all, I actually think he is insane.

And that what I think should be a more descriptive label for him than the label, which says nothing about the person’s capability of critical thinking.

I have discussed this topic previously in my speech in San Jose, and I received an answer, which I would like to discuss here.

“Atheists are a minority in this country, saying you are an Atheist, means you are not part of the majority in terms of beliefs.”

I agree with the first part, Atheists are minority.

But so as African Americans, Hispanics and Jews.

Ethnic minorities in the United States do not call themselves Non White, because it’s non-descriptive term at all.

It leaves a lot of options open and so is the term Atheist in my opinion.

The same can be said about political ideologies, there are labels someone who holds views that are not shared by thee the two major parties in the United States such as Libertarian, Communist or Green. 

 So I think the conclusion and what I intend from this essay is to ask the audience to find a label for themselves that really describes what they believe in other than what they don’t when they get asked if you are not a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, etc. then what are you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Gene Vinson

    Secular Idealist.
    I coined this for myself as an answer to the religion field on facebook, of all trivial things. I have similar misgivings about the term atheist. The simlarities to my own thoughts on the subject is what makes me a fan of your page and writings.

  • Tim Brooks

    Do you make the same criticisms of term independent when referring to a political party? They aren’t saying which party they are in, and telling us nothing about their political views, they are just saying they aren’t in a party, which would be a non-descriptive term….

  • Brenda Lunger

    I prefer the terms Infidel and Antagonostic (antagonistic agnostic). They tend to rile up the believers. 🙂

    I also like Secular Rationalist and Secular Humanist.

  • SkeptiSketch .

    I have read dozens of similar opinions, and of course in a purely intellectual or semantic sense, I agree with them.
    However words aren’t used to define ourselves to ourselves; ideas can do that. Words are used to communicate to others. Announce you are a secular humanist at a dinner party and half the people will have no clue what you mean, or assume you are a new age flake. Announce you are an atheist and, good or bad, everyone knows exactly what you mean and where you stand. Even though it doesn’t describe my philosophy as well as “secular humanist” I LOVE the word atheist. It has broad shoulders and big hairy balls.

  • Beyond Belief
  • Sieben Stern

    i agree, but humans grew up into modern humans with religion (see Göbekli Tepe) and some people even think that sedentary places of worship, helped trigger the agricultural revolution by forcing the need to feed a group of people in one place for a long time – as opposed to migrating with the seasons. Religion / culture was a part of what held early civilizations together.

    So technically, in the grand scheme of things, NOT believing in god, spirits, the supernatural, ancestor worship, etc is quite a new phenomenon, and one that was not really possible (imho) before darwin gave us another explanation of how life started and diversified. He showed that we didn’t NEED a god for us to exist.

    As much as we want to think that all babies are atheists (they are) and all humans are atheists before brainwashing (they are) VASTLY more humans and proto humans have been theists in some way or another for the whole of human history. Atheism is a luxury of the enlightenment / scientific revolution where we no longer rely solely on the local tribe for sustenance.

    So I’d say, don’t think of the term atheist JUST as a word to separate you from the fanatical, brain dead drooling theists with one foot in the iron age – it also separates you from the hundreds of thousands of years of theism based on ignorance of your ancestors.

    I don’t see it akin to anti-stamp collecting or anti-ping pong playing because these things are not part of our long history as humans and conscious beings, as theism is.

    I think the term is appropriate. ^^

    • Jon Dreyer

      Not only is atheism new (or at least newly popular) it is also still fairly rare, so we’re a minority and therefore in need of a name, and atheist is a good one. If/when theism is as rare as astrology or flat-earthism, we won’t need the term. I would love to see that day come!

      But of course there are other ways we can identify with, e.g. secular humanist (what we do believe in) and secularist (for those of us, hopefully all of us, who believe in the Wall of Separation).

  • mandy

    Why do I have to “be” anything?

    • Stuart Robinson

      Exactly Mandy! Be yourself and you can’t go wrong is my philosophy, unless you’re complete a####hole that is!

  • Diogenes84

    My preferred term is Naturalist as it best describes my view that the major questions of philosophy etc have answers within the natural world and that the natural sciences can answer them. Secular Humanist works as well, but I do not find it as descriptive or as encompassing as Naturalist. Materialist can work as well, but I avoid it if possible because it tends to come with such baggage to so many people ( thanks a lot Karl Marx!)

  • Peter Owen

    We mustn’t forget that one can be both a theist and a secular humanist.

  • DarthPinky

    I prefer ‘sane’

  • Valerie61

    This very subject is one I am quite concerned with. Since the term atheist is still God centered, and I refuse to label myself for what I am not, Secular Humanist is the most apt self-description I’ve found. The tenants of Secular Humanism have long been cornerstones of my own ideas of correct behavior. Yet, when asked about my belief or lack of belief in God, it’s difficult to convey to atheists that I don’t wish to define myself on a god belief in any way. Some have accused me of being rather agnostic (and thus, cowardly), since I won’t declare for their (anti) team. In fact, I’m not comfortable with the term ‘belief’ in this strict context. I prefer to say ‘my ideas of best or proper behavior.” Anyone else feel this way?

  • wolfshades

    Why do you have to say you believe anything? That’s like saying “well if you don’t pick your nose or belly button lint, what DO you pick?” Who made it mandatory to pick (or believe) anything? Are we blindly assenting to someone else’s premise before the argument?

    Maybe start the conversation with “are you a believer?” If yes, only then follow with “what do you believe?”

    Or “do you have a philosophy for your life, or for life in general? What is it?”

    This “believe” thing presupposes a faith in something. Most non-believers I know don’t think in terms of faith. They think in terms of facts and logics. (As do I for the most part, except when it comes to God. I happen to be a believer, though not a believer in religion or the Bible, Book of Mormon, Quran or anything else as “the divine word of God”.)