Gentle reader,

I am nominally an atheist - a person who does not believe in God or Gods. It has been said many times before that defining oneself as an atheist is a strange thing to do. To do that is to name yourself for something that you are not. In the same way, I could call myself an "avegetarian" (since I do eat meat).

Beside the nonsense factor behind the word "Atheist", I think we have just about reached a point here in the United States where using the "A" word to describe one's lack of religiosity is tantamount to saying "I'm a witch!". Not literally, of course. But it has much the same effect on many people.

Often, the end result of describing myself as an atheist is an uncomfortable silence. It shuts down debate and questioning and puts up barriers.

Although I hold the opinion of a strong-atheist (i.e. I am convinced that God does not exist) I have chosen to no longer refer to myself using the "A bomb". Instead, I am trying to use terms such as "non-religious" or "secular". I feel that taking a slightly less confrontational approach is more likely to foster rational debate and lead to a better understanding of what I (do not) believe in.

Time for today's quote:

Man is distinguished, not only by his reason,
but by this singular passion from other animals,
which is a lust of the mind,
that by a perseverance of delight in the continued
and indefatigable generation of knowledge,
exceeds the short vehemence of any carnal pleasure.
-from Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan


Until the next time, gentle reader, I remain,

Your Friend,

Buford Twain

P.S. - This post and many more can be read at http://bufordtwain.blogspot.com

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Comment by Buford Twain on August 26, 2008 at 7:59am
Hi Kevin,

I agree with you about it being a reasonable description but at the same time I am wondering if it is a bit of a lost cause.The saying goes "what's in a name" but the word Atheist unfortunately has a lot of baggage. On top of this, I get the impression that many people interpret "atheist" as meaning "I am an evil person who is going to try to prevent you from practicing your religion".

Based on my limited observation of people so far, I think it's unlikely that religious folks will wake up any time soon and say "oh, those rational, sane and wonderful atheists!" so the term will continue to drive a wedge. If I say "I'm a secular humanist" or "I'm not religious" on the other hand, you don't automatically start from a position of less than zero, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, I am giving the alternative(s) a try for a while and will see how that goes.

-BT
Comment by Kevin on August 26, 2008 at 4:45am
I proudly use the word atheist to describe myself. It is the believers who created a negative impression of the meaning. It is a logical and rational way to think and I will not back down from calling myself something that I am. I do not think it helps to promote the positive side of atheism if we hide its name.

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