In the forums with theists, I'm so tired of having to describe the difference between strong and weak (I prefer soft) atheism, agnosticism, pantheism, etc., that nowadays, I just follow Taner Edis' lead and call myself a non-theist (well, he says "nonbeliever"). I've never been ashamed of the word atheist, nor backed away from it in discussions, but it's a matter of practicality. There is too much of a vital distinction between strong and weak/soft atheism that needs clarification (and it usually makes a positive, tangible difference to the theist when they realize that the majority of atheists are simply "without theism"/soft atheists). For me, it has nothing to do with stigma. Perhaps realism is more unifying, but not all atheists are Realists- there are even (so called) Christian Realists!
I don't really have an issue with the term, although I prefer good old fashioned atheist for myself. I actually enjoy the shock and horror that cascades down a person's face from their raised eyebrows to their slackened jaw. What can I say? I'm just twisted like that.
My favorite thing is watching the wheels turn as they realize that nothing that they have been told about atheists meshes with the person they know standing before them. "But, you're a good person. I mean, you're such a nice guy, and you are really intelligent." I'm still waiting for the day someone says "But I've been in your basement and there is no altar upon which to sacrifice goats and small children." I know some of them are thinking it, but none have been brave enough yet to say it.
It has cost me some friendships, and has led to me being refused raises and promotions, but it has also allowed me to facilitate a drastic change in the way one of my coworkers views the world and the people in it. When others rolled their eyes or glared at me, she was genuinely intrigued because she knew me well enough to sense that she had been lied to about people like me. We would spend hours smoking cigarettes and talking ... mostly her asking questions. She has now taken on another term that I sometimes use, and refers to herself as a seeker. Damn, I miss that woman.
Considering the bad image that the church has created about us (atheists) I think "Brights" feeds into that idea that we feel superior to believers (not to say that reality isn't superior to talking to imaginery beings).
I feel it is confusing to have all these names - humanist ( a lot of people I know are not even sure what a humanist is), freethinker, skeptic etc. I say call a spade a spade - I am an atheist and the more we use this term the more people will realize that we are actually pretty much like everyone else - trying to live our lives as best as we can.
"Alexandra, I'm going to try. I will first deal with possible communication problems.
In every attempt at communication, thoughts have to pass through several "screens" (a Zen idea), and at any of these screens errors can harm the…"