I am an atheist. I love saying it, and I love telling people whom I trust. Some people shudder, but it's just the stigma of the word and not the meaning. Normally those whom I trust and care about take the time to find out what I believe. As I share my thoughts they can see where I am coming from, and their stigma around that word begins to change. I think that is how we flip this word. One person as a time. The more who identify, the more the stigma will change. I do agree with Ruth that to identify as a non- is silly, but when religion is the norm, the word atheist is a clear stand as a complete rejection of religion.
The main reason atheist is a bad word is because, unlike religion, we have no formal organisation, no community, no standards. We exist purely in the negative (we're not religion). We are individuals instead of a group. We are "moral nihilism", etc.
If we had atheist communities that we could point to and say "that's who I am, that's what I stand for" then people would respect us more.
That is the main challenge for atheism/humanism in the future. We do have humanist/atheist groups but few with a clear identity and community that can rival religion.
Not that I think there should be one homogeneous strain of atheism/humanism. No, diversity and competition between groups is healthy.
A lot of atheists become nauseous at the thought of something resembling religion, but we really do need communities to educate our kids in an increasingly diverse and complex world, otherwise they'll be attracted to religions simply because they are organised and articulate.
So, it's not really word choice that is holding us back. Rather, it is a lack of values, organisation and community behind the word. The best thing you can do is help push the atheist community towards better organisation/community.
Folks like Alain de Botton and James Croft understand this problem.
As for an ideal label, I start with humanism, and then I can explain myself further from there.
It's sort of the same thing with Libertarians, as an example. Part of the reason why they have a hard time gaining political momentum is because they're so independent and suspicious of authority by nature. It's tough to corral them all and organize them.
I give out a whole sentence " I don't believe in God ". When I say atheist I sense a double-take going on registering the word. The whole sentence is more unequivocal. I don't know why this is. Maybe the G-word is talking the language they don't initially get brain freeze over.
I think that is awesome Michael! Good for you!!!~ Melinda
Yeah like booklover said - way to go Michael!
The most common stigma is a hangover from the Cold War era. The USSR was anti-religion, so anyone, anywhere who identified as an atheist (religion-neutral) was automatically considered a traitor, communist, un-American, etc. And we still are by many.
I don't understand why that feeling is strongest in the area of the United States that actually seceded from the Union about 150 years ago. Ironic. Back then they used the buybull to justify slavery, and now they use high school and college football games to advertise their piety.
Gag me with a spoon.
Felaine, a very old Valley Girl
I am beginning to doubt alot of that 'USSR was anti-relgion" stuff. St. Petersburg has more churches than ANY city in the world. A Russian electrolosist I met had 13 abortions..didn't use birth control becuase she thought GOD was in charge of all of that. And recently, an all-girl band was sentenced for anti-religious speech, which is against the law there!!! I think that the church tried to tie communism together with anti-religion in order to scare Americans.
I don't really concern myself with what others think of me. I, of course, like it if some people like me but if I have to choose I'd rather no that I'm being me instead of worrying whether most people like me or not. So, I really don't worry about how others react to me. I only care about someone else's opinion of me if I know them well enough to respect there opinion of me. Of course, this view on things might be easier for me since I'm almost always judged by people long before they discover I'm an atheist. Labels can only affect us as much as we allow them to affect us.