(from forum post Re-Defining Atheism)

Andre M Smith Jr: "I don't know about the rest of you but I am of the mind that Atheism needs a new definition. I think we need to get away from the word "BELIEF" as much as humanly possible"

I side firmly with Sam Harris - I think that “atheist” is a term that we do not need, in the same way that we don’t need a word for someone who rejects astrology. (The Problem with Atheism)

Personally, I only call myself an "atheist" to people who are stupid, usually believers of one kind or another. They require a pithy term that doesn't strain the intellect. Whether they knee-jerk and classify me as a Satanist, or merely a doomed soul, I don't care. Its not worth the effort to try and clarify. It tends to stop conversations and I'm happy with that.

With people that can conduct a civilised conversation, I call myself a "cynic". Unfortunately, "cynic" as a word has been bastardised over the ages, and is universally associated with negativity. Some dictionaries still have entries that are closer to the original essence -

2. (initial capital letter) one of a sect of Greek philosophers, 4th century b.c., who advocated the doctrines that virtue is the only good, that the essence of virtue is self-control, and that surrender to any external influence is beneath human dignity. External influence includes theism of any kind, or any other kind of hocus pocus / mumbo jumbo.

Wikepedia has a reasonable write up as well.

Philosopher Peter Sloterdijk goes as far as wanting to reclaim the word's roots under the alternate spelling of "kynic". I find "c/k/ynic" sits far more comfortably with me. My definition is loosely -

* be one part court jester, one part devil's advocate
* believe nothing, trust no-one, unless empirical evidence exists to the contrary
* assume everyone's an asshole until they prove different
* sacred cows are for slaughter, their carcasses for pleasure, their rotting remains for sleeping in
* no pride, no shame, no problem

With people I establish an intimate rapport with, I follow "the way of the Grouch". I won't go into details here, 'cos I'm not really, really drunk. Suffice it to say, it involves concepts such as doing positive things for others and for the immediate environment around you that you are capable of affecting, but never, ever getting caught.

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Comment by Marc Barnhill on August 7, 2008 at 3:22pm
I think we do need a word for someone who rejects astrology. We wouldn't, if astrology were some forgotten ancestral embarrassment, but it (like belief in God) is so prevalent that I would want to highlight my lack of belief in the concept.
Comment by TJMorgan on August 7, 2008 at 9:47am
I agree that atheism is an unneeded label for the same reason Sam gives.

I consider myself a cynic because I think that everyone has an underlying selfish motive. I doubt altruism or altruistic acts without the addition of some selfish motive. I think the term "selfishness" has been bastardised as well. People associate a negativity with it, but I don't think it should have the reputation it does. It is natural to be selfish, among other things, it arises from our very instinct for survival.

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