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 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
You know Michael, you have inspired me to try harder to just say I am an Atheist and be proud of it. Let it shock people. I shouldn't care if they don't like it! It shows people that Atheists are just regular people (except smarter, LOL ;)).~ Melinda
I can't help but to respect that Michael. Me being a youngin' dealing with this sensitive subject, I can only imagine what's yet to come for me in the future. I'm open about my beliefs and I am far from ashamed. No one can change that but it's also not respected. There's nothing wrong with the Atheist title. Everyone is just so caught up in the fact that we don't value christian/muslim/catholic/jewish/etc. beliefs, they forget to respect us and at least TRY to understand our values. it's immoral to say the least.